NEW YORK (PIX11) — Rats are not only running the streets of New York City but ruining the wiring in New Yorkers’ cars.

The problem of rodents nesting under hoods first made headlines during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, but it is continuing even now as people move their cars regularly.

PIX11 News’ Eileen Lehpamer took a look at this growing problem after experiencing it first-hand a few months ago. The wires under the hood of her 2022 Jeep Wrangler were gnawed at one night while it sat parked on the Upper East Side.

It caused the check engine light to come on, and the start-stop function in the car to malfunction. It cost nearly $600 to repair and the mechanic told her that rats were to blame.

PIX11 News spoke with several mechanics who say this is a common problem, especially in the winter months when rats are looking for warm places to nest.

David Goldsmith, the owner of Urban Classics Auto Repair in Bedford-Stuyvesant, estimates that in the colder months, 30% to 40% of all cars brought into his shop have some kind of rodent damage.

“We’ll see chicken bones, we’ll see [a] McDonald’s wrapper, [a] half-eaten hamburger” inside the vehicles, Goldsmith said.

While rodents have always gnawed on wires, Goldsmith thinks that some kind of soy-based coating on wiring is increasing the attraction for rats.

Toyota and Honda are among the automakers hit with class action lawsuits by customers who blame them for rodent damage. Honda now sells chili pepper-infused anti-rodent tape to put on wires. Several more lawsuits have been dismissed nationwide as judges have cited a lack of evidence that the coatings on wiring have worsened the age-old problem of rodents gnawing on wires.

In Bedford-Stuyesant, Libby Denault had the check engine light abruptly come on in her Toyota Prius.

“It was a sensor wire that had been chewed through by a rat,” Denault recalled a mechanic telling her. “They saw a whole little nest, of droppings, and different kinds of bedding. I didn’t realize there were rats in my car, so that was surprising and a little gross.”

Mechanics suggest spraying peppermint oil repellents under the hood several times a week or using mothballs.

But exterminator Matt Deodato said mothballs won’t do the trick, adding he’s seen “rats move mothballs.”  

Deodato suggests checking your surroundings when parking, avoiding sewer grates, mounds of garbage, or tree beds that could house rat burrows. A rat burrow in a tree bed is usually about the size of a fist and has an entrance and exit point.

Goldsmith advises checking under the hood often and, if there are signs of rat feces or food, getting it cleaned immediately before it attracts more rodents.

Otherwise, rats will be attracted to the nesting and “Say, ‘Huh, it looks like home for somebody,’ and they go up in there,” Goldsmith told PIX11 News.

“It’s frustrating,” said Denault. “I think New York is one of the greatest cities in the world and the fact that we can’t manage the way we treat garbage on the streets.”