ST. LOUIS — Pesky rodents are chewing through car wires. One driver reached out to the I-Team saying he's out hundreds of dollars.
"We have a 2020 Honda Civic that is currently in the shop for the second time in four months for the same issue," said Ian Mackey, a driver from St. Louis County who reached out to the I-Team. He's also a Missouri State Representative for the 87th District.
There's a Kia, Fiat, Chevy and Audi parked in Mackey's shared driveway. But he said it's only his 2020 Honda Civic that's been under attack.
"Rodents, have gotten into the car and chewed through the electrical wiring," he said.
His car is getting repaired again for the second time in four months because it wouldn't start. And now he's out $800.
"We took it to the dealership and they take zero responsibility. They call it a coincidence and they want us to pay 100% out of pocket," said Mackey.
"Do you think Honda is passing the buck?" asked the I-Team's Paula Vasan.
"Yes, absolutely," said Mackey. "What I'm doing is trying to get dealers everywhere or Honda, in general, to take some responsibility here, because I know this is clearly a widespread problem."
Mackey believes rodents are targeting his Honda for its more eco-friendly and less expensive soy-based wiring, a move many car manufacturers have made in recent years. One solution: rodent repellent tape. Mackey said that didn't work for him.
"And there's no sign that it's going to stop. It's most likely going to happen again," he said.
One attorney who didn’t want to speak on camera told us she’s aware of at least seven lawsuits over the past several years filed in California and Illinois relating to rodent damage. They were filed against Honda, Kia, and Toyota. Of them, many have been entirely or partially dismissed, with judges ruling the plaintiffs didn't have a strong enough claim. Others are ongoing. A Honda spokesperson said they can’t comment on pending litigation.
We also looked through thousands of driver complaints about safety issues that have been sent to federal officials, and found rodents have caused destruction to all types of cars. Drivers complained "a rodent…chewed through the wires," "The wiring harness was destroyed," and "The fuel lines were chewed on."
Based on data we analyzed so far this year, we found these problems represent a fraction of a percent of all car problems reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which tracks driver safety complaints, tells us:
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is committed to ensuring the safety of vehicles on America’s roads and reviews complaints as they are received. For as long as there have been motor vehicles, rodents and other animals have been using them as a source of food and shelter. Based on NHTSA’s review of available data to date, the agency believes it’s a consumer satisfaction issue that is detectable and could be addressed through routine maintenance.”
Mackey believes his experience is underreported.
“Yes, absolutely," he said.
"This isn't a new problem," said Scott Holeman, a spokesperson with the Insurance Information Institute, a nonprofit.
"Mice and rats and squirrels have been chewing wires on cars for many, many years," said Holeman.
His advice: "If you have what's called an optional comprehensive policy, which most people do, that kind of damage may be covered."
Mackey said the damage is still costing him time and money.
"It's happening more to Honda's and it's happening more to this specific car," said Mackey.
We asked every automaker cited in our report how many complaints they've gotten about rodents chewing through car wiring. The companies didn't have an answer for us.
STATEMENTS FROM CAR MANUFACTURERS
Honda spokesperson Chris Naughton tells us: “It is a long established fact that rodents are drawn to chew on electrical wiring in homes, cars, or anywhere else where they may choose to nest. This rodent damage occurs across the auto industry and is not related to a specific brand or model. Honda introduced a rodent-deterrent tape a few years ago to help combat this age-old issue for customers who live in areas where rodents have caused prior damage. This tape is available through Honda dealers and can be wrapped around wiring if a customer so chooses. It contains Capsaicin, an active component of chili peppers. Honda sources parts, including electrical wiring and wire harnesses, from several different suppliers who each have their own proprietary formula for wire insulation and wire harnesses. Honda is not aware of studies or information indicating that any of the wiring insulation or other components used for Honda vehicles are derived from substances that attract rodents or increase their propensity to chew on wiring or other components in engine compartments. It is Honda's understanding that rodents may seek shelter in engine components and once inside, can cause damage as a natural result of their need to chew and use material that has been chewed for nesting. Honda is not aware of any information suggesting rodents use wire insulation as a food source.”
Stu Fowle, a General Motors spokesperson, tells us: “I can confirm that General Motors does not use any soy-based insulation for wiring on our vehicles. We only represent what we know and see from our own customer base and there are broader third-party perspectives available online, but there’s no reason for us to believe one vehicle is more prone than another – it’s more about the environment. A car in a well-sealed garage is better protected than one parked outside. There’s a lot of speculation and theories around trends in rodent damage.“
Ed Hellwig, a Toyota spokesperson, told our i-Team: “Rodent damage to vehicle wiring occurs across the industry and is not related to a specific brand or model. We are currently not aware of any scientific evidence that demonstrates rodents are attracted to automotive wiring because of alleged soy-based content.”
A spokesperson for Kia America told us: “Kia America takes customer concerns seriously and all claims involving damage to a Kia vehicle are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Kia’s Warranty and Consumer Information Manual states that Kia will provide for the repair of Kia vehicles if there is a failure to function properly during normal use subject to certain terms, conditions and limitations. Damage due to factors beyond the manufacturer’s control such as damage from rodents are not covered by Kia warranties and Kia has previously confirmed that there is not a sufficient quantity of Epoxidized Soybean Oil (“ESBO”) in the wiring insulation material of Kia vehicles to be a primary attraction for rodents. Suggestions for minimizing the opportunity for any rodent damage include such things as parking in a secured location (no pet food storage in a garage to attract rodents), elimination of any rodent infestations in the area where vehicles are parked, removing any food inside the car, removing leaves from around a parked car, and running the vehicle regularly.”