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These Tips Could Have Saved Paul Ryan’s SUV from Woodchucks

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 7/17/2018 David Muller
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As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan has people to drive him where he needs to go. In fact, he recently said he hasn’t driven in three years. The Wisconsin Republican is not seeking re-election when his term ends in January, so he said in an interview at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., that he has started thinking about driving his own vehicle again. One thing he won’t be driving is the Chevrolet Suburban he left back in his home state.

There, Ryan’s mother had been starting up the SUV every month, but recently it didn’t start. “She goes to Florida for the winter, she comes back, tries it, she says, ‘Ah, it’s just dead. You gotta tow this thing in,’ ” Ryan told Economic Club president David Rubenstein. So, Ryan said, he had his Suburban towed to a dealership, where it was put on a lift, “and [the mechanics] realized that a family of woodchucks lived in the underbody of my Suburban-they ate all the wiring out of it,” he said. “And so my car was eaten by animals, and it’s just dead. I had to call the insurance company. So I don’t have a car.”

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Ryan’s Suburban is not unique. As we’ve said before, other vehicles have fallen prey to hungry varmints that have a taste for electrical wiring. The problem has been the subject of lawsuits involving automakers including Toyota and Honda. In fact, Honda has developed wiring tape designed specifically for warding off rodents, complete with little images of mice with X-marks over their eyes, and the tape is covered with capsaicin, the compound that puts the “hot” in hot chili peppers.

There has been speculation that soy-based wiring has attracted animals, but some experts have said that it is actually just the wires’ appearance-similar to twigs and grasses-that could be what lures rodents.

With that in mind, here are a few tips for keeping vehicles free of infestation: 

  • If you have a garage, keep your car or truck in there. And obviously, the more thoroughly the garage is sealed off from the outside environment, the better.
  • If your vehicle must be outside, try to keep it moving on a daily basis.
  • Try to make the area around the vehicle inhospitable to rodents. Don’t park it near where varmints could be creeping, such as near overgrown grasses or bushes or close to full garbage cans. Keep the area around your car clean and neat with no easily available food source.
  • You could keep the hood up at night, so it’s less cozy for critters.
  • Getting a little more extreme, you can spray the engine compartment with peppermint oil three or four times a week or put snap traps on the top and at the base of each front tire.

Meanwhile, Ryan said his next vehicle won’t be another Chevrolet, which had been building Suburbans and other trucks at General Motors’ Janesville, Wisconsin, assembly plant in the Speaker’s home state until it ceased production there in 2009. Without giving a reason, he said he’s getting a Ford F-150.

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