A power steering fluid leak can be one of the most mysterious leaks you can have in your vehicle. You may have never considered your power steering system, or how it works so your first thought when you find a leak won’t be to check the power steering fluid level. The hydraulic power steering system in your vehicle is relatively robust so chances are it hasn’t broken before and has never left you working to get your wheels turned.
Hydraulic power steering systems use a pumped attached to the motor of your vehicle and driven by a belt. This pump pressurizes hydraulic fluid then pumps it down to the actual mechanism that turns your wheels, either a steering gear or rack and pinion.
Since this system is so simple, it rarely has problems so you rarely think about it. The most common issue you find in a power steering system is a power steering fluid leak. Different power steering systems use different types of fluid to build pressure and power the steering mechanism but the purpose is always the same. The type of power steering fluid your system uses is dependent on two things. First, the pump design that your system uses has to match the viscosity of the fluid used. Also, the different types of materials used in the system affect the type of fluid required. Certain metals will need certain additives in the fluid to inhibit corrosion and the seals used will require the correct fluid for lubrication and wear prevention. No matter what type of fluid used, it always has the chance to leak under the right conditions.
Based on the design of your system there are 3 different places you might find a leak. First, your power steering pump itself may leak. The leak would be at the point where the pump shaft exits the pump body and is connected to the pulley. If you have a leak here, you will find fluid dripping from behind the pump pulley. In this case, the best thing to do is replace your power steering pump. This is usually a relatively inexpensive maintenance item and these leaks can indicate future problems like bearing or pump failures. Another common location for a leak is in the hoses or tubing that carry the power steering fluid from the pump to your steering gear or rack. Where a rubber hose transitions to a hard line or where a hard line screws into the rack or pump are the most common. Many power steering systems will use a long length of hard pipe in the return line placed towards the front of your vehicle as a type of cooling system so make sure to inspect the full length of hosing and pipe. If you find a leak at a connection, you can always try tightening the connection or adding Teflon tape to the threads being careful not to let any tape enter the system. If you have a soft hose leaking it’s best to replace that hose.
The last and most common power steering fluid leak location is in the actual steering gear or rack. This is the most common leak location because the seals here are subject to the most road grime and dirt that can wear the shafts and seals. If you have a leak in your steering gear it will either be from the top of the gear where the steering column enters or at the bottom where the pitman arm is attached. If your vehicle is equipped with a steering rack, the most common place for a leak is where the tie rods connect to the rack and will look like fluid dripping from the accordion cover. You may also see a leak from where the steering column attaches to the steering rack but these are less common.
If you find a leak in your steering gear or rack and pinion, the best way to seal the leak is to use BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak. In most cases, these seals are non-replaceable so your only other option is to replace the whole steering rack or gear which can be very expensive. BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak can stay in your power steering system and will restore and revitalize the seals in your steering rack or steering gear to seal properly and stop your leak.
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