When Squirrels Attack

It was two days before Christmas. December 23, 2020. The Wife went out to run errands like she does pretty much every day. I can’t convince her to stay home, not even with contagion everywhere around us. Nope, she has to go out and do things or her day is wasted. I’m awake, which is unusual for me this early in the day. We had been out early the day before, which meant I slept early the night before, and it was going to be awhile before I could slouch my way back into sleeping well into the afternoon and pretending to be annoyed about it.

She called me from the road. “There is something wrong with the car. There are lights on all over the dash and the transmission isn’t shifting properly. I think I better bring it back home.”

I told her to be careful and then I poured myself a cup of hot tea and stood inside the front door waiting for the car to reappear over the hill in front of the house.

When it finally did reappear it was definitely limping and she barely managed to get the car up the driveway. I motioned for her to pop the hood and it only took a few minutes of inspection to reveal what the problem was. The wiring harness was visibly chewed right at the point where it plugged into the engine manifold.

We had experienced a version of this problem before. A few years previously the Daughter had left the Leaf out on the back driveway and something had gotten into the engine compartment and made a nest right behind the driver’s side headlight. She just thought the headlight was out and bought a replacement bulb, but when we opened the hood and looked at where the wires went into the back of the headlight, there were no wires. There was only a nest made of some kind of chewed fabric that we couldn’t identify but hoped wasn’t also from inside the vehicle, and the stubs of wires sticking up out of the the place where they merged with the rest of the wiring harness.

I had never heard of creatures nesting in cars before, but when we took the Leaf to be estimated and fixed, the mechanic said “Oh, yeah. We see that pretty regularly.” Little did we know that we were leaving the new Nissan Versa to be vandalized by the same rodent that had struck the Leaf the day before. We parked the other car in the same spot on the driveway, and while we were gone the saboteur came back, and, apparently mistaking one vehicle for another vehicle parked in the same place, proceeded to make an identical nest in the same place in the Versa.

We must have interrupted her, because the nest wasn’t finished when we checked why that car’s headlight was also out. The Versa was still under warranty at the time, so we played stupid and just took the car in complaining about the headlight, and we let them fix the wiring that the rodent had chewed in that car, without ever asking about who was paying for it. As it turned out, they paid for it. We made a point of never parking cars on that driveway again. We instead parked on the front driveway, since this lot has the rare attribute of two curb cuts and driveways onto the property. We parked on the front driveway because it was more open and less prone to rodent traffic.

Or so we thought.

As we stood there looking at the damaged wiring harness, I knew that we were facing the same enemy. The varmint had struck again, crippling our mobility and probably costing us thousands of dollars.

I called the insurance company. Two days before Christmas, in the time of COVID, meant that I didn’t get a live person for quite awhile. When I did they were less than helpful about the problem. I had already logged onto our insurer’s website to try and start the claims process, but neither avenue was giving me the options that I wanted. Finally I just called Nissan and had them come tow the vehicle to the dealer’s shop so that Nissan could get started estimating the damage while I took the necessary time to argue with my insurer.

The Wife hitched a ride to a car rental place and secured replacement transportation. We were going to be without a vehicle for quite some time. I don’t think we understood how long, but we knew we wouldn’t be getting the Versa back until well after New Years. We’d be lucky to even get the car inspected and an estimate on repairs before New Years Day.

As it turns out, I never saw that Nissan Versa again. When Nissan finally got us an estimate for the repair, the price stated was more than what the car was worth. My insurance company insisted they could get the repair done for less money, and then fumbled about for weeks trying to find a place that would give them a lower figure, only managing to find a shop in their network that was hamstrung by deals with Nissan that required them to duplicate estimates that Nissan shops offer.

The price to replace both damaged harnesses was about $14,000.00. This was only slightly less than the car cost when it rolled off the dealership lot, straight off the delivery truck with 24 miles on the odometer. Mind you, they would have had to pull the drive assembly to replace one of the harnesses, which required a full shop and several days work to complete, but that just tells me the car was worth a lot more than they charged me to drive it off the lot in the first place. If the two harnesses installed was $14,000.oo, how much were the seats worth? 50ยข? The body must have only been worth $100. What an unmitigated crock of shit! Is what I thought.

It is entirely possible that every car on the market in the United States is rolling rodent buffet in waiting. The manufacturers have to roll out these new harnesses for years after the cars are delivered:

Some believe the culprit could be modern car wiring or, more specifically, the soy-based insulation used to wrap it. This insulation can be an irresistible treat for rats, mice, squirrels, and even rabbits. The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.

caranddriver.com
I miss this car.

So here we are. Versa totaled. Totaled because of squirrels. Driving a rental car. Looking for another car to replace the car that we both thought would be the last gasoline vehicle we would purchase, just two years after we purchased it. This is not how we normally change vehicles. Normally, we buy a car and it stays with us like a member of the family. We grow old together, gain scars together, etcetera. Our cars stay with us for at least a decade, generally. The green Saturn wagon we special ordered has been the only other car we’ve owned that we didn’t hang onto until the bitter end, and we traded that one in for a bigger Saturn sedan that we hung onto until there wasn’t an automotive brand called Saturn anymore.

This hurt. It hurt financially, because the car had depreciated by over half its value since we had bought it, and that came out of our almost empty pockets. It hurt physically, a gaping hole in our lives in the form of a car we had just come to accept as a replacement for the Rav4 that had eaten it’s own transmission two years previously (another car that we drove for nearly a decade. It’s even in a movie) now taken from us by a squirrel. A SQUIRREL for fucks sake! Not a deer or a cow or some unavoidably tragic accident involving an 18 wheeler and a greased roadway. A fucking rodent the size of a football killed our car.

How do I know how big it was? Because The Wife found the bitch. Under the hood of the rental car. In a McDonald’s parking lot. The Wife was just driving along, getting her morning cup of iced tea, and the dash lights started flashing again just like in the Versa before it died. So she jumped out, popped the hood, and the squirrel and The Wife stared at each other in surprise.

The squirrel decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The Wife said “Oh no you don’t” and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and flung it as far as she could make it fly. Which was about the distance between the McDonald’s and the neighboring auto repair shop. Which is where the squirrel landed. In the towing yard of an auto repair shop.

She had taken the wire-eating monster away from it’s morning snack, and flung it square into the middle of a smorgasbord of automotive harnesses. Which is probably where it still is to this day. Eating wiring harnesses to its heart’s content. Unless the mechanics found it. I personally hope they did. The pelt would make a nice hat, I bet.

The Wife nonchalantly whistled her way onto the rental company’s nearest yard and pretended to not know why the dash lights were all flashing red on her rental car’s dashboard. “Can I have another car, please?” and proceeded on her quest to find and buy a replacement vehicle. One that would now probably be safe from wire-eating varmints, unless there were two of them near the house. The other one was not coming back over the distance she had taken it.

We ended up at First Texas Honda where we bought a used Honda Fit in February, almost two months after having the Versa chewed to death on our own driveway. The insurer paid for the rental, at least. It’s too bad we didn’t have insurance that replaced the car. We fixed that this time. Having a car destroyed like that, costing us about $10k in the process, with no visible sign of harm, seems almost unreal. But that is what happens when squirrels attack.

Postscript

I scare the Honda Fit. It doesn’t like the way I drive. No one likes the way I drive. It talks back to me. Flashing me messages. Sounding alarms. pulling on the wheel or activating the brakes. Slow down! Not so close! Brake. Brake! BRAKE! It’s worse than a side seat driver. It keeps yelling at me when I straighten curves out too. Lane departure is now a thing I read pretty regularly on the dashboard. I’m beginning to realize how bad a driver I am.

Ever since The Wife went in for her open heart surgery, I have been forced back into my role as a driver. I don’t really mind driving her to and from her appointments (really honey, I don’t) It is just that driving drains all my attention and mental energy, leaving me with almost nothing to utilize for other things during the day. This is part of the reason why I haven’t written anything for several weeks. This article took months to complete. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. No really. I needed the separation time from the events described here. I’m finally not as pissed about loosing $10k. I think.