News

North Burnaby garage sees influx of mice-damaged cars

John Siamoutas, a mechanic at Firestone Burnaby on Hastings Street, shows off the enging covering of a Toyota RAV 4 that had its foam insulation chewed away by mice. The garage has seen a spike in damage to cars
John Siamoutas, a mechanic at Firestone Burnaby on Hastings Street, shows off the enging covering of a Toyota RAV 4 that had its foam insulation chewed away by mice. The garage has seen a spike in damage to cars' electrical systems and interiors caused by mice.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

The mechanics at Firestone Burnaby on Hastings Street are used to dealing with oil changes, brake jobs and repairs to engines and transmissions.

But in recent weeks, they've also had to add "detective" to their job descriptions.

Since Jan. 1, they've seen at least 10 vehicles brought in where the underlying cause of their problems were the same unusual source: mice.

Nick Acimovic, co-owner of Firestone Burnaby, believes local mice populations just aren't deterred by the mild winter weather in this part of the world compared to colder climes.

But while repair jobs caused by mice aren't entirely out of the ordinary, "this year it's definitely more problematic than previous years," he said.

Lately it appears imports, especially German makes such as BMWs, Mercedes and Volkswagens, have been more vulnerable.

"There's something in the wiring I've been told … that mice like to chew."

But no car is really resistant, he said Wednesday, when his shop was repairing a similarly-afflicted Toyota RAV4.

Most newer vehicles have extensive electronics systems. Often affected vehicles will have their engine light come on as the first sign that something's wrong. Other times the vehicles will barely run or run rough, depending on what sensors the mice have tackled.

Acimovic said oxygen sensors are a common site of the problem because they're installed as part of the exhaust system and the wiring is easily reachable for mice.

"So what happens is they would sit on the exhaust pipe, which is warm, and they would chew on that one." From there they carry on until they reach other parts of the car, such as the engine compartment.

Last week his mechanics had the "bizarre" case of a BMW SUV whose electronics  indicated there was something wrong with the extensive airbag system.

The mice made it into the door frames and caused lots of damage to the wiring, creating a problem that was also very time consuming and expensive to figure out.

It wasn't until they removed all the seats that they found signs of chewed up wiring and material, he said, noting the job took 40 hours to diagnose and repair.

"I've never seen something like it in all my years being in automotive repair."

As for the Toyota RAV4, they found a mouse nest underneath the shield covering the engine. Again, there was damage to the wiring and at least one sensor.

Acimovic suggests that customers purchase electronic devices, available at hardware stores, which emit a noise inaudible to humans but which will drive rodents away.

They had one installed in their Firestone shop because "once we opened up the hood in one of the cars a couple mice just ran out and we didn't know where they went."

As for covering the cost of such damage, there is some good news. ICBC customers are covered for vehicle damage caused by animals under their comprehensive insurance.

"If a rodent damaged a vehicle and the customer has purchased comprehensive insurance, then the damage would be covered," said ICBC spokesperson Kathy Taylor by email.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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