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Often, as a car owner, you should check and troubleshoot your car for possible failing components. Yeah, a lot of components can go bad over time due to excessive wear and tear, overheating, fractures due to high friction, and other reasons; the power steering pump is not exempted.
Some common symptoms you may notice when the power steering pump starts failing include a stiff steering wheel or your car making a loud whining noise when you steer.
There are other signs you need to know too, so hereunder are the various power steering pump symptoms to draw your attention. The power steering pump is pretty important and should be paid much attention to.
How Does a Power Steering Pump Work?
The average midsize car weighs around 3,500 lbs on average – that’s a lot of weight – and there are heavier vehicles like trucks, buses, and full-size vans.
A car’s steering is designed to help the driver control and turn the car in directions, but turning a 3,500-pound weight won’t work that easily if hydraulic pressure is not added.
To allow drivers to turn their vehicles without much stress, every modern vehicle is equipped with a system –power steering system. There are three main types of power steering systems used in modern cars: hydraulic, electro-hydraulic, and fully electric.
Whichever is installed in your car, the system controls the steering wheel and makes it easy for a driver to pull a 3,500-pound weight (car) or even a heavier vehicle easily at any speed. But then, the power steering system comprises a couple of components, including the power steering pump.
The pump provides the hydraulic pressure the system needs to perform its functions seamlessly. Contained inside the pump is a slotted rotor that turns the power steering hydraulic fluid and passes it to the power steering system hydraulic reservoir; then, the system uses the fluid to make the steering wheel much lighter to move 360 degrees.
The pump is part of the peripherals propelled by the timing chain/belt, which is powered by the crankshaft. There are a few types of power steering pumps: rotary vane, roller, and slipper.
While they all feature different designs and mechanisms, the function is the same – supply and circulate hydraulic fluid across the power steering system.
So, if the pump fails, the entire power steering system would not function, and that means your car’s steering would be so difficult to move because it has to turn manually with no hydraulic pressure applied; now imagine if you got down from your car and try to push the car alone – that’s more like how it feels driving with a failed power steering pump (system).
Power Steering Pump Symptoms
These are the common signs you may experience when your car’s power steering pump is failing or has failed completely.
1. Hydraulic Fluid Leaks
The power steering pump seals may crack and leak out hydraulic fluid, which will result in low fluid levels in the reservoir, probably causing both the pump and the entire system to fail.
If you notice that the fluid level in your car’s power steering fluid reservoir is always low, and you can see leaks dropping from the region, that’s a sign that the pump seals have cracked.
2. Loud, Unusual Noises as you Drive
When you start hearing a loud whining noise when you steer, that could be a sign that the power steering pump is faulty and not supplying enough hydraulic pressure to the power steering system.
Similarly, you may hear a “groaning” noise when the pump is bad; this sound goes out due to lack of fluid or extremely low fluid in the power steering reservoir. Again, some drivers allege that they constantly heard squealing noises when they had a bad power steering pump.
3. Hard Steering Wheel
As explained above, a bad power steering pump would make the steering wheel hard to turn because there’d be no applied (hydraulic) force to loosen the wheel – making it turn freely with less effort.
So, if you notice the steering wheel isn’t as free and easy to turn as it used to be, that could be a sign that you’ve got a bad power steering pump to deal with.
4. The Steering Wheel Is Slow To Respond
This is a situation whereby the steering wheel seems to respond slowly to your movements; for instance, when you turn the steering wheel, it pulls a resistance and then gradually releases and responds to your move to move the tires in the direction you turned.
Chances are that when this happens, it could imply that the power steering pump is beginning to fail.
5. Grayish Power Steering Fluid
Normally, the power steering hydraulic fluid is red or pink; if at some point you get to check the fluid in the reservoir only to discover that it’s another color – other than red or pink – you’re your car’s power steering pump is probably cracked, allowing air to mix with the fluid, hence the greyish color you’re seeing.
Of course, since the fluid has been tampered with, it won’t work as effectively as it should.
6. Metal Flakes/Shavings Inside The Reservoir
Usually, if you find out that the power steering fluid has turned gray, oftentimes, it is accompanied by metal shavings settling under the fluid.
Well, the shavings are little shafts from the wearing-off metal used in constructing the reservoir. So, it means the water pump is due for replacement as it’s already worn out.
Power Steering Pump Replacement Cost
The final cost you’d pay to replace the power steering pump would vary based on your vehicle type and where you’re getting it done.
However, the estimated cost is between $350 and $700, where the replacement parts costs between $200 and $500, and the rest is labor cost. It is not advisable to DIY power steering pump replacement as it is a job that requires high expertise.
What Happens When Power Steering Pump Goes Out
While you’d still be able to drive the car, you will have to steer the vehicle with more strength with zero hydraulic assists, which makes driving very difficult – that’s what happens when the power steering pump goes out.
The most common reason why your car’s power steering pump went out is due to lack of fluid or excessive wear.
Frequently Asked Questions
What To Do If Power Steering Goes Out While Driving?
If you are on top speed when you notice that the power steering pump may have gone out, you should turn on hazard/caution lights and try to steer the car to a safe corner to park and check the engine. If possible, have the pump changed before taking the car back to the road again, or find a way to drive the car with the faulty pump until you get home.
What Happens When A Power Steering Pump Goes Bad?
The steering wheel becomes stiff or difficult to steer as you drive; you may also hear a whining, groaning, or squealing noise as you try to steer the car. Also, you may notice that the power steering fluid leaks from under the hood.
Can I Drive Without Power Steering?
Basically, you can drive without power steering, but it makes driving less fun and enthusiastic, and you’d struggle more to turn the car in any direction you want to move. Also, driving without power steering can severely damage your vehicle’s steering system in the long run.
These power steering pump symptoms are common regardless of the type of vehicle you drive. Changing the pump at intervals is advisable, so it doesn’t fail – due to excessive wear – on a day you least expected.