Power steering is the reason why your car feels so easy to drive, and the steering wheel feels so easy to turn in any direction. Without power steering, driving becomes difficult and undesirable. Practically every car comes with power steering, whether it is a truck, van, sedan, sports car, SUV, or coupe.
As a car owner, it is important that you know these power steering problems and solutions because there are higher chances you’d, one day, face a power steering issue. Some of the most noticeable power steering problems are a stiff steering wheel and the car making an unusual noise when you turn the wheels.
What is Power Steering, and What Does it Do?
Cars are heavy, even when no passenger is inside – you can tell by trying to push them with your hands. Steering a car with failed power steering is as difficult as trying to make a car move manually. So, power steering is very much needed in vehicles, especially heavier ones like trucks and trailers.
Power steering is an automotive system that helps to reduce the effort needed to steer the wheels of a vehicle. It uses a separate motor or engine power, and most works with the front wheel. The advent of power steering makes it easy to turn a car in any direction and maneuver faster at any speed.
Power steering is connected to the steering wheel and has a fluid reservoir that should always be gauged for the system to function properly. Once the power steering of a vehicle spoils, it is almost impossible to drive that car because the steering wheel will feel so difficult to turn. But before a power steering fails, it must show some symptoms.
Power Steering Problems and Solutions
1. Stiff Steering Wheel
A stiff steering wheel is one of the commonest signs of low power steering fluid or a bad power steering device. This is a situation where the steering wheel becomes too stiff to turn in any direction. Well, there are quite different problems that could lead to this scenario, including a leak in the power steering system – causing the hydraulic fluid not to flow as expected.
Notwithstanding, your car’s steering wheel may become stiff due to a glitch in the steering system; if this is the case, a simple off & on can fix things up. This is to say, you should turn off the car and turn it back on – maybe this will ease the steering wheel, and you can continue driving.
Try turning off the car, then turn it back on and check if the steering wheel is still stiff. Also, check the power steering hydraulic fluid and top it up if need be. If the fluid is well gauged, then the problem could be a damaged component, which needs to be replaced.
2. Hydraulic Fluid Leak
When there is a crack in the power steering system, one of the indicators is hydraulic fluid leaks. You will notice that your car leaks fluid from beneath the engine bay. Yes, there are many fluids that can leak out from beneath the engine bay; however, hydraulic fluid is identified by its color, which is red or pink.
In most cases, you won’t see this leak immediately after parking the car; the car has to be parked for a seemingly long time before the leak starts dropping. So, before you drive out in the morning, it is important to look under the car and check for fluid leaks; if you found any, inspect the color – the color would tell if the power steering hydraulic is leaking away.
Leaks imply that there is a cracked or open spot in the power steering system. Check for the broken/cracked component and have it replaced for the leaks to stop. Once it is a cracked or broken component that is causing the leak, you should replace it.
3. Power Steering Fluid Is Always Low
If the power steering fluid is always low every time you check it, that’s a sign that the fluid is leaking away from an open or cracked spot. So, basically, if you locate the leaky spot and fix it or replace the component, the issue will stop. However, the power steering hydraulic fluid level will go down after a long time, that’s expected; it’s only a problem if it goes down frequently.
Look out where the fluid is leaking from and patch the leaky spot or replace the component entirely if it’s broken. There are many places to look out for leaks, from the hoses and clamps to the power steering pump and fluid reservoir. Any physical crack found on these components should be fixed.
4. Whinnying/Grinding Noise at Turns
That squeaking/squealing/grinding noise you hear when turning your car’s wheel could be caused by a variety of reasons, including a failing power steering system. If you always hear such unpleasant noises when turning at corners, it is a sign that you should check on your car brakes, power steering, and wheel assembly.
Notwithstanding, most times, whinnying noise is caused by loose belts or pulleys, which could be the power steering belt or pulley. This tells you that the power steering is one the main systems to inspect when getting such noise as you drive. Well, you may only need to fasten the loose belt, and the issue is solved.
Tighten the loose belt or pulley causing the sound. If the belt or pulley is physically damaged, you should get a new one to replace it. Basically, this is a job that requires expertise – you may want to have a mechanic do it for you.
5. Loss of Hydraulic Power
Your car still drives normally, but you can feel that the steering wheel isn’t as “free” as it used to be? The major function of power steering is to make the steering wheel free to turn in any direction; if the steering wheel starts feeling unusually difficult to steer, chances are that the power steering fluid is exhausted or there’s a problem in the system.
The power steering fluid is referred to as “Hydraulic Fluid.” So, loss of hydraulic power means the power steering fluid has gone below the required gauge for your car. When your car’s steering wheel starts feeling hard to turn, check the hydraulic fluid level – it could have gone below the indicated level by your car’s manufacturer.
In most cases, all you need to do is to purge the current hydraulic fluid and refill the reservoir with a new one. If this doesn’t fix the situation, chances are that there’s another faulty component that needs to be changed.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Most Common Failure In A Power Steering System?
Leaks. One of the commonest failures in a power steering system is leaks. This occurs due to worn-out power steering components, physical cracks, breaking of the hoses due to high pressure, and other issues. You’d find out about this issue by seeing the leaks drop from underneath the engine bay.
What Causes Sudden Loss Of Power Steering?
There could be many different reasons for the sudden hydraulic power loss, including pump problems, clogged passage hoses, fluid leaks, dirt in the power steering fluid, worn-out belts or pulleys, and other reasons.
How Do I Know If My Power Steering Pump Is Failing?
The most common sign is a stiff steering wheel, followed by leaks dropping from the engine bay. Also, you may continuously hear unusual noises when turning the steering at corners – all these are common signs of a failing power steering pump.