Car won't start! Rats!

By Tim Moss -

Has anyone had this happen to them?

About 3 years ago, on a balmy summer night I found myself a long way from home in one of the beachside suburbs. I thought I would take the opportunity to enjoy the ambiance by parking near a boat ramp and watching the waves in the moonlight.

After half an hour I started the MX5 up and prepared to move on. But something was wrong. There was a thumping sound from the engine and the power steering cut out. I pulled over and popped the hood and had a good look around inside with a torch.

At first it wasn't clear what was wrong, but there was a suspicious fresh meat smell which should have given me a clue. Then I noticed what looked like a small intestine draped over one of the drive belts. When I craned my neck a bit I could see the owner of the intestine, a big brown rat, lying almost cut in half on the sump guard.

Clearly he had crept up onto the sump guard while the car was parked, perhaps to enjoy some of the warmth from the engine. When I started up Mr. Rat must have tried to jump through one of the belts and was caught and dragged in between the belt and the power steering compressor. He was skinned at the site of contact, and his body must have acted as a lever to flip the belt off the pulley.

To tell the truth I was pretty disgusted by this. After all rat insides festooning the engine was not my idea of concourse condition. I started to poke about with the entrails after having slipped on some rubber gloves and trying to remove the larger part of the ex-rat. I had no tools to replace the belt and was wondering if I could force the belt back onto the pulley without slackening off first.

Next thing I was bathed in a harsh white light. The sort of light that usually means police interest in your activities. Sure enough a shiny black MX5, a long way from home,the hood up, and with someone poking about with latex gloves on was just too good to pass up to the area police patrol.

I invited the cop to take a look at the various parts of the rat, and he was fascinated and horrified. But he was even less keen than me to touch the thing. He did get out a few tools but we were still stymied.

So we called in for the RAA (the local Roadside Assistance service) and told the duty mechanic that we had a rat stuck in the engine. By this time it was about 3 in the morning and he was pretty shirty at what he what he must have thought was a pretty flimsy excuse for a call-out.

His attitude changed when he arrived. He became enthusiastic at the thought of working on an MX5 because as he explained these vehicles are so reliable he had never had a chance to look under the hood of one.

With the right tools and my rubber gloves he soon re-seated the PS belt and removed the last bits of rat. It was quite a festive scene with two police vehicles now, a few intoxicated on-lookers as well as the mechanic attending to see what would happen.

All done and we all wished each other see-ya-later and I headed home. I only wish I could see what the mechanic wrote on his call out sheet.

So has anyone else had a similar experience where a kamikaze rodent has brought your pride and joy to a grinding halt? Lets hear'em if you have.

Tim Moss
The Flinders University of South Australa
Bedford Park,SA, 5042