August 31, 1995 in City

Van Owner Turns Rodent Warrior

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

Building a better mousetrap has been the goal of every automaker since Henry Ford gave the world the Model A.

But a Harrison, Idaho, resident claims his new $25,000 Honda Odyssey van is such a state-of-the-art mouse magnet, you’d think the contraption was made of cheese.

Bob Powers is waging a weird battle with the Japanese auto giant. It’s all over an invasion of mice that have turned his gleaming, champagne-gray van into a foul-smelling Mousemobile.

Since buying the van as a Mother’s Day gift for his wife, Joanne, Powers has trapped seven field mice inside the locked passenger compartment.

At first it was kind of funny.

Over the years Powers has discovered a few furry intruders in some of his other cars. No big deal. It comes with living in rural Harrison Flats, a mouse-rich haven of grain and hay fields.

Little did he know “what a headache this was going to be,” says Powers, 71.

Nose-ache is more like it.

Although only four months old, the Odyssey definitely has lost that new car smell. Passengers need only switch on the fan or air conditioner to experience a ghastly blast of Eau d’ Rodent.

“It’s dead rotting mouse,” says a disgusted Joanne of the cloying, fetid aroma.

To avoid being gassed out, Bob and Joanne drive as fast as they can with all the windows open. “We love everything about the van,” he says. “We just can’t live with the mice and the smell.”

This high-tech rig comes with the latest wonders plus a couple of ancient ones: an airbag, anti-lock brakes and two peanut butter-baited mousetraps Powers places on the floor between the plush bucket seats.

The odor, he believes, is caused by droppings and mice that have died deep within the bowels of the Odyssey’s ventilation system.

Try as they might, mechanics at Honda of Spokane, where Powers bought the car, were unable to come up with a solution.

“If I knew where they were coming in, I’d hop down there and fix it,” says service manager Bob Bailey, who adds that it’s not uncommon for mice to nest in automobiles.

“But they don’t make a mouseproof car. They don’t claim to make a mouseproof car.”

A Honda corporate spokesman says Powers’ mice aren’t covered on the warranty. Even so, the company is willing to pay half of the estimated $3,000 it would take to yank the engine and disassemble the air system.

Powers, however, won’t pay a nickel. He contends the Odyssey must have a design flaw or defect allowing mice to crawl so far inside the works.

His evidence includes detailed accounts of conversations with Honda managers, trips to the dealer, plus snapshots of Powers posing as a brave North Idaho hunter with mice he’s bagged. Powers recently wrote the Honda president demanding a new van or his money back.

“My wife’s threatening to spend the winter in San Diego because she can’t use the heater,” Powers adds glumly.

A part-time Honda public relations worker thought Powers’ problem was so hysterical it was worthy of the company newsletter.

“I can see the headlines now: ‘Even Mice Like the Odyssey,”’ says Lisa Leonard from the company’s California headquarters. Between chuckles she suggested Powers park in a pond because mice can’t “swim up the ventilation” hoses.

Powers is one unhappy Mouseketeer.

He points to recent news articles on the dangers of exposure to hantavirus. That deadly virus, which has been found in this area, is transmitted by inhaling microscopic particles of urine, feces or saliva from infected mice.

Last week, the retired General Telephone claims agent bought an $18,000 Chevy truck for his wife to drive without fear or shame.

“Joanne belongs to a garden club,” he explains a bit sheepishly. “When some of her friends heard about our mouse problem they wouldn’t set foot in the van.”

, DataTimes


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