Power Steering problems can be surprisingly frustrating. Like many luxuries in life, once you get used to them being there, they start to feel more like requirements than luxuries. If you’ve ever suddenly lost power steering in your vehicle, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Power steering used to be a luxury available on many cars, but far from a standard option. On a 1969 Mustang, power steering was an option available from the factory but cost an extra $94.95 to have installed! Today it is hard to imagine even the most economical of cars not having power steering standard.
Power steering systems have remained relatively unchanged in most passenger vehicles from the time it was introduced until today. Very recently, some manufacturers have started putting electric power steering systems in their lightweight compact cars. These systems can help increase fuel mileage and be even more reliable than the old hydraulic systems. Despite these new advances, the majority of the vehicles on the road today still share a similar hydraulic powers steering system. Like any system in your vehicle, the first step to fixing its problems is understanding how it is supposed to work so you can see what is going wrong.
Your vehicle’s power steering system needs a few different components to work properly:
- A good engine belt
- A health power steering pump
- Clear passageways
- The proper level of clean power steering fluid
- No leaks either in or out of the system
Your power steering system gets its power directly for your vehicle’s engine. This is done through the pulleys on the front of your motor and a belt running to your power steering pump. Some cars will have just 1 belt that snakes its way through all the pulleys on your engine, called a serpentine belt while other vehicles will have individual belts for each accessory. In either case if this belt gets frayed, glazed or breaks altogether, it will definitely cause your power steering system to malfunction. If you have a sudden loss in power steering in your vehicle, a broken belt is the most likely cause. If you simply have a squeaking belt, check out our article about noisy engine belts. In this case, replacing the belt often will fix your problem quickly and easily.
You power steering pump is a pretty simple machine but is the heart of your power steering system. It takes the energy from your engine and uses it to make steering easier for you. The pump is operated by the pulley at the front and simply pressurizes your power steering fluid and sends it down to your steering gear or rack. The most common cause of failure for a power steering pump is the bearing going bad. The bearing supports the shaft that connects the pulley outside the pump to the impeller inside the pump. After miles of use, it is not unusual for these bearings to wear out. In most cases, worn bearings will start to hum or whine and will change pitch with your engine RPM. When they get very worn, they can cause leakage around the pump shaft behind the pulley and even allow the pulley to wobble. In this case, the only thing you can do is to replace the power steering pump.
Your power steering system’s life blood is the fluid being pumped through it. The high pressure this fluid is at is used as a motive force for helping turn your front tires either through a power steering gear or rack. The actual mechanism for turning high fluid pressure into motion in your tires is relatively complicated and accomplished through a variety of small passages. If these passages become clogged it can cause your power steering system to malfunction. In most cases, these clogs will cause abnormally high pressures in the system which will cause your pump to whine and possibly fail prematurely. Clogs in your power steering system can be hard to identify but if you have a whining power steering pump or a difficult to run steering wheel this may be the cause. In some cases, a system flush and new fluid can clear the clog, but in some cases you may simply have to replace the power steering rack or gear.
The last and most common of the power steering problems you may encounter is a leak. First, your system may actually have a leak where it is drawing air into the system causing your pump to whine. This leak would be due to a cracked or loose hose on the return side of your system. These hoses usually have simple clamp fittings rather than banjo bolts and tend to be larger in diameter than the high-pressure hoses. If you have a leak like this you will notice your power steering fluid getting foamy and your pump whining due to the air in the system. In this case, you can replace those hoses or tighten the clamps to stop the leak.
You can also have a power steering leak where the fluid is forced out of the system due to the high pressure. This can happen at the hose connections, or at any of the seals in your systems like the seals on the rack or where the steering column connects to the steering gear. Replacing these seals is often impossible based on the design of the system and replace the whole rack or gear simply due to a leak can be a high price to pay. The best way to fix a leak in your power steering system is to use BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak. Simply pour a bottle into your power steering fluid reservoir and BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak will seal your power steering leaks as your drive stopping your fluid loss. Simply top off your system with the manufacturer’s recommend type of power steering fluid and have your car back to driving like normal quickly and inexpensively.
You can learn more about BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak here:
You can also purchase BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak 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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