GOLDEN, Colo. — For Jefferson Patrick, the first time squirrels feasted on the wiring of his 2012 Toyota Tundra was expensive and exhausting enough.
He bought the car used in 2020 for his family vacation. But since purchasing the car just one year ago, he has been forced to replace the wiring on his vehicle twice, costing him more than $5,000 each time.
"I brought it in to the dealer. Again, they told me that they have to replace the entire wiring harness again," Patrick said. "Now, I'm going to basically be living in fear every day when I go out to start my truck that it's not going to start."
The wiring on his car and many cars built after 2010 have casings made with a soy-based material that has replaced the traditional plastics used before.
The new material is much more environmentally friendly and cheaper to produce, but it is indistinguishable to squirrels from the food they eat.
"I get that they're trying to be more environmentally conscious, and I applaud that," Patrick said. "But I'm so frustrated that the dealership doesn't do a better job of preventing this."
Patrick is not the only Toyota driver dealing with critters.
The Ninth Circuit of Appeals has partially revived a class-action lawsuit against Toyota, saying the wiring might be an issue that falls on the manufacturer.
Several other companies such as Ford, Lexus, and Honda have also recently faced similar claims from their customers against the wiring.
"Generally, cars are just getting cleaner. They're more responsibly sourced. That's going to create issues like this," said Skyler McKinley, the regional director of public affairs for AAA. "Rodents see this soybean-based insulation right in front of them, they chew through it, and that's how you get this really expensive damage."
McKinley said it is unlikely car companies will foot the bill for this kind of damage any time soon, so people must try their best to protect their wiring from prying pests.
"This is an issue nationwide, anywhere we're sharing our landscape with small rodents," McKinley said. "There are steps you can take to prevent it. But it's just something that we know is going on, and it's going on more and more often as more carmakers switch to this more environmentally friendly installation."
Experts say there are several things car owners can do to prevent wire damage from rodents. The first is to park cars in sheltered areas away from tall grass or junk piles.
The second is to run the car as often as possible and check the engine before turning the car on after a long time.
Consumers can purchase some sprays and wraps to deter animals.
Still, even the most cautious driver will have a hard time keeping squirrels away from a meal.
"Cars have become more complex and more computerized, and there's just more wiring," McKinley said. "As the automotive industry evolves, which it does periodically, there's always these new costs that factor in sometimes the end-user has to pay."
Sloan Dickey at KMGH first reported this story.