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When Rats Feast on Car Wiring, Is Soy-Based Coating the Culprit?

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Just imagine those teeth sinking into your car’s wiring
Photo: Andreas Rejbrand

Is the inside of your car a buffet for rats?

Once you’ve recovered from the shudder that just went up your spine, hear us out. Over the past several years, automakers have been working to build vehicles with greener, more sustainable materials. As part of those efforts, some automotive wire coatings have been switched from a petroleum base to a soy base.

Rats just might find that soy base especially tasty and gnaw-worthy, although the evidence isn’t conclusive.

On one side of the issue is the AAA, which warned in 2016 that their technicians were encountering more chewed-through vehicle wiring during the colder months. Also raising the alarm is a 2016 class-action lawsuit against Toyota that demands warranty coverage for rat-eaten soy-based wire coating.

“We think the addition of soy in the insulation has taken the episode of rats chewing through the wires through the roof,” attorney Brian Kabateck told the Detroit Free Press.

Toyota disputes the soy-based theory, saying that rats have a reputation for munching on wire coating regardless of what it’s made from. “We are currently not aware of any scientific evidence that shows rodents are attracted to automotive wiring because of alleged soy-based content,” the automaker told the Free Press in a statement.

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Surely there are no rats to be found here …

Also skeptical: the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association. The automotive supplier trade group told the Free Press it had never heard of rats being drawn to soy-based wiring insulation.

Whether or not rats are uniquely attracted to soy-based coatings, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for rodent damage under your hood. The AAA recommends inspecting your vehicle if it hasn’t been used in awhile, and suggests not parking your vehicle outside if you don’t drive it often. You also might want to check whether rodent damage is covered by your insurance.

To head off the problem, it’s wise to keep areas near your car free of trash and unsecured garbage cans or pet food dishes. Non-toxic rodent repellents and copper screening for air intakes are also good ways to keep rats at bay.

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News Sources: Detroit Free Press, AAA