Friday, March 24, 2023


Leave your hood open in Arizona parks!

This week we received an email from Allen S. He was wondering if any of us here at knew what in the world these folks in Tucson, Arizona, were doing. Allen asked: “Why are people leaving their hoods open and lights on all night in the engine area of their tow vehicles while camping in the Tucson area? We come from Canada and are confused.”

I know why!

I quickly raised my hand. Pick me, pick me! I know! Short answer? Rats! Rats, rats, rats. The Desert Southwest is known for rats (not pesky mice) looking for a nice dark spot to hang out or even worse, nest. We have, unfortunately, had our share of rats.

They build huge nests both on the ground and in trees. And in the engine of our car, and hanging out on a wheel well near the engine in our motorhome. Chewing through the insulation by the generator, making a cozy family home in my husband’s pickup between the insulation and hood. We did not have any varmints until the motorhome next door did. As they left the RV park, a trail of baby rats followed mom and jumped ship as the RV rolled down the road.


Lights! Rope lights under the RV, lights under the motorhome engine and generator, lights under the car and truck engines… We were lit up like Christmas! We were the people that other campers pointed their fingers at for light pollution. My husband pulled all hood insulation from the pickup and we installed fairly useless battery-operated “sonic” rat-repellent noise makers everywhere. We sprayed so much peppermint oil that along with the lights it really did seem like Christmas.


Still, they came. We thought about poison, but that is truly a no-no in a wildlife area. Two more choices: live traps or snap traps. I couldn’t imagine what we would do with a live rat, so snap trap it was. I knew they were hiding out behind the tires, so I laid a pathway to death for them with the biggest snap traps I have ever seen.

Snap, snap, snap! Of course, my husband was nowhere to be found when it was time to give them their last rites and burial. Left to my own devices, I shoveled the whole trap and Sidney the rat into a large garbage bag with a windshield snow broom. I had spent so much time looking at the first one contemplating what to do with him that he got named.

Ahhh, gone. All was well and rat-free… until we started the motorhome. The diesel engine in the back spewed out grass, dust, dirt and twigs. Before the rat’s demise, they had holed up next to the engine but thankfully did no damage. We were lucky.

Extensive damage

Rats and mice can do extensive damage to an RV. Dustin Simpson, from California RV Specialists, shared these videos. Part one of his “What’s in the Shop” series shows an RV that was literally totaled by rats, and part two of the video has ways to prevent rat and mice damage to your rig.

Like the folks in Tucson are doing, shine some lights and open the hood. Rats don’t like light, and they (supposedly) don’t like the smell of peppermint either.

[Note: This doesn’t happen just in the Desert Southwest. Diane’s neighbor’s car, an almost-new Hyundai Veloster, was totaled a couple of years ago when parked in the driveway (north of Seattle) because the rats loved the soy-based wiring. (Carsten hadn’t even paid off the car yet!) Luckily, Diane’s ’97 T-bird, parked 50′ from where the Veloster was eaten alive, was built before delicious soy-based wiring was used.]



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Uncle Swags
10 days ago

Not one suggestion to get a cat!

7 days ago
Reply to  Uncle Swags

I read where rats are sexually attracted to cat urine.

11 days ago

Right on, Nanci. I live in Tucson and have learned to keep cars in an enclosed garage and my RV in a totally closed commercial storage barn. I also learned that nothing beats a good Victor rat trap from Ace Hardware – as long as you also have peanut butter.

11 days ago

I use Safer Brand 5926 Critter Ridder Animal Repellent found on Amazon or Home Depot. Sprinkle around the tires of your RV and tow vehicle. It’s a repellent and won’t harm anything, but rats, mice and rodents won’t cross it.

11 days ago

Maybe Allen should have moseyed over to their neighbor to get the 411 instead of writing to RV Travel. SMH

Steve H
11 days ago

Two weeks ago, every camper arriving at Pipe Organ Cactus NM south of Ajo, AZ, was given a notice to leave their engine hoods up anytime they are parked. So every one of the vehicles parked there had its hood open the entire time we were there to discourage the pack rats. The same applies squirrels and porcupines at CO’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. So far, so good for both our previous Ram 2500 and fifth wheel and our current Class C Sprinter.

10 days ago
Reply to  Steve H

Did it appear to work? Were there some with hoods down as a control experiment? Did they report damage?

Steve H
5 days ago
Reply to  George

According to the park ranger. the campground had multiple cases of damage before the warnings were issued. We didn’t hear of any damage while we were there.

11 days ago

Not just AZ but all over the 4 Corners area. Pack rats are very destructive and carry disease such as Lyme, Plague and Hantavirus

11 days ago

Not just rats and mice.
I had a squirrel chew the wiring on my new 06 pickup. I had just moved it from one side of my driveway to the other and left it parked overnight. The next morning it wouldn’t start. Towed to a shop to be told squirrels had chewed through several wires.

11 days ago
Reply to  Barry

Same thing happened to my mother’s car. She called to tell me her car wouldn’t start, it just cranked.
I went over to look at it and all the spark plug wires had been chewed.
Took a trip to the auto parts store and put all new wires in.
Next day she called to say the car starts but is running rough. Popped the hood and sure enough one wire was chewed.
Put rat poison out near the tree where the squirrels were and that solved the problem.

11 days ago

“Still, they came.”

Yep…not much that discourages rodents. This has been proven time and time again on the videos from Mousetrap Mondays where the myths and urban legends of rodent control are exposed and valid control methods are shown.

I live in the country. We haven’t had rats, thank God, but field mice are something else. Trap, trap, trap is right. I keep a half dozen mouse traps in my motorhome shed along with a bucket trap with a few inches of antifreeze in the bottom. When warm enough I also use glue traps. Traps are checked every day we are home. Killing as many as you can on a constant basis is the way to go. Nothing is for sure with rodents, but severely limiting population is the best way to start.

I make no claims this is a solution, but when it is hot and high humidity I run two industrial type high volume fans blowing under my RV to keep the cement dry. When those are running I have never had a mouse in any trap near the RV.

11 days ago

I’ve battled wood rats around my property for years. I bought plastic reusable snap traps by the case on Amazon – they WORK and there is no chance of poisoning wildlife. Just bait them with cheap peanut butter and keep at it. The population has diminished greatly. PLEASE don’t use poison – I know its easier than baiting (and removing the dead rat!) traps – but our owls and hawks are precious.

11 days ago

No one mentioned squirrels. Chewed through the wiring harness on my 2016 F-350. Spliced a lot of wires back. Still some electrical issues.

Don B
11 days ago

After suffering damages I once put a baited snap trap on top of the pickup’s engine. When I came out in the morning a smart rat had taken the bait and left a tree leaf, hard to find out in the desert, on top of the trap, in effect extending his middle finger to me. Then I propped the engine hood up and came home to see the hood vertical against the windshield — the winds do blow. . . .Lights on a timer are what works at home; traveling I prop the hood open using a restraining strap. . . .And it’s rats not mice that are the big problem chomping on rubber made with soy.

11 days ago
Reply to  Don B

Haha, they’re sometimes call then trade rats. They will often find something they like better then leave behind what they were carrying. Pack rats, trade rats, but they are officially called wood rats and scientifically called Neotoma. The worst part about them is they carry a whole host of diseases.

Toni Calzone
11 days ago

for mice and rats there is a video out that uses jiffy cornbread mix with honey and baking soda 5 teaspoons each just search on the mixture and the youtube video will show. will not bother other critters or pets.

11 days ago

We have two rv’s here and I find that leaving the radio loudly playing country music seems to work so we have them plugged in year round. Perhaps Rap music would even be scarier for the rats and mice.
I know I find it disgusting.

Neal Davis
11 days ago

We have tried everything — lights, sound, essential oils, mothballs, and rubber snakes — to combat field mice taking shelter in our motorhome without success. We live in a rural area and store our RV in a barn between trips. Fully enclosing the barn (and then getting a barn cat) has been cost-prohibitive, but we recently erected a perimeter fence. We put wire mesh along the ground and covered it with 4 inches of pea gravel to address tunneling. We slightly overlapped a layer of aluminum flashing (20″ wide) above the mesh. We cover the gate beginning at the bottom with two rows of flashing and added velcro in the sides to keep the gate flashing tight against the edges of the fixed flashing. We put packs of poison from the local farmer’s coop in the storage bays and glue traps inside the RV. Three dead mice later, we seem to be winning the battle (he said hopefully).

Daphne Rashall
11 days ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Please don’t use poison. The mouse will wander away before he dies and when the natural predator eats him, the predator will die as well.

11 days ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

Daphne is correct – PLEASE don’t use poison! The poisoned critter wanders away for an owl or hawk to eat…no bueno

11 days ago
Reply to  Neal Davis

I don’t use poison. I do not want a squirrel or chipmunk or bird to end up with it, or cat or dog or…

11 days ago

Mice will also, often, nest in the area behind the metal heat shields on small mower engines causing the engines to overheat and be damaged. Blow out those areas before starting the mower the first time.

Bob Walter
11 days ago

He pulled the hood insulation? Noooo! It’s there for a reason – actually several.

12 days ago

While living at Valencia Travel Village many years ago, I had a family of raccoons that would like to lay on the top of my Cummins diesel during the winter. I later discovered that the Aqua-Hot Motor-Aid switch was mis-wired from the factory causing the warm Aqua-Hot solution to circulate through the engine keeping it warm when I thought the switch was in the OFF position. That was attracting the raccoons during the cold weather. Luckily, they never damaged anything except for leaving their scat on top of the engine block.

12 days ago

In some places, squirrels and chipmunks can be the problem. A motion sensor light can work also.

12 days ago
Reply to  Lorelei

I agree. Motion sensors reduce light pollution. I had Squirrels eat through one of my spark plug wires in Zion NP.

11 days ago
Reply to  Ran

I haven’t had the problem yet except at home. I don’t want to kill squirrels or other things, so I set mouse traps in the garage because they want to get in the engine to build nests. The rats don’t seem to come around my buildings where there is me and the dog. Squirrels are pesky, but I like them outside.

12 days ago

I thought it might be rats that were stealing the catalytic converters out of vehicles.

12 days ago
Reply to  MevetS

They are rats just of the two legged kind.

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