Rats!28 April 2009
Yester-day, I found a rat's nest under the hood of my car. Literally.
I visited my parents in Tucson from late March until last Tuesday. I parked outside, just off their drive-way, and didn't use my car very much during that time. They live far east of the city center, out amongst the cactus, gilla monsters, and pack rats. I spotted the occasional pack rat under my car, but thought very little of it.
On my way home, I was pulled-over by an officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol, because my passenger-side head-light was out. (He was simply concerned that the problem be addressed, and gave me a written warning rather than ticketting me.) I went to an automotive store on the next day or the day after that, and bought new bulbs. But, when I popped the hood to replace the bulb, I found that the wires to the bulb were frayed and broken. There was nothing there to bang-around. The Woman of Interest suggested that they'd been chewed by a mouse. Rodent damage seemed plausible, and I couldn't think of a good rival explanation. Anyway, I decided that the best way to effect a repair was with a new connector and some butt connectors (metal sleeves, which are in turn ensleeved in plastic, and which are crimped to join wires or cables).
Apparently, I was operating with a sort of tunnel vision when I discovered the chewed wires. Although the rat's nest was quite big, I didn't spot it, sitting on the engine behind the valve cover, until yester-day, as I was effecting the repair. The nest was built of twigs, sticks, and some soft fibrous material. I was puzzled about why I hadn't had an engine fire, until I reälized that the soft fiber was produced by shredding swatches of the hood insulator. That rat really did considerable damage.
None-the-less, its actions weren't malicious, and I rather hope that it either wasn't in the car at all when I was driving, or leapt out before I was going more than a few miles per hour. Otherwise, the pack rat almost certainly was cooked to death or was killed when it hit the pavement. Had it cooked, I probably would have found a body. And if the nest was built between my previous use of the car and when I was loading it to go home, then the rat probably fled as the car shook from that loading.