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THE CAR DOCTOR

Can a car be mouse-proof?

Plus: Volkswagen CC impressions, best aftermarket Bluetooth

By John Paul
Boston.com Columnist / March 16, 2009

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Editor's note: We are looking for reader suggestions to mouse-proof a car!

Q. We recently spent $1,700 to repair the damage caused by mice eating away at our Toyota Sienna's fuel injection wires, which shorted out the computer system. Is there a way to stop this from happening? The car is kept in a garage, which is obviously not "mouse-proof". Also, is there a car company out there who makes a car that is mouse-proof?

This seems to be a health issue as well as an economic one; before the wires were eaten, they'd get into my van and leave droppings everywhere! I can only guess what I would have done if a critter had crawled into my view while I was driving!! This problem is not uncommon, as there are 62,000 hits on this topic on Google. You would think technology/design would have considered this issue. If you have an answer to this problem please respond soon. I can't afford to fix the damage again.

A. There is no such thing as a mouse-proof car. My first suggestion is to remove anything that is attracting the mice. Start by removing any food source such as pet or bird food, recycling, and any water supply. Oil of peppermint is reported to be a good mouse repellant. Glenn Gould from the Wells Auto Museum has suggested fabric softener dryer sheets, placing them in/around the vehicle. Also available at hardware stores is a product called "Predator Urine" which may keep the mice out of the garage. After taking these measures, traps and poison may be the only answer, or you could buy a cat. Readers, if you have a suggestion, please let me know.

Q. I'm on the road for my job almost 10 hours a day and on the phone almost as much. I have tried the earpiece headsets, but I just don't like them. I recently rented a car with Bluetooth built-in and really liked it. I checked with an auto stereo store about putting Bluetooth in my car but it was very pricey. Any ideas?

A. I have been using a Bluetooth hands-free kit from iVoice called the R1. The R1 kit is about as big as a garage door opener and sits up on the sun visor. I have tried the unit with two different phones. One phone worked extremely well with all the hands-free functions (voice dial, number dial, etc.). The second phone synced up and was very clear, but the voice commands didn't always work. The unit has a rechargeable battery and a suggested retail price of $100 (www.theivoice.com). I don't think talking and driving is ever a good idea, but if you must, the R1 by iVoice allows you to keep both hands on the wheel without looking like the Borg "Seven of Nine" from StarTrek.

Q. I have a 1995 GMC Yukon. Within the last couple of days the truck has died while idling or upon coming to a stop light. The truck will start right back up and drive normally after this occurs. There is no rhyme or reason why or when this happens, but it has happened four times in four days. I have changed fuel filter, spark plugs, wires and even the coil pack since, but 20 minutes after I did all this work the truck stalled again. Interestingly, the "check engine" light has not illuminated. Do you have any thoughts or ideas?

A. Some areas to look at are the crank shaft sensor, ignition switch, and the fuel pump. When checking the fuel pump, look at the fuel pump volume as well as pressure. Any one of these can cause a stall without a check engine light.

Q. Our 1994 Volvo 850 is dying and we are told will not pass inspection (in April) because one of the cylinders is blown and we are burning oil. Our "new" car is a 2000 Honda Odyssey. Since we haven't bought a car in a very long time; we are somewhat at a loss. We want something very reliable and safe that will last. We are suburban commuters and put about 300 miles per week on the car. We were considering a Prius, but might want something more substantial. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

A. You could take a look at the Toyota Highlander Hybrid; this will offer plenty of room and is also a good choice environmentally. You could also look and the Ford Escape Hybrid, which is a little smaller and also a good choice. The Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix also offers decent room and fuel economy. At this point you really need to shop around and see what you like. Considering the economy, you are in a very good position to negotiate with any car dealer.

Q. I heard the 2010 Honda CR-V will have a diesel engine. Should I wait to buy one or should I stick to gas engines? Any thoughts about the VW CC?

A. I have not heard anything about a diesel engine in the CR-V, although it would make some sense. A small SUV with a clean diesel that got better than 30 miles per gallon would likely sell out. Honda/Acura was talking about installing diesels in their vehicles made for the US market a couple of years ago, but there has been little talk since. Regarding the Volkswagen CC, it is a great car to look at and has a wonderful rich- looking interior; it drives like a Passat. Based on the CC's looks, I expected better/sharper handling.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com.