How to Keep Mice Out of Cars, Plus: How to Find and Remove Them

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Mouse-wheel-hole

Ratatouille might be a master chef, but his mouse brethren have no real skill behind the wheel of a car. Still, that doesn’t seem to stop them from hiding in vehicles across the country and giving people a heart attack in the morning.

Mouse are unwelcomed visitors for almost everyone we can think of. In this informative guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know in order to keep mice out of your car. We’ll explain why they’re there in the first place, where to look, products to try, and methods to implement. Near the end, we’ll tell you how to get rid of a dead mouse body, too.

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Safety Notice (Important)

Before moving on, we need to give you a quick safety notice. There is a dangerous chemical in mouse urine and feces that can make you really sick just by breathing it in. Also, mouse carcasses have a ton of diseases and bacteria on them.

If you spot mouse activity, it’s important to quickly clean up the area. Delaying the clean-up might end with a trip to the hospital.

With this fun ‘safety notice’ concluded, let’s move on to the rest of the article.

How Are Mice Getting in Your Car?

If you’re wondering how mice are getting into your car, be prepared to be underwhelmed. There’s no secret here, they just climb and walk their way into a car.

Mouse-getting-inside-the-car

Mice are naturally very small, and they can squeeze their bodies to fit into even smaller cracks and holes. Anywhere that your car might have access to a mouse-sized object is perfect for a mouse to climb into.

The less obvious portion is that mice can only get into your car if it’s parked in an area where they frequent. No mouse is going to scurry for a mile, punch in your garage code, and hop in your car. We’ll talk more about this idea later.

Things Mice Love and Why They Go in Cars

Some mice have a long commute and don’t feel like walking, so they’ll grab a ride in your car. A majority of mice will hide out in your car for some basic survival reasons:

  • Shelter. Your car protects from the elements and keeps a mouse’s predators away. It doesn’t get much better than that in their opinion.
  • Warmth. In winter months, mice need a place to go in order to avoid the freezing colds. If the weather is too cold, a mouse can literally freeze solid and die. Even after driving, your engine could be warm for hours on end, which makes it great for a shivering mouse.
  • Food. If you’re not the best at cleaning out your car, you might be serving a mouse buffet. Little crumbs, food wrappers, and trash are high-demand items for a starving rodent.
Mouse-home

Where Can Mice Go in Your Car?

Once you put on your detective outfit and get your magnifying glass, you need to know where to start looking. There are some common areas that mice frequent, but there’s no definitive answer. The truth is that a rodent can pop up anywhere in your vehicle.

The Cowl

Do you know that space between your hood and windshield? That’s called a cowl. This space is almost perfectly mouse-sized, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some mice like to hide there.

Some might even make a little home in the corner of your cowl and start a family.

Mouse-nest-in-the-cowl
A mouse nest in the cowl area

The Engine Bay

When a mouse thinks of warmth and shelter, their first thought is probably your car’s engine bay. It has plenty of nooks and crannies for a mouse to settle down in, the engine is always radiating heat, and the metal body and hood protect them from predators.

The Cabin

More generally, a mouse can pop up anywhere inside your car’s cabin. They often won’t make a nest here, but they might snoop around for materials to use in their nest and some tasty wires to chew on.

How to Tell if a Mouse Is in Your Car

How many people are driving around, blissfully unaware that there was or is a mouse in their car? It isn’t until they start whispering directions in your ear that you really notice a mouse is there.

The truth is, you might never know a mouse is hitching a ride with you unless you go looking for it. There are a few factors to look for.

The Smell. The Horrible, Horrible Smell

Noticing a dead mouse is really easy to pick up on. The smell is so horrid that you’ll immediately know something is wrong. Especially if they died in your AC vents.

Even if the mouse isn’t dead (yet, if we have anything to say about it), you might notice smells. These are coming from their droppings and pee as they move around and live life.

Car-smell

Car Isn’t Working

Some drivers might not notice until it’s too late. When your car doesn’t start in the morning, electrical components are busted, or something feels off, you can thank the mice.

Mice need to sharpen their teeth, and the wires in your vehicle are the perfect medium for them to do so. They’ll chew through wires all day long, leaving you with a pile of broken pieces in your car.

Chewed Upholstery

Chewed upholstery means you either have a hungry friend who was featured on My Strange Addiction, or you have a mouse living in your car.

The mice don’t eat the upholstery. They chew pieces off then transport them to another area to make a nest with the material. This could mean upholstery, insulation, or rubber seals with gnaw marks all over them and missing chunks of material.

Droppings

Mouse dropping should have an exclamation point over them. This is the clearest sign that there’s a freeloading mouse hiding somewhere in or around your car.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s mouse poop, there’s a mouse.

Mouse-droppings-in-a-garage
Evidence of mouse droppings in the garage

Methods to Keep Mice Out of Cars

There are some low-cost and easy methods you can try to keep mice out of your car. Once you confirm that a mouse has been in your car at one point, it’s important to change something or routinely check for more pests moving forward.

Park in Shelter

The best thing you can do is park your vehicle in a garage. By avoiding areas where mice live, you can dramatically decrease the likelihood of finding one in your car.

Honk Before Starting Your Car

If you want to avoid mice and drive your neighbors crazy, you can honk before starting your car every morning.

The honk startles a mouse awake and will force them out of your vehicle before turning on the engine and generating heat for them.

Regularly Check the Area

Checking for droppings and signs of mouse activity in the area where you park is always a good idea. It’s also wise to kneel next to the car and take a look under your vehicle for the same signs.

Put Your Cat to Work

If you have a pet cat, it’s time to make them work for their rent. Keep their litterbox in the area where you park your car.

As the cat does their business on a daily basis, they can also scout for mice and kill any that they find. If you were on the fence about getting a cat but you have a mouse problem, here’s your sign.

Cat-staring-down-mouse

Clean Your Car

A dirty car is basically a neon “Open” sign for a wandering mouse. Trash can quickly become food or nesting material for a little vermin.

More importantly, you should never keep food in your car under any circumstances. It’s not worth the headache of dealing with mice taking over your air vents.

You should also clean the exterior of your car. A bunch of leaves can become a great home for mice in the future.

Stay Away from Foliage

If you have to park outside, make sure you park away from any foliage. Trees, grass, and bushes are common homes for mice. You don’t want to park your enticing car next to so many desperate mice.

Get it Too Hot to Handle

Mice like the heat, but if it’s too hot for them, they’ll dip. Try to force this to happen by parking your car for a few days in an area that gets a lot of direct sunlight.

Keep your windows up and cross your fingers. As the inside of the car gets too hot, the mice will get uncomfortable and leave. Make sure you clean up after the mice before going back to your normal parking spot.

Close All Doors and Windows

Leaving your windows open and doors ajar is always a bad idea. Not only does it welcome mice, but it also welcomes other animals or car robbers.

It’s the best practice to keep the vehicle sealed shut whenever it’s not in use. Roll up those windows, close all the doors, and fix any damages that result in gaps or holes in your vehicle.

Rolling-the-windows-up

Products to Keep Mice Out of Cars

For more effective results, I have a few products that I always suggest to our friends and family members. Keep in mind, some of these are lethal solutions for the mice, so avoid them if you don’t want to hurt the mice.

Humane Mouse Repellent

What’s the best way to repel a mouse? With mouse repellent, of course!

One method of mouse repellent is a fragrance that they don’t like. I like the repellent from Fresh Cab because it actually works, it’s easy to put out, and you’ll see immediate results.

The other method is a spray-on repellent. It works the same way, but you have more control over where it goes. The spray repellent from MDXconcepts has been around forever and it has helped tons of people see results.

Dryer Sheets

Who knew that Bounce dryer sheets could be so useful outside of the laundry room? These little pieces of fabric have been terrifying mice for decades.

The general consensus is that they hate the smell, but there’s also a rumor that they hate the texture of the sheets as well. Whatever the reason is, they really work. They’re a great alternative to chemicals that could be harmful to people in your home.

D-Con

If you want something more lethal, reach for the D-Con mouse poison or traps. If you have the mentality that the only good mouse is a dead one, these products will come in handy.

Make sure you never put them in areas that your pets or children frequent. We like to put a few just inside of the garage door and maybe another one near the mandoor in the garage.

This option contains poison that kills mice after they encounter it. You’ll just have to clean up the carcasses as you find them.

Mouse Traps

There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned mousetrap. You can opt for the traditional snap-traps that have been seen all over Tom and Jerry, or you can go for a more modern option.

There is a reinvented snapping mousetrap that seems to work a lot more efficiently. There are also mouse glue traps and some non-kill tunnels that trap incoming mice.

These traps will get rid of mice before they become a real issue in your car.

A Rubber Snake

A funny way to trick a mouse into being afraid is to pick up a rubber snake. Since snakes are natural predators of mice, they will get freaked out and run away.

Some brave mice might take a closer look at the toy and debunk what you’re trying to do, but it’s a cheap and easy thing to try anyway.

Mothballs

I also suggest trying some mothballs. Scatter them around where you usually park and leave them in various spots around your garage.

The scent is really unappealing to mice and it leaves most of them running for the hills. If the scent eventually dies out, just replace the mothball with a new one and you’ll be good to go.

How to Get a Dead Mouse Out of Your Car

So, what happens once you trap and kill a mouse in your car? Even worse, what if you stumble across a random mouse carcass? These dead animals can have a ton of diseases on them so it’s important to be really careful here.

#1: Put the Body in a Bag (or Three)

You’ll want to start by putting on some disposable gloves that you don’t mind tossing later. Either with your hands or with a tool (which you also don’t mind tossing later), pick up the mouse carcass. Put it in a Ziploc bag and seal that sucker.

Put that bag in another bag and continue that process until you feel less grossed out. Sealing each bag will also help keep the smell away for the following steps.

#2: Wipe the Area with a Towel

Anywhere there are droppings or a mess associated with mouse activity, wipe it down. Just use a few paper towels or shop towels to get rid of the solid waste in the area. Yeah, gross.

#3: Use a Commercial Disinfectant

Now it’s time for some chemical warfare. It’s the only way to actually clean the area so you don’t get sick and the smell dissipates.

I suggest a strong commercial disinfectant that is safe to use with carpets and upholstery.

Target the area you suspect is harboring a mouse, to get to work without knocking you out with fumes or staining your car’s interior.

If the disinfectant doesn’t come in a spray bottle already, It’s fairly easy to put this mixture in a bucket so you can tote it around with you.

*Note: make sure to carefully apply only to the area where needed, and that the disinfectant is safe to use on your vehicle’s interior upholstery. Stronger chemicals can discolor carpeting and leather.

#4: Saturate the Affected Areas

Go ahead and saturate the affected areas with this mixture. We mean really saturate it. You want to kill every memory of that mouse that was in your car.

You can use another towel to wipe the mixture down and help it get to work. You’ll want this mixture to stick around until it dries on its own.

When it’s finally dry, just give it another wipe-down with a new paper towel.

Car-detailing-wiping-car-down-with-towels

#5: Throw Out All Items Used

Time to start purging this memory from your mind. The first step? Throw out everything that was used in the process.

Not only does it help remove items that will remind you of your mousy friend, but, more importantly, it helps kill the spread of disease and bacteria from the carcass.

Anything that was used in the carcass cleaning event needs to be disposed of. Gloves, towels, rags, and bags. When in doubt, throw it out.

Just to reiterate, a mouse’s dead body is insanely dangerous as far as disease and germs.

Conclusion

We hope this helped you clear up your mouse problem. A nasty rodent can quickly ruin your car-owning experience. For more tips and guides for owning and operating a car, check out the rest of our blog. We have other tools and accessories that can help you on the road.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

2 thoughts on “How to Keep Mice Out of Cars, Plus: How to Find and Remove Them”

  1. Never use a bleach mixture in a cars interior. There is so much more involved in getting rid of a mouse, mouse urine or fecal matter. If you have this happen to you, I’d suggest finding a great car detailer. Using a bleach mixture is a sure way of ruining your carpet or seats.

    Reply
    • You are correct in that some chemicals can discolor the interior carpeting and leather. Since many interior parts have special coatings, I’ve revised that section to suggest using an alcohol-based cleaner and added a disclaimer to check what’s safe to use for general disinfecting purposes in a vehicle.

      Reply

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