Record-breaking animal-related vehicle breakdowns raise concerns

Grey cute squirrel eating a nut on a grass in the park, London

According to the RAC, animal-related vehicle breakdowns have hit all-time highs.

In the first eleven months of the year, the insurance firm was contacted in relation to 303 occurrences of animal damage.

That is more than any previous year on record for the same period. In the year 2018, there were 196.

Events in which a car strikes an animal are not included.

It is advised to drivers that rodents may become drawn to cars that are abandoned for extended periods of time or that have food within or close by.

Rats are known to chew through fuel hoses, invade engine compartments, and shatter headlights, which accounts for more than half of this year’s animal damage.

Patrols also recorded multiple incidences of foxes gnawing speed sensor cables, windscreen wiper blades and brake hoses.

RAC patrol Nick Isaac, who works in south-west England, said he discovered a squirrel using a car’s air filter to stockpile nuts.

He said: “The car had lost power and had an odd smell.

“When I lifted the bonnet and revved the engine, the air filter moved like it was being sucked towards the engine.

“It turned out a squirrel had been taking nuts from a bird feeder and storing them in the air box, restricting air flow to the car.”

One patrol attended a Porsche where 10 mice had made a nest under a panel at the bottom of the windscreen.

Another was asked to rescue a baby pet python that became stuck behind a wheel trim after becoming drawn to its owner’s car’s heated brakes.

RAC spokeswoman Alice Simpson said: “Many of us are used to seeing the occasional rat or mouse on the street, but finding one in your car is not only a nasty shock but often the cause of very unwelcome and expensive damage.

“Unfortunately, incidents like this are more common than drivers might expect, particularly over the winter months when animals look to take shelter from the cold conditions.

“To reduce the risk of animal damage, check your car if it hasn’t been driven for a week or more.

“The best advice is to make sure no food – for pets or humans – is left inside.

“Also check for unusual smells in the vehicle and be mindful of any dashboard warning lights that don’t disappear after a minute or two.

“Any foodstuff in garages should be kept in airtight containers or locked in metal bins.

“Car insurance does cover animal damage, but it’s worth checking before you claim to see if the damage justifies the expense.”

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