Van Nuys Auto Repair & Service Center

On the Road Again...But Check Under the Hood First

By Jack Bulko, AutoAid

It’s spring, and as the Willie Nelson song goes, “it’s time to get on the road again.” That’s what many of AutoAid’s customers are hoping to do after a year of stay-at-home orders. Before you rev your engine and drive off to “places you’ve never seen before,” you may want to check beneath the hood, under the car and in the trunk for any unexpected creatures. Cats, rats and other small animals look for warm places to rest and nest in the colder weather. And if you left food in the car, well, they get hungry too. Rats, in particular, can cause havoc to your vehicle’s wiring, hoses, fuses, upholstery, and more.

That’s what happened to Ted, a longtime customer, who for most of last year didn’t move or start his car. It just stood idle in his driveway for months. He was terrified of getting COVID-19 so he started working from home and had groceries, merchandise and prescriptions delivered to his door. After receiving his vaccinations, Ted decided to get into his car and go for a ride. That’s when he called me.

“Hi, Jack. I haven’t driven my car in a while, and now it won’t start. What do you think it is?”

I had a few ideas and asked if he had checked under the hood.

“I’m not the car guy; you are.”

“Just lift the hood, Ted.”

“Whoa. What the heck is that!” Ted was beside himself, and I had a better idea of what was going on.

It turns out Ted was looking at a rat’s nest. Luckily, no rats were present. I suggested he try starting the car, but it wouldn’t turn over. The rats probably gnawed at his electrical system and possibly some other parts. I sent my tow truck over to pick up his vehicle so we could get a closer look. We performed a visual inspection and then did some other diagnostic tests. The financial damage came to $1,700. Ted was stunned that such a tiny animal could cause so much destruction.

How to Avoid Unwanted Visitors?

Our animal friends don’t know that they are getting cozy in your car, your baby. To them, it’s just a warm spot where they can build a home for their family. To discourage their visits next year:

  • Don’t leave food in the car or near where it is parked.
  • Turn on your vehicle regularly.
  • If your vehicle is going to be parked for weeks or months, you may want to take preventative measures, such as putting dryer sheets in the engine compartment.

What happens if you find little creatures have made your vehicle their home?

  • If you find a critter under your hood, leave it open and back away. You can never predict how a wild animal will react or what diseases they may be carrying.
  • Once the coast is clear, remove any debris, if you can. Please wear gloves and a mask for your protection.
  • Start the car. If it starts and you feel safe enough to do it, drive the car to AutoAid so we can check out the damage.
  • Won’t start? If you don’t already have a towing service, we’ll be happy to send out our tow truck to bring your car to us.

How Much Will It Cost to Repair?

Depending on the extent of the damage, it could cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Luckily, many insurance companies cover this type of damage, especially if you have comprehensive (non-collision) coverage. However, each policy differs; check with your insurer.

If it’s not covered or if you need any additional assistance, ask us about our interest-free financing program for auto repair and battery, or tire replacement $299 and over.

As a AAA Approved Auto Repair and Customer Service Award winner, AutoAid provides the highest quality auto repair, truck repair in the greater Los Angeles area and has since 1979. We specialize in repairing and maintaining Domestic, Asian and European automobiles, trucks, SUV’s, Hybrid vehicles and love helping our customers “get back on the road again.”

You can see reviews about us on Google, Yelp! and our website. Visit our website to find out about additional services and special deals as well. You can also make an appointment there or by calling 818-305-6632. Come join the AutoAid family.


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