Packrats Caused $1,200 Worth of Damage to our Truck!

F250 Packrat Camage
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We spent Christmas week in one of our very favorite campgrounds, Lost Dutchman State Park. We’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count. It’s one place that gets us close enough to Phoenix without paying the insane RV park prices. The Superstition Mountains are a view that we just cannot get enough of. But this particular trip was one that cost us way more than the $30 per night.

Camping at Lost Dutchman

We’ve seen it before...trucks with their hoods up, lights laid out under RVs and trucks. We’ve heard the stories of packrats in the area, but we just never thought it would happen to us since we never stay too long in an area.

The day we checked out of Lost Dutchman we had planned on driving to our friends’ home to spend the night and catch up. But once we turned on the truck we saw trouble. The little wrench and engine icons on the dash were flashing, letting us know we had a serious problem.

Once we got out on the main road we knew we were going to have to get the truck to the shop as soon as possible. Our gears were slipping and something was really, really wrong.

We arrived to our friends' house and parked the trailer, not knowing the extent of the damage or even what caused it at this point. My first thought was rodent damage, but Jonathan was nervous it was a bigger problem with the transmission (something we dealt with multiple times on our last truck).

Luckily the Ford dealership nearby let us drop it off that Saturday, but couldn't diagnose the issue until Monday. Long story short, our truck ended up in the shop an entire week and my prediction was correct. Packrats chewed our wires!!

You wouldn’t think that something so small could cause so much damage but take a look at what they did!

Packrat Damages our Truck

In our case they gnawed through the nox sensor and air intake sensor which caused the engine to get really confused when switching gears.

We were lucky that it wasn’t worse, but after a $1,200 bill we've been on the hunt for prevention methods. Here’s what we’ve found.

What are Packrats?

Packrats (which are sometimes called woodrats) typically do most of their damage under the cover of darkness. They like to find dark places to nest in, store food, or in our case...wreak havoc on your engine’s wiring.

Side Note: did you know that most newer vehicles wires have casings made of soy? No wonder they want to chew them up! Who's bright idea was that??

After lots of research it seems that the best prevention is actually multiple methods.

Hood Up

The biggest advice I've read is to keep your vehicle's hood up at night. This will allow the moonlight to shine through the engine compartment, and having the hood up will cool the engine (if it's warm from driving to your location) creating a less hospitable 'den' for the packrats to enjoy. If your hood is like ours and has a light, you can just unscrew the lightbulb so that your battery will not die overnight.

Lights

Packrats don't like the light. It's advised to use flickering lights under your vehicle or RV when in areas that have been known to have packrats. Why flickering? I've read in several places that if you just have lights on constantly they can get accustomed to that and they'll likely just invade your engine or RV despite having the lights on. We've ordered this rope light and we'll be mounting them to a large piece of wood to place under the truck. More on that below.

Ultrasonic Devices

Another sure fire way to keep the rats out is to install an ultrasonic device under the hood of your vehicle. It emits a noise that is very unpleasant to rodents so they stay away. There are some that will attach to your truck battery and you can secure them with self tapping screws or wire ties. We have ordered these and we will install them this week!

Related, grab something similar for inside your RV, too. We had multiple issues with mice in Canada last fall, and a battery powered Ultrasonic device finally stopped them from coming in.

Sprays

The last suggestion I read is to spray your engine with a spray that the packrats hate. Some suggest peppermint oil, or even coyote urine! Gross.

What We're Doing

For now, since we’re boondocking in the middle of nowhere, we bought some battery operated under-cabinet lights from Lowes to place under the truck at night. We also have been taking our ultrasonic mouse deterrent device from inside our Airstream and putting it under the propped open hood of the truck. This is not a long term solution as none of the items are intended for outdoor use, but until our order comes in, we've got to work with what we've got!

I’ve talked with several of the locals that live near packrat populated areas in the Sonoran Desert, and I love what Bill and Yvonne from The Upside of Downsizing created to detour packrats.

Keep packrats away

They’ve taken a solar powered rope light and attached it to a long piece of wood to slide under their truck each night. Then they just prop it up during the day to recharge. We’re totally stealing this idea and making our own as soon as we can! We’ll also attach an ultrasonic rat repeller to the pice of wood, as well as install one under the hood as extra precaution. Hopefully this will keep the pesky vermin away!

Have you found a way to keep packrats away from your vehicles or RV? Did you even know this was an issue in the desert?? I’d love to hear your solutions in the comments below!

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Ashley Longnecker

About the Author

Ashley Longnecker is the fiercely independent tattooed and dreaded half of Tiny Shiny Home. She's a woodworker, photographer and maker of delicious baked goods. She loathes schedules and makes every day an adventure.

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Posted January 06, 2020


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