Hougang resident can't start car, finds rat droppings in engine bay and wiring chewed through

Christie Chiu
The Straits Times
Jan 30, 2024

A resident of a Hougang estate was horrified when she found her car’s engine bay covered in rat droppings and the vehicle unable to start.

The 41-year-old billing analyst, who wanted to be known only as Ms Quek, discovered later that afternoon on Jan 6 that some of the wiring in the engine had been chewed through.

She had to call a towing service to take the car to a workshop for repairs.

Ms Quek, who moved to a flat at Hougang Avenue 8 in 2021, said other residents who have lived there longer told her they have had similar experiences and that the estate had been plagued with rat infestation for about five years.

“I noticed the rat issue during my first few months living in this estate. But I brushed it off since it’s a very old estate – around 35 years old – as I thought it’s common to see pests around,” she said.

However, she said she became very concerned after seeing more rats scurrying around the estate in the last three years.

“When you come back in the night, no matter where you are, you will see rats running around. They will run into the drains, across the car park and hide under cars.”

She said after pleas for help from residents, the Ang Mo Kio Town Council (AMKTC) has tried to tackle the issue, such as by placing traps and rat poison around the estate. But she added that the recent damage to her car showed that more needed to be done.

In response to queries, an AMKTC spokesman said it was aware of a rodent infestation problem in the car park at Block 628, Hougang Avenue 8.

The town council sent its pest control team to conduct an inspection of the car park for rat burrows, he said, adding: “Our pest control officer has informed us that there are no active burrows in the car park and rodent treatment will be carried out in the surrounding area.”

The town council is following up with its insurance company as well as Ms Quek on the rat-induced damage to her car for an insurance claim submission, he added.

The car towing service on Jan 6 cost Ms Quek $70, while mending the engine’s wires cost $50.

Mr Eddie Ng, the director of Choon’s Motor Works – the workshop Ms Quek enlisted – said that while the damage to her car was “not too bad” and needed only half a day to fix, future repairs could cost $2,000 to $3,000 if the rats were to attack the same spots again.

If that happens, he added, Ms Quek would need to completely replace the engine wires and this could take up to two weeks.

Pest control experts ST spoke to said rats causing damage to vehicles is not uncommon.

Killem Pest managing director Nicole Zycinski-Singh said rats are attracted to warm spaces and may see a vehicle’s switched-off engine bay as a convenient place to nest and trim their teeth.

Bingo Pest operations director Vinz Lim said that rats actively seek materials such as cables and wires to maintain their dental health.

This is because their teeth grow continuously and constant gnawing keeps them at a manageable length for feeding, he added.

Mr Lim said: “We’ve seen rodents chew through vehicle seat belts and damage the wiring of the in-vehicle unit completely.

“With their powerful teeth and ability to bite through these materials, they can cause a short circuit and electrical hazard that may be costly to repair.”

He added that rats also pose health threats to humans through cross-contamination and can contribute to the spread of diseases – including salmonellosis and rat-bite fever – by contaminating food and water supplies with their urine, faeces or fur.

Ms Zycinski-Singh and Mr Lim said rat infestations can be eradicated only if the root cause is addressed.

“Residents can take preventive measures, such as sealing gaps, proper waste disposal and keeping areas clean,” said Ms Zycinski-Singh. “But while individual efforts can help, an estate-wide rat issue may require coordinated action to address the root causes and implement effective pest control measures.”

  • Additional reporting by Michelle Chin

The Straits Times

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