Lenard Broadhead says biodegradeable materials used in his new Honda are so “eco-friendly,” hungry squirrels find them irresistible.
Broadhead, who lives in Ottawa, says the rodents have made a series of targeted strikes on his air-filters, motors and fuel injector wiring, with repair costs eating away about $1,000 of his savings.
Now his new routine is to remote-start his vehicle from a safe distance and then watch the underside for escaping squirrels.
“I’m paranoid about this, because it’s freaking expensive,” Broadhead said.
Watch as Lenard Broadhead explains what squirrels have been doing to his car:
A gnawing problem
Many automakers have shifted to bioplastics in recent years. Resins derived from soy, rice husks, corn, castor oil and even agave are used to make seat cushions, plastic moldings and insulating covering for wires in newer vehicles.
In the U.S., several class-action lawsuits have been launched against Honda, Kia and Toyota, with plaintiffs typically arguing that the environmentally friendly wire insulation gives off a faint smell of vanilla when warm — too tempting for rodents to resist.
In Broadhead’s case, he said the damage is more than just an expensive inconvenience. He worries it’s also a safety issue.
While driving earlier this month, Broadhead’s car “went crazy with all kinds of alarms,” he said.
He headed back to the dealership at 30 km/h and waited while technicians discovered that wires leading to his vehicle’s fuel-injection system had been gnawed.
At Hunt Club Honda, service manager James Ringwald is sympathetic, even to the point of making repairs to Broadhead’s cars at cost, but he isn’t so sure the parts are the problem. He said rodents wreaking havoc on vehicles isn’t anything new, and that cars of any vintage and any manufacture can be irresistible to nesting pests.
But Broadhead is sure the problem is with the formulation of the plastics in his car because on other occasions, Kia, Mazda, Hyundai and Ford automobiles have been parked in his driveway and none has been gnawed-upon.
He thinks the existence of Honda Part No. 4019-2317, a cayenne-pepper infused anti-rodent tape, stands as a tacit admission that there are uniquely-Honda problems with the company’s plastic formula.
“How come they’re the only manufacturer that sells this?” wonders a skeptical Broadhead.
At $91 for a thin 20-metre long roll of tape, it’s not just the taste of the tape that made Broadhead’s eyes water. Last week, he paid for technicians at Hunt Club Honda to add short lengths of the special rodent-deterring Honda tape to wiring under the hood.
He’s waiting to see if it works.
Eating the costs
In addition to investing in the spicy electrical tape, the 69-year-old former bureaucrat with the federal government now parks in the garage.
“It’s the only safe place,” Broadhead said.
He has also added a mesh bag containing both mothballs and cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil to his engine compartment. Additionally, he’s mixed up his own elixir of dish soap, water and hot pepper sauce to spray around the perimeter of his driveway.
Honda Canada did not respond to questions about plastics problems from CBC News.
Honda isn’t the only company developing bio-plastics for industrial applications. Dupont’s Zytel RS is a nylon resin made with sebacic acid extracted from castor oil.
In 2006, Mazda announced the creation of a bioplastic that is 88 per cent corn. In 2016, Ford Motor Company and Jose Cuervo announced they were developing a sustainable bioplastic derived from the tequila-maker’s spent agave plant fibres.
None of it impresses Broadhead, who believes he has been eating the costs of environmentally-friendly plastic.
“I’d like to see cars that are not friendly to rodents,” Broadhead said.