Torque Shop #1

Our mechanical engineer kicks off a series of thematic Q&A articles to assist the average motorist in Singapore.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Our mechanical engineer kicks off a series of thematic Q&A articles to assist the average motorist in Singapore.
alike can help
the driver to
his car’s
Mechanics and mechanical engineers alike can help the driver to troubleshoot his car’s problems.


This first question-and-answer article in our newly introduced Torque Shop series for 2017 is about troubleshooting old cars, which tend to develop problems as they get closer to the end of their COE and clock ever higher mileage. 

My car has done 135,000 kilometres. Recently, I noticed a vibration from the steering and floorboard, especially when I accelerate. What could this be and should I be concerned?

Since you have clocked 135,000km, you might want to replace your car’s engine and gearbox mountings, plus all the suspension bushes.

Worn/broken mountings and suspension bushes accentuate vibrations in the front.

Another plausible cause of the vibration would be worn driveshafts, if your car is a front-wheel-drive vehicle. Driveshafts last a long time, but if their protective boot is torn, dirt and grime can get in and rapidly increase wear and tear.

Also, check that you have evenly worn and properly balanced tyres before replacing the driveshafts.

If you decide to change the driveshafts, make sure you get original ones, which are more expensive but work perfectly.

Local workshops often offer rebuilt units or suggest balancing the driveshafts as cheaper alternatives. However, the symptoms are likely to return if you choose these alternatives.

I recently replaced all the belts of my Honda Civic (mileage 94,000km), including the water pump belt. Soon after, I discovered a water leak in the cooling system. The workshop traced the leak to the water pump, which was then replaced. Is the water leak related to the belt replacement?

Yes. When a new belt is installed, the mechanic will inevitably tension it by imposing some degree of load (a new belt has stronger tension) on the water pump’s drive pulley.

If the pump is an old one, this will cause rapid additional wear in the shaft seal, leading to water leaks.

At the mileage you have stated, it is a good idea to replace the water pump at the same time you replace all your belts. The mechanic who installed the new belts should have recommended this.

My six-year-old Suzuki Swift’s steering has been behaving inconsistently. Whenever I turn the steering wheel fast, it seems to lock up, as if something is resisting steering input. At other times, it behaves normally. A workshop suggested that it could be a faulty or leaking steering pump or a slipping drive belt. What should I do?

Your Swift does not have a power steering pump. There is no hydraulic fluid or a steeringpump drive belt. Assistance in the case of your Suzuki is provided by an electric motor in the steering column.

The symptom you describe is typically caused by a weak electric power supply, which is common in some cars that have electric power steering assistance.

If your Swift’s battery is old, you may want to first replace it. That should solve the problem. Defective wiring and a failing power-steering motor are two other possible causes, but they are much less common.

I notice a soft growling sound that seems to come from the suspension of my Japanese saloon. The sound gets louder when I steer to the left, even if it is a very gentle turn. Strangely, it disappears when I steer to the right. My car has done 55,000km and is serviced regularly. It has no other issues.

Steering left while on the move loads up the right side of your car because the body leans to the right.

The fact that the sound gets louder when you steer left suggests that the source of the noise is the right-hand front or rear suspension.

Specifically, from your description, the problem lies with the wheel bearing. It might be the front or the rear wheel, but I suggest you replace all four wheel bearings. The cost is not prohibitively high, and it is, in any case, a routine procedure that will prevent future problems.