Do you have warning lights and costly car repairs? Rodent damage could be the culprit behind your next break down.

A class action lawsuit claims the type of plastic used in new cars could be attracting vermin that eat the wires.

“I never could figure out where the stuff came from until I saw the rat,” said Barbara Olm. On more than one occasion a tiny hitch hiker made a meal out of the wiring in Olm’s 2012 Lexus.

The 84-year-old poisoned one rat in her car, but not before the rodent cause more than $400 in damage.

“The mechanic found a ground wire and coolant wire eaten by rats,” Olm said. Today Barbara’s best defense against the rodents is a loud radio that she places by her parked car. ” They don’t like country music.” 

Barbara is not the only one with a rat problem. Rodent damage is a regular occurrence at University Honda in Davis.

“42 years in the business and I have seen it from day one,” said University Honda Service manager Mark Campanili. When we met with him there were 2 cars in his shop with rodent damage.

Chewed up insulation is a cheap fix but wiring damage can be costly. “I have seen a couple in the $2000 range,” Campanili said, and damage is not covered under warrantee.

University Honda can’t explain what’s attracts rodents to vehicles, but attorney Brian Kabateck can.

“The plastic coating around the wires is made of soy,” Kabateck said. “I am not a rat expert, but soy must be delicious to rats.”  

The Los Angeles lawyer recently filed a class action lawsuit against car maker Toyota Motor Company for their use of a soy based eco-friendly wire coating in many 2012 to 2016 model cars. The lawsuit specifically targets the soy based wire coating and not the copper wire inside.

Toyota sent ABC10 this statement regarding the lawsuit:

“While we cannot comment on this litigation, we can say that rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry, and the issue is not brand- or model-specific.” Victor Vanov Corporate Communications Toyota Motor North America

Kabateck believes Toyota may not be the only car maker using the soy based plastic coating.

“At least Ford and Subaru and other dealers are using a similar product and their owners are reporting similar problems,” Kabateck said.

The goal of the class action lawsuit is get Toyota to cover rodent damage in cars with the soy based plastic. Honda is also facing a class action lawsuit. Kabateck says other car manufacturers may see similar lawsuits in the future.

Extermination company Terminex ranks Sacramento as one of the top 10 cities for roof rats. The rodents are not picky when it comes to choosing a nesting spot.

“The number one advice I can give is to drive your car every day,” said Terminex Spokesperson Leo Skattebo.

A car parked for more than 48 hours is like a welcome mat for rodents. Skattebo says your car may be at the most risk in your garage. If rats have moved into the garage, traps are the best way to get rid of them.

“Regular snap traps work great, but If it a high traffic area, say with pet or kid you should use sticky traps,” Skattebo said.

Rodent damage may not be covered under warrantee at this time, but some home owner’s insurance will cover some of the damage. Check with your provider.

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