A Rat Ate My Chevy Volt

ChevyVoltRat
You can't make this stuff up. Well, maybe you can, but we didn't. Our Twitter followers have already learned that strange things started happening to the Cars.com Chevrolet Volt last Thursday night.

Around 9 p.m., I got an email alert from the ChargePoint network that our car had experienced a ground fault and the session had been terminated. (Senior editor David Thomas wisely chose to leave our Volt in our downtown parking structure, plugged in, during last week's big Chicago blizzard, and it remained there without incident.)

Monitoring the online ChargePoint portal from home, I hoped the charging station would reset, something it attempts to do a total of four times every 15 minutes. That's when I received an e-mail from our pal Todd Dore, treasurer of the Fox Valley Electric Auto Association, who parks and charges his converted Volkswagen Beetle right next to our Volt. He said that at 6:30 when he left work, we'd had a "furry visitor," a brown rat who scurried under our Volt, probably seeking warmth. The temperatures had been below 10 degrees.

Uh oh.

Rodents are known to climb into the engine compartments of conventional cars when it's frigid outside, so it made sense. The Volt maintains a minimum battery temperature when it's plugged in, even once fully charged. I named the rat "Chilly" and joked that maybe he was a saboteur....

When I arrived Friday morning, I returned the power connector to the charging station, which reset it, then reattached it to the Volt, which began charging again. No problem. But when I departed Friday night, I got warning lights: ABS, "Service Brake Assist" and "Service Stabilitrak." I drove it home anyway, hoping to get it serviced. The next day, I noticed the bottom rear window pane wasn't defogging, though the main window was.

This morning, Grossinger City Chevy of Chicago confirmed that Chilly the rat had indeed gnawed through a wiring harness in the engine compartment, causing, at minimum, the warning lights and rear defogger failure.

This won't be covered under warranty. It was, in the truest sense, an act of nature.

Chilly could learn a thing or two from the beaver in Bridgestone's Super Bowl commercial. That little guy prevented a Buick from plunging into a raging river.  Chilly warmed his rodent ass, ate a snack and cost us about $600. An attempt to repair the harness should save us "thousands," according to the dealer, but the labor involved in extricating the harness from behind the headlight is extensive. Is Chilly a prankster? A disgruntled former bond-holder in "old GM?" Did Nissan send him?

There's good news and bad: The good news is our Volt, on its own merits, has been trouble-free for more than a month and 3,000 miles. The bad news is this could happen again. Presumably, an electric car with a thermally managed battery will be a tempting nest long after an internal-combustion engine has cooled off. If anyone has a home remedy for deterring pests, we're all ears. We'll be asking the same of Chevy, for sure.

Comments 

Ziggy

$600 for a wiring harness! Yea - repairs, even minor ones, are going to cost you.

H

No solution. Even with a full underbody skidplate there has to be openings for the halfshafts, tie rods, stabilizer bar, so there will always be ways for "furry little friends" to get in. That's a Bob Ross!

Nic

The dealer should offer an optional rat trap affixed atop the battery.

f

I work at a repair shop and see this often. Once one of those critters jumped out at the tech when he opened the hood. We advise Bounce or other clothes dryer sheets be taped under the hood in a safe spot, they don't like the smell. I advised this to a customer once and he offered a better suggestion...encricle the vehicle with human urine. That'll keep 'em away.

JR

Why not leave 'em critters a snack or two? A rodent poison sandwich perhaps? Cookie trinkets on sticky fly traps? Or since you already have a power source where you park, why not an electrified fence around the Volt with a sign saying "Critters beware". hehehe

Rodents are problems periodically in all vehicles. So I'm not surprised by this. We've seen a lot of things like this. Even a kitten http://wheelalignmentshop.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/free-kitten-with-oil-change-and-tire-rotation/ (better than a rat in my book, who knows maybe the kitten was chasing a rat).

And they cause damage in gas powered cars too, but I can definitely see how much more expensive rodents are going to be for electric cars. I'm not sure what the answer is.

Amuro Ray

Although this article does start off as a joke, it does hint a SERIOUS problem with this type of EV - I presume specifically to Volt due to its thermal managed battery*.

Unless you've a sealed off, rodents proofed garage (when you open the garage door, rodents won't come in), this is a rodent magnet! A $600 repair with 100% of a second attack - just a matter of when - and not covered by warranty. These add up to the ownership cost too.

More importantly, u folks are lucky this time that the rodent chewed the "right" wiring; if it's sthg more dangerous, such as steering drive by wire WIRE (yet allow you to start the vehicle), or has created a short somewhere I can't imagine what's gonna happen.

*Current LEAF may not be affected, but future LEAF in cold states, with the anticipated cold state pkg (a thermo blanket of some sort), this may happen too!

Would this apply to a hybrid type car too? Haven't heard of any major problem with Prius for example.

RV owners fight with this all the time. A stored RV presents shelter int eh winter with all kinds of stuff to chew on. I've had mice in my pop up camper 2 of the 3 winters we've owned it.

Bounce sheets don't work. Mothballs don't work. The only sure fire way is to seal every opening and keep 'em out. With a car, that's going to be real hard to keep them away from all the tasty wiring.

E. Kat

Does the Volt have a internal AC outlet? Does it stay on when the Volt is charging? If so try these.

Ultrasonic Rodent Repellents

http://www.victorpest.com/store/rodent-control/ultrasonic-rodent-control

Although I have never tried it, I have heard of people mixing peppermint oil and rubbing alcohol and spraying everything from the undercarriage to the engine. For cars in storage, what I have done is put a peppermint oil soaked cottonball in a baby food jar that has holes poked in the top in the floorboard.

Maybe now people can smell the Volt coming?

charging guy

The best news out of this is that the Chargepoint Network notified you instantly of the change in status. That is so cool.

Hey, is that Brian, the Coulomb distributor? If so, I encourage you to add another e-mail/text alert. Currently there's "Vehicle fully charged," "Plug out," "GFCI trip" and "Over-current detected." We need "Rodent attack." If I'd gotten one of those alerts, I could have used OnStar to set off the horn and lights.

rj

If the car has power in use to keep a certain temperature for the batteries, how about one of those ultrasonic noise emmitters? They're advertised a lot. But I don't know if they actually work, or would be FCC compliant.

Amuro Ray

Stink smells usually work. Rodent has a very keen sense of smell. But like MMM has already said, 'boy, your Volt stinks!" (Yay LEAF!)

Ultrasonic doesn't work. Federal Trade Commission has already stated so.

Doug in Jax

Hmmm, well rats are subsidizing this pricey toy, why shouldn't they get to ride in it?

Berg

Try leaving a litter box (slightly used) under the area where they're getting in. Supposedly deters pack rats from getting into conventional cars.

H

You don't need an electric car for this. I wasn't driving my 2000 Volvo V40 much and one day opened the trunk to discover the a perfect circle was missing from the felt stuff on top of the battery. A soft nest of shredded felt was sitting next to the battery.

Get a Jack Russell Terrier. We have two!

will

I will never have to worry about rats in my engine compartment...I have cats that get in there. Hopefully they won't chew wires, but I have a feeling I may have a bigger mess to worry about.

meanderingthemaze

Let's not get too excited, this is merely a design issue that they probably didn't consider. Things will just have to be rodent-proofed.

I mean gasoline vehicles are warm too. And they have electrical wiring too. So why the big drama over this?

Maybe the guys house was infested.

Dan

I guess he just liked your "taste" in automobiles!

HA!

kc

LOL about the Jack Russell Terrier. This is the kind of job they'd love to have. ;-)

I don't recommend rat poison. It's usually slow-acting over a number of days and doesn't serve as a deterrent.

Amuro Ray

@ meanderingthemaze,

I think the diff here is that ICE vehicle will eventually cool down, unless you are plugging in with the bloc heater. That is not norm though.

With EV, u plug in because u need to plug in (for the juice). Thus, the system is running in the background the entire time it's plugged in. This also ensures a warm battery...

In the 1st case, rodent may use ur vehicle for nesting purpose if u let ur vehicle sits long; in the latter case, it's the warmth that attracts them immediately.

Vince T

I feel for you guys as the same thing happened to my 06 Lexus. Thankfully the dealer had a heart and replaced the wiring harness for free. They sure did get a good laugh out of it. It would have ended up costing me $400.

Stephen Grushas

I would tell the parking garage your problem and see if they could HELP with the bill!!
Also, I would tell them to put out bait traps.

PS Todd, I would watch your car; that ruddmen charger puts out some heat when charging.

ejhickey

Rats in downtown chicago? I am shocked , shocked to hear that there are rodents and vermin in chicago.

Lucky rat did not chew into an orange cable. there is plenty of voltage tou would have to change the name to SPARKY

If that rat chewed the high voltage orange wires you would have to change it's name to Sparky

gdirwin

I think Chevrolet should have covered this under warranty - a properly shielded wiring harness should be more resistant to little critters...

What happened to "bumper to bumper" warranties? Guess I forgot to read the fine print...

John Knez

Why don't car companies use a wire insulation that tastes bad to rodents? Or perhaps a coating on the insulation that is foul tasting.


There are a number of different options to choose from for effective rat control and the option that is chosen will depend on the area where the rodents are located and how accessible the area is for you.

David Diaz

I work in the movie industry and my company had to pay over $1000 in the past couple of months to repair rodent damage to the wiring harnesses on a pair of new Chevy Traverses that we borrowed from GM. Apparently not an uncommon problem.

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tim

there are some articles about rodents on this website http://nabacar.com and it outlines the problems in detail.

lement application always worrying, can is obtrusive, so rather than directly to the

I like it a lot. You know precisely what your talking about, exactly where other people are coming from on this issue. I am glad that I had the fortune to stumble across your blog. I like it

I like it! I will respect it if I hear from you.the engagement and devotion shown in this project is wonderful. I definitely scoured your website for many weeks before attempting it ourself.

Robert Tomey

I bought a 1000 dollar fast charge and my lab got into the garage and chew in half. SPX will not sell me a new cord or replacement nor repair . They told me that I would have to buy whole new unit.

I would spray Rataway Fragrance to stop chewing rodents in car engines, safe around pets & children! Rick Suddes

This is so weird. I've never heard of this before, let alone known that it was a more common occurrence than most people might believe. So odd...

I'm no expert on cars, but I know you write very well.

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