It’s that time of the year again, the leaves are turning colors, kids are going back to school, and a large percentage of RVers have taken their last RV trip for the year and getting ready to put the rig down for a nap. Even if you live below the “Mason Dixon” line you will most likely winterize your rig by either blowing all the water out of the lines and tanks or use RV antifreeze just in case. There are several articles and videos on our site relating to this topic…TIP: Don’t forget the water heater, ice maker, and exterior shower!
Rodent Proofing Your RV
The first step in rodent-proofing your rig is to fill all the gaps and access ports that rodents can get into your rig. It’s reported that a mouse can jump at least 12” and squeeze through a hole the size of a dime or less. If you look underneath your RV, you will probably find several entry points such as water line drains, storage compartments, and other spots that need to be sealed.
Another important item to consider is how to keep rodents out of your rig while it’s sitting in storage such as mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, and other “Varmints” that can use your rig as a 4 Star hotel and trash it better than the best rock band.
Last winter a local RV owner covered his trailer with a customized cover, wheel covers, properly leveled it, and let it sit for the winter in the back part of his acreage. This spring he pulled off the cover, plugged the unit in, and when the air conditioner kicked in it was Christmas in May! Squirrels had chewed through the seams around the air conditioner unit and made a home in the insulation behind the condenser coil surrounding the fan which is commonly called the “Squirrel Cage”…how ironic!
They chewed up the beaded insulation so bad it snowed inside the unit and also chewed through most of the wiring. I am not sure what mice and other rodents like about wiring, but it seems to be a delicacy. We were able to replace the insulation and rewire the unit which was less expensive than installing a new unit, however, he will have the same challenge this winter if he intends to leave the unit at the same spot surrounded by trees with squirrels.
There are several squirrel repellant products on the market, some are pepper-based, others are mint based. These are supposedly good repellants for mice and rats as well. Most of the spray products we have used work for a short period of time as the mint or spice dissipates quickly and needs to be reapplied often. Some of the granular product last longer, however, do not cover as much area needed. We are going to try a combination of spray-on repellent on the entire roof and granular product around the seams on the roof. From past experience, we have found that if we can deter the rodent initially for a few weeks, they will seek other opportunities for food and shelter. Also, we advised our owner to park the rig far enough away from the big Oak Trees so the squirrels can’t easily jump on the roof! We’ll let you know what happens next spring.
There are several products on the market that are rat and mouse killers with the most common brand being the granular form that you simply open the box and the rodents eat the product and die. I remember a call from an owner many years ago, as an Owner Relations Representative at Winnebago, asking how to keep mice from getting inside the rig and destroying the wiring. I advised this type of product and he stated that the mice just go inside and throw it all over the place and make a mess! He was storing his rig inside a huge building that also stored corn. Probably not the best place to store a unit as I would imagine the product was working, however, the mice outnumbered the pellets 100 to 1.
One issue with this type of product is not only the fact it kills the rodents which many people do not care for, but it is poison and can also be eaten by other animals and especially pets. There are some other alternatives such as the pouches that are less “open” for animals.
There are several bait products on the market that have the bait enclosed with a small opening so pets and even children cannot get to the poison. These are less effective and more expensive as you would need several of these around an RV.
An alternative to bait is the electronic products on the market. We’ve all seen the commercials with the “sonic wave” or some type of electronic vibration type signal that repels rodents, however from my experience, these do not work well, plus most need 120-volt power which is not always available where you are storing your unit. There are some that operate on AA batteries that state it will kill over 100 mice, but it needs to be emptied every time!
So instead of trying to kill the rodents, let’s look at ways of driving them away, all of them. For years, my folks stored their RV filled with mothballs as the horrible smell seemed to not only work on moths but mice as well. I do admit, they did not have a single mouse in the unit, however, it took the entire summer to get rid of the smell. Plus they stored the unit in an outside storage facility with several dozen other units so I don’t know for sure there were any mice there in the first place.
The owners of the 2000 Winnebago Brave we have worked on for the past several years put dryer sheets in every compartment and all throughout the inside which smells much better than the mothballs! I wish I had gotten some photos, they were all over the place. Inside drawers, under the bed, in the shower, everywhere. They claimed they worked well but I’ve heard from owners that they do not and we also found several signs of mouse droppings during our shoots.
Mint Based Products
Mice and other rodents can not tolerate the smell of certain mints and will steer clear of anything coated with the essential oils of mint products. You can spray the essential oil all around your rig and I’ve talked with owners that soak cotton balls with essential oils and put them in the same places they use to use mothballs. Unfortunately, this works for a short amount of time as the oil dissipates and is only good for a couple of weeks. If used outside, it fades faster and any rain ruins the effect immediately.
Several years ago we had an issue with spiders in our home and called a company that guaranteed “no spiders” for at least 3 months! The service technician that did the application informed me that the base product is the same used by numerous companies, the secret is keeping it strong and keeping it from washing away! They used a silicone-based product mixed with the deterrent which kept it from being washed away in the rain! It also helped keep the base product stronger and guess what…it worked!
A few years ago I ran into a product called Mouse Free which seems to have captured the same formula of combining the essential oil with a substance that will hold longer to the application. They would not give me the actual ingredients and their MSDS sheet is like all the others which state essential oils and a proprietary substance, however, they do seem to have a good product. I have talked with several owners at my seminars that have used the product and have had great success. It is a little more expensive and the application more labor-intensive, but if you have rodent issues, it’s worth it.
Rodent Proofing Your RV
The first step, which should probably be at the beginning of this blog is to fill all the gaps and access ports that rodents can get into your rig. It’s reported that a mouse can jump at least 12” and squeeze through a hole the size of a dime or less. If you look underneath your RV, you will probably find several entry points such as water line drains, storage compartments, and other spots that need to be sealed.
About the author: Dave Solberg: Managing Editor, RV Repair Club
For the last 25 years, Dave has conducted RV maintenance and safety seminars, developed dealer and owner training programs, written RV safety and handyman articles, authored an RV handbook reference guide, and logged over 100,000 miles on the road in an RV.
RV Repair Club is your go-to online resource for enthusiasts who want quality RV maintenance, repair and upgrade information – a community where passionate RVers can come together to gather knowledge and share their experiences.
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