You’ve probably heard of rats looting around in the garbage or inhabiting sewers. But you may not have heard of rats finding their way into car engines. While it might seem hard to believe, it’s actually a reality many have faced. Though it is surely an unpleasant thought, and even more unpleasant if you find yourself faced with it, there are steps you can follow for managing and getting rid of rats in car engines.

car engine

Why are rats attracted to cars?

There is some speculation that there are more rats seeking refuge under car hoods and in engines because of an increase in plant-based biodegradable material that make those materials seem like sources of food; additionally, some claim (even bringing about class-action lawsuits to various manufacturers like Honda and Toyota) that new, soy-based wiring rat her than petroleum-based wiring attracts the pesky rodents.

In addition to these speculations, there is the usual reason for why a rat would find itself in a car engine: They are seeking shelter. Many rats look for dark, enclosed areas when finding places to take shelter, both of which are offered under the hood of a car. And in the winter, they’ll likely be looking for somewhere warm. More often than not, rats are targeting cars parked in rat infested areas, areas they travel in or cars that are rarely used - such as cars in storage for long periods of time. For this reason, certain measures should be taken specifically to protect cars in areas that rats are known to be.

How to get rid of rats in car engines

Whether a rat finds its way into your car because the biodegradable material seems tasty or because they were looking for a warm hideout doesn’t really matter when you’re focused on getting rid of them. This section details how to help get rid of rats hiding out in your car engine.


Rats are able to sneak into places using much smaller holes than you might think possible. So if you’re driving a car that has developed a rust hole and think it’s far too small for a rat to crawl through, think again. It’s worth getting it repaired if you’re able. Also, you should be careful not to leave food in the car, which could attract rats or other rodents.

Have a Mechanic safely inspect your car

If you suspect you have rats hiding in your car, either because you’ve seen one or seen signs of one such as chewed wires, nesting materials, or droppings, the first thing you should do is thoroughly inspect your car. Because rats are rodents that can carry and transmit diseases, it’s import ant to take extra precautions when inspecting your car. This means wearing gloves and a long sleeve shirt. Also, consider a mask so you don’t breathe in any contaminated rat byproducts. While the engine compartment is perhaps the most common place to find a stowaway rat, you should also check:

  • The passenger compartment
  • The trunk
  • Underneath the hood

If you suspect to have a rat infestation in your car, it’s crucial to have a mechanic properly inspect all areas carefully.

What not to do

If you find rat droppings or urine, don’t vacuum or power wash. These methods could distribute germs and bacteria in the air. Once things are properly disinfected, you can then carefully clear droppings, nesting materials, or other byproducts. The CDC recommends using a commercially labeled disinfectant. This should then be sprayed on all the affected areas, and then left to sit for at least five minutes to properly disinfect the materials. You can then clean up the droppings or other byproducts with a paper towel, keeping your gloves on. This should all be immediately discarded, and covered with additional disinfectant before sealing the bag tightly. If you are cleaning out the engine compartment, the CDC recommends for you to disconnect the battery while you are cleaning and then only reconnect it after everything has dried.

How to Prevent Rats in Your Engine

While there are liquids and preventative rodent chewing tapes that supposedly deter car-loving rodents, their scientific efficacy hasn’t been proven. You can use traditional snap traps around your car to help keep rats at bay, which are likely to be more effective than liquids or tapes. Although, when using snap traps, you have to careful of unsuspecting children or other animals that may be harmed.

Please keep in mind, Terminix only services rat infestations that occur inside your home. Terminix does not service rat infestations in your engine so please contact your mechanic and/or your local animal control office.