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Mouse to blame for unintended acceleration? Yes, it can happen

Mice in the home can be a big problem. But mice in the innards of your car can be potentially disastrous. Here's how to keep the vermin at bay.

  • Mouse

Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.

Q: How do I stop mice from nesting in my vehicle? Could they possibly enter my home from the garage?

A: This is a common wintertime problem as mice seek shelter. In a past column, the Toronto Humane Society recommended peppermint oil, and others suggest mothballs, as deterrents.

Ultrasonic devices claim to make mice go away and become someone else’s problem, but many buyers report unsatisfactory results online.

Mice entering vehicles can chew wiring and endanger your safety. For example, David Gerson of GB Auto in Thornhill, says he recently found a customer’s uncontrolled acceleration was the handiwork of mice under the hood.

According to area pest control companies, mice are the leading home pest in the GTA. Once these critters get into your vehicle or garage, they may soon find their way into your home — and start multiplying. It only takes an opening the size of a pencil eraser for these slippery pests to enter a building in search of food, shelter and warmth.

A friend’s home was recently invaded by mice that entered the basement through the wall from the garage. Make no mistake, these are not harmless cartoon mice, but actual chewing, food contaminating, constantly urinating and defecating, home destroying, potentially disease-spreading vermin that demand serious and immediate action to eradicate.

First, we hauled out the food stored in the basement (rice, oats, pasta) that had attracted them. About $60 of contaminated food had to be thrown out.

Next, we set traps and, peeling away the fibreglass insulation on the basement wall, discovered that mice had entered through two large gaps in the foundation sill plate. These gaps were there since the home was built 25 years ago, so it’s a miracle mice hadn’t entered before. It also explains why the basement was so drafty in winter and why the homeowner got periodic readings on a carbon monoxide detector (auto exhaust seeping into basement from garage).

The openings were sealed with steel wool and expanding foam. Mice won’t chew through steel wool and the foam made the repair airtight.

With the entry points sealed and the traps doing their work, the mouse problem was resolved in a just a few nerve-wracking days.

Next was the massive clean up and disinfecting work. We also had to replace the insulation torn off the walls that had housed them.

You could trace in the fibreglass the chewed mouse paths, and they’d actually nested within the material itself. Removing it was a nightmare. Despite protective masks, gloves, eyewear and clothing, all involved had itchy wrists/arms afterward (hint: tape gloves and sleeves together). Additionally, I had severely irritated eyes and the worst sore throat of my life the next day.

I later discovered that all this suffering is unnecessary. Here’s the secret: instead of fibreglass, we replaced it with Roxul mineral wool insulation. It literally cuts like a piece of cake, fits tightly, and best of all, there were no visible airborne particles or irritation to installers as with fibreglass. (Yes, we still wore proper protective gear.)

Roxul is noncombustible, absorbs sound, does not rot or promote growth of fungi or mildew, and it does not sustain vermin like the fibreglass did. It also costs the same as fibreglass for a comparable batting of R-14 insulation ($36).

While some fibreglass products might be slightly less per square foot/metre than mineral wool, it would’ve cost the homeowner more to use it in this case — because there’s no way I’d work with highly-irritating fibreglass materials again and he would’ve had to hire someone.

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