Rodents, hungry children and the smells that won't go away

Kurt Volmink, mechanic during the week and champion drifter on weekends in Msunduzi, said the weirdest damage seen in his workshop was bullet holes in the dashboard of a Gusheshe. “We worked on that Beemer with great care!” he laughs.

KZN o10 bheki zungu

Even more intriguing to the mechanics at a VW dealership were two groupings of holes about a metre apart in the dashboard of a brand new Golf GTI. “We could not figure out if someone had been hammering nails in there or something, until one of the sales ladies pointed out that a woman’s spiked heels would fit the holes perfectly,” recalls aftersales manager, Ritesh Sheosunker.

The Subaru dealership at Campsdrift reports a story about the toddler from hell. “Our mechanic noticed these gnawed holes in a dashboard and when we asked the driver, she said it was her child who chewed out those chunks,” says DP Howard Christie.

Moira Smith, who for many years helped run her husband’s small used car dealership, has a similar story: “I collected a new car and went to pick up my son and a friend from pre-school. The three-year-old friend got into the back seat and promptly took a huge bite out of the headrest in front of him. When asked why, the boy answered, “it just looked so nice”.

When nature calls

At the Hino workshop in Mkondeni, the nauseating smell of ammonia from old urine coming off the engine blocks of cash-in-transit trucks have changed the order of work — there the engines get washed before work starts. Dealer Principal Pretesh Singh explains this is because the security guards operating CIT trucks face constant attack from gangs and to limit opportunity for robberies, their protocols call for closed doors. When nature calls, the guards have little choice but to lift the engine cover.

Nature can also get too close for comfort. Mic Reibeling, owner of Mics Autoserve in Willowton, said he had a big “skrik” once when he saw a big snake coiled around a prop shaft, but he says he prefers snakes to rats any day. “I often see wiring eaten by rats and had to remove rats that got stuck inside air intake pipes and even found a nest of baby rats on top of the aircon/cabin filter.”

Down the road at Duzi Brakes, truck technician Francis Sibiya agrees that the weirdest damage in a truck always seemed to be caused by rats. “I once saw an Actros where rats had gnawed the entire air filter box down to a few crumbs. That is a lot of thick plastic. I’d really like to know why they (the rats) eat plastic and rubber so maybe we can stop it,” he says.

Bheki Zungu keeps the batteries charged at Audi Umhlanga, which has a contract with a cleaning company to place rodent bait stations out on a monthly basis.

“Gooi mielies”

Dealerships have learned that the best deterrent to rodents is bait stations, which work 24/7 and do not need care.

Terriers are the second best option, although dachshunds also give a good chase, as Dana Mienie learned in Boksburg after “Chippy”, his SPCA rescue dog, had managed to get itself stuck between the piping and block of a Chevrolet Sonic after chasing a mouse in there. Mienie says it took him and two helpers 20 minutes, working from above and below, to gently tug the small hunting dog out of the engine bay.

Rodent chaser Chippy managed to scare off a mouse but got himself trapped in a Chevrolet Sonic's engine during the chase.

In Hluhluwe, a rat plague in 2018 had a workshop foreman, who did not want to be named, resorting to the most effective bulk rat trap known: a steel drum three-quarters full of water, with a thick layer of maize kernels floating on top and a plank to enable the rats to climb up the drum. “The rats jump onto the solid-looking layer of kernels and then drown underneath. Other rats don’t see the bodies but smell the tracks and also fall in. We killed many this way. So just gooi mielies on water to catch rats,” is the advice from that corner.

In the US city of San Diego, David Albin wrote a book titled “Let’s get them Rats” and started a blog How to prevent rats from eating car wires. Albin, who calls himself “Rat King Dave”, has never heard of “gooi mielies”, but believes in peanut butter. If bait stations, terriers or drums full of water and maize are not feasible, he has four tips to keep rats out of parked cars:

  • Leave the engine hood up at night.
  • Spray a strong smell, peppermint or chillies, on the wiring.
  • Place peanut butter traps on top and base of the front tyres.
  • Rats like darkness, so be sure to put bright lights over and, if possible, under the car.

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