Power Steering was one of the first luxury items available on modern day automobiles. Early automobiles had wheels that resembled wagon wheels or bicycle wheels so they were fairly easy to turn using just a steering wheel. A large diameter steering wheel combined with the right mechanical linkage was a very effective method of turning the front tires of your vehicle. As vehicles got heavier and were able to drive faster, wider and wider tires were required to maintain traction and carry the weight of advancing automobiles. Wider tires in turn were much harder to turn than the old skinny tires on early cars and as tires grew they eventually necessitated a system that could assist the driver in turning them at lower speeds or at a stop.
Many car companies allowed drivers to muscle through steering these larger wheeled cars through the 60s and 70s. By the 1980’s powers steering was an option that just about every new car had. Since the early 90s, it has been almost impossible to purchase a car without power steering.
Since its invention, power steering systems have been almost exclusively hydraulic. In these systems, a hydraulic pump pressurizes a hydraulic working fluid which is used to power a steering gear or rack and pinion. The steering rack or gear uses the hydraulic fluid pressure to move the tie rods and turn your front wheels.
In the early 2000’s, some car manufacturers started experimenting with using high torque electric motors coupled to variable gearboxes to assist the driver in turning the wheels of their car. These systems are simple and very efficient and a great next step in power steering in today’s vehicles.
If you’re like most drivers, you have a hydraulic power steering system in your car and if you’re reading this article then it is probably giving you some trouble. Power steering systems can alert you to a problem in two different ways. First, you may experience difficulty turning your steering wheel or experience dead spots or rough patches throughout your steering wheel’s circle. The other way your power steering system will let you know something wrong is through whining in the pump.
If you’re experiencing dead or rough spots in your steering, your problem is either in the linkage of your steering column or in your steering rack or gear. Your steering wheel is connected to the hydraulic portion of your system using a series of shafts and universal joints. It is possible that your steering shaft is binding on something, or has become tangled in wiring. It is also possible that the joints in your steering column have come loose or require lubrication. You can usually check for this by locating your steering shaft in your engine bay and visually inspecting the shaft and joints. It will start at the firewall behind your steering wheel and travel down to the steering rack or gear at the bottom of your engine bay. These rough spots could also be caused by a clog or blockage in your steering gear. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to inspect for this problem so the best course of action is to get a power steering system flush and see if the situation improves.
Most often power steering system problems are evident in a power steering pump whine. Once you’ve heard a power steering noise, they can be easy to pinpoint in the future. Try doing a quick internet search for “power steering pump whine” followed by your car make and model to see if you can find an example of the sound.
Power steering pumps make this signature whine due to the rotary vane style of the pump. A power steering pump may whine for 3 different reasons:
- Pump Failure
- System Clog
- Low Fluid Level
If your power steering pump is wearing out, the bad bearings will allow enough shaft movement to cause your pump to whine. If this is the case you can often feel it by spinning the power steering pump pulley by hand. It will either wobble or be surprisingly difficult to turn. A system clog also causes your power steering pump to whine as it raises the pressure in the system so high the pump will get noisy. As stated before, the only thing to do here is try flushing your system to see if it quiets things down. Lastly, a low fluid level will cause your power steering pump to whine as it fights for fluid and as air becomes entrapped in the fluid.
A low power steering fluid level is easy to spot by checking the fluid level in your reservoir. If you discover a low power steering fluid level it is an indication that you’ve got a leak somewhere in your system. Rather than spending time and energy searching for a leak, simply add BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak to your reservoir with your top-off fluid and continue to drive! BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak will seal the leak in your system by reconditioning the seals stopping the leak.
For more information about BlueDevil Power Steering Stop leak, check out our product information page here: Power Steering Stop Leak
You can purchase BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak at the link above, or at any of our partnering local auto parts stores like:
- Advance Auto Parts
- Bennett Auto Supply
- CarQuest Auto parts
- NAPA Auto Parts
- O’Reilly Auto Parts
- Pep Boys
- Fast Track
- Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts Specialists
- S&E Quick Lube Distributer
- DYK Automotive
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