This blog title should actually be “critters UNDER the hood” but it doesn’t sound as cool. I’m here to tell you that actual critters under the hood of hour vehicle are not cool. Not at all…
Since I first camped in the desert southwest way back in January 2017, I’ve seen campers put lights under the tow vehicles, Class A motorhomes, and around their sites. At first, I thought this was just for decoration and it kind of annoyed me because I love a dark campsite so I can see the stars overhead more easily. Turns out it’s not all just to spiff up your campsite.
Little critters love warm spaces out of the wind on cold desert nights, which is not surprising. I like warm spaces on cold nights too. The difference between me and those little critters is that I don’t crawl into someone’s engine compartment and make a little nest out of whatever I can find. I’m sure the critters have tunnels and burrows and nests or something, but apparently they are not nearly as nice as a warm engine compartment. Or so I was told by the campers who put lights under their vehicles and motorhomes. I couldn’t decide if this was an urban legend or not.
Late last year, I saw a little ultrasonic critter repellent that was designed to go in the engine compartment. You flip the switch and it makes noises only critters can hear, along with some randomly flashing LEDs to further discourage them from making a pitstop under your hood. I bought it, figuring it was better than light pollution, and as I got back to the desert in late December last year, I faithfully turned it on at dusk every night and turned it off the next morning.
At this point, you might be asking yourself how did I know it was actually working? I know I asked myself that question more than once. I just had to trust the dozens of product reviews on Amazon. Until…
I was camping at Gilbert Ray, in the middle of the Sonoran desert in Arizona. Lots of critters there and every campsite had hoods up and/or lights on at night. I had my little ultrasonic buddy going every night. I forgot to turn it off one morning. As I was washing dishes, I saw a cute little bunny rabbit hop-hop-hopping from the back of my campsite towards the road. About 15 seconds later, that bunny was jumping like a jackrabbit back into the creosote bushes. I realized the little bunny had gotten close enough to the noisemaker that it freaked them out. Nice. One scared bunny, one happy camper.
A few weeks later, the sad thing happened. It was freaking cold for four nights and I was so worried about my plumbing that I forgot to turn on the noisemaker. After a few days, I remembered to do it. No harm, no foul. Or so I thought, until I tried to use my windshield wiper washer fluid. Nothing happened. I hit the sprayer button again, and still nothing. That’s weird, I thought, I can’t remember ever running out of washer fluid in a car. I got home and popped open the hood. Fluid was good. I started tracing the fluid line and that’s when I discovered some critter had made a sweet little nest in the hood insulation. And then they’d realized that a silly plastic tube was in the way, so they neatly bit off about five inches of it. Clever sharp-toothed rodent, this one was.
A quick consulation with the Honda service department in Alamogordo confirmed the damage and the fix. One hour and a slightly painful sum of money later, I had a working fluid line again. You better believe I remember now to turn that noisemaker on every evening! Go find someone else’s vehicle to chew on, little rodents!
The vastness of the desert frightened her. Everything looked too far away, even the clouldless sky. There was nowhere you could hide in such emptiness.*
James Carlos Blake
*except under the hood of my pickup truck…