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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After completing a brake line repair job on my family minivan, which has been parked on the driveway for about a month, I started the engine this afternoon to do a road test. With the A/C on, the interior smelled oddly. After road test with the mini van on the driveway I opened the cabin filter compartment - what can be observed surprised me: On top of the circulation fan/motor are full of dry leaves and unknown fabrics and hairs; the top of the cabin filter is also coved by the same. Here is a photo of what has been pulled out from the cabin filter compartment:
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This must be the doing of small animal(s). My question is how and where did a small animal get in to the cabin filter compartment?

I have never left windows and doors open when no one is in the car. The plastic vent cover below the windshield is all in good condition with no broken holes or cracks.

I also checked the firewall at the passenger-side and I don't see any opening that could let small creatures get in to the cabin filter compartment. With no clue at all, I have to admit that I am no smarter than the little animals!

Please advise.
 

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Maybe up the cowl drains or the hood hinge openings. You can’t stop them other than by driving the car frequently.

Thankfully the filter is intact. If they chew through the filter, the cabin is fair game and you’ll never be rid of the smell.

Sixto
‘04 LE FWD 198K miles
 

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I had something similar when I owned a different vehicle. Rodents can fit through very small spaces. I encourage you to do further visual inspection of the engine compartment. Mice in particular seem to enjoy chewing on wiring.
 

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I had something similar when I owned a different vehicle. Rodents can fit through very small spaces. I encourage you to do further visual inspection of the engine compartment. Mice in particular seem to enjoy chewing on wiring.
I had the same issue in my 06’ Sienna, 07’ Corolla and 08’ 4Runner. I ended up taking the wiper blades and cowling off and building a cage of 1/2” rat wire around the cabin air intake. This solved it in all three cases.

No issues so far with my 16’ Sienna…
 

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I had them trying to set up in around the intake runners. Another time, they wanted to make a home right on top of the engine cover. Mice need 1/4" to squeeze through. Depending on how long ago you last changed the cabin filter, they could still be active now or they could have made their nests back in the fall. Based on the fact that everything is dry and brown and there look to be a few different seeds in there, I'm guessing it's the latter. Still, I would consider doing a deep clean and an engine-bay detail, making sure to pull out the random detritus in the corners up near the cowl. I might even suggest pulling the cowl cover off just to make sure there isn't a secondary nest up there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I am tempted to take the cowl cover off and maybe make a wire cage as 22Ranger suggested. Is there a photo-based or video instruction on the removal of the cowl cover?
This is not obvious as I don't see screws/bolts on and around the cowl cover.
 

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It is not difficult at all. First remove the wipers (14mm nuts on my 06LE) . If you run your fingers along the leading edge of the plastic cowl you will feel the securing clips that hold the cowl in place. Better yet , bend down close to the engine cover and look up along the edge and you will see the attached clips to the cowl. Lift up the cowl at the front and slide it forward taking note of how the back end ( near windshield ) is secured for reinstallation. Upon reinstallation make sure each clip enters their respective hole. Take note also before removal , to see how the rubber part at the ends mate into the other rubber trims present at the same location.
 

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@paul r left off the most important part of removing the cowl cover. You need to find some way to mark your wiper orientation/location so they go back the same way. I removed the wiper arms on one car one time and it took me many tries before I finally got them correct. They kept hitting the side of the windshield or parking too low. Of course, now, my car is always dirty, so it provides a clear line exactly where the wiper should sit when installed.
 

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@paul r left off the most important part of removing the cowl cover. You need to find some way to mark your wiper orientation/location so they go back the same way. I removed the wiper arms on one car one time and it took me many tries before I finally got them correct. They kept hitting the side of the windshield or parking too low. Of course, now, my car is always dirty, so it provides a clear line exactly where the wiper should sit when installed.
Just put a piece of masking tape on the glass and put a mark where the wiper is at rest.
 

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You need to find some way to mark your wiper orientation/location so they go back the same way.
Good point ! I usually eyeball it but it seems marking the position beforehand would be best and save time. In the past it takes me about two attempts , most times.
 
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I totally forgot to mention this part. Some Toyota models have holes in the black out at the bottom of the glass. Those are reference points for where the wiper blades go. My Sienna has them but that doesnt mean other gen's do, or if you've had replacement glass, it might not be there either. But look closely at the end of the wiper blade at the black out paint and see if those circles are there. No need to use tape if they are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited by Moderator)
I just realized that my August 3 reply was posted on a wrong subject thread - I though I was on a thread related to front strut replacement. I am sorry for posting the "front-strut" question here. Not sure what to do, though, while discussions are going on. My apologies to everyone.

MODERATOR COMMENT: I split the thread for you. You'll find your strut issues in a new thread called:
2006 Limited AWD - Front Suspension Help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
@paul r left off the most important part of removing the cowl cover. You need to find some way to mark your wiper orientation/location so they go back the same way. I removed the wiper arms on one car one time and it took me many tries before I finally got them correct. They kept hitting the side of the windshield or parking too low. Of course, now, my car is always dirty, so it provides a clear line exactly where the wiper should sit when installed.
Here are the 2 photos on the ID dots on the lower edge of the windshield: 4 dots on the passenger side and 1 on the driver side. I did not notice them until the cowl cover was removed and a through cleaning of windshield. I will pay attention to these dots when it is time to install the wiper arms.
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Maybe up the cowl drains or the hood hinge openings. You can’t stop them other than by driving the car frequently.

Thankfully the filter is intact. If they chew through the filter, the cabin is fair game and you’ll never be rid of the smell.

Sixto
‘04 LE FWD 198K miles
Thank you Sixto and all:

I managed to remove the cowl cover (lucky enough without breaking any plastic parts) and the wiper motor assembly. After a thorough cleaning - lots of accumulated debris - and now, photos of the air inlets, many of them. The 5 large rectangular openings are of similar heights but different width; there are 2 small round openings, one on each side. There are 2 irregular openings on each fender side. Now to find screen materials to "seal off" these openings from our smart little creature friends.

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