Maybe you’ve heard it at a stop light. Maybe you’ve heard it as you pass a car on the freeway. Or maybe you’ve heard it in the parking lot at work when someone is leaving. The unmistakable whine that is known as power steering pump noise can make even the most confident mechanic wonder when the power steering system will fail.
Power steering pump noise is a unique noise that your car may make and once you’ve heard it you always know what it is. The noise is a mix of a whirring and a whining and will always vary with the speed of your engine whether your car is driving or in park. The whine will also change pitch and intensity when turning the steering wheel while traveling slowly or parked. This whining noise can be subtle or extremely loud and may be worse in colder weather, or right when you first start your car.
Power steering pumps are most often vain style centrifugal pumps that are tasked with pressurizing the power steering fluid and pushing it down to your power steering gear or rack. As you turn your steering wheel it is this fluid pressure that aids in turning the wheels of your car.
Reasons for Power Steering Pump Noise
- Poor power steering pump design
- Worn power steering pump
- Air trapped in the system or fluid
- Old power steering fluid
- Low power steering fluid level
Poor Power Steering Pump Design
One reason you may hear your power steering pump whine is simply due to the design of the pump. Sometimes, noisy power steering pumps can continue to work flawlessly for years after they start making noise. This may simply be due to the manufacturer’s design or a tight tolerance in that particular pump. In this case, you would hear the noise but not see any other adverse effects like a loss in power steering, leaking fluid or a wobbly pulley. In this case, you may be able to help reduce your power steering pump noise by choosing a different type of power steering fluid, like a synthetic fluid.
Worn Power Steering Pump
As the bearings on the impeller go bad it will start to make noise as the pump is turning. If you have a bad power steering pump you usually will also experience leaks from around the pulley, a wobbly pulley, or difficulty turning the steering wheel when you are stopped. If you have multiple of these symptoms together, it is probably time to replace your power steering pump.
Air Trapped in the System or Fluid
If you’ve recently flushed your system or added new fluid, it’s possible the noise is simply from air bubbles still in the fluid. Try removing the cap from your power steering fluid reservoir and checking for bubbles or foaming fluid. If you continue to get bubbles in your fluid check all the connections from the reservoir to the pump inlet to make sure they are tight and aren’t allow air to be drawn in.
Old Power Steering Fluid
Like any lubricant, power steering fluid can break down over time and lose its antifoaming and lubrication properties. This can cause your power steering pump to be noisy and accelerated wear in your system. For more information on how often and how to flush your power steering system, check out our article on flushing your power steering system.
Low Power Steering Fluid Level
Your power steering fluid is probably something you have rarely if ever checked, so it often comes as a surprise if the level is low. Your power steering fluid reservoir is also relatively small so even a slow leak will cause a low fluid level relatively quickly. To confirm this is your problem it is as simple as checking your power steering fluid level. Some power steering reservoirs are clear so you can see through them to check how full they are. You may have to wipe away some dirt and grime to find the “full” line, but it should be easy to check. If you have an opaque power steering fluid reservoir, there should be a small dipstick under the cap that will help you measure the fluid level. If it is low, then you have a leak somewhere and topping off the fluid should quiet down your power steering pump.
If you discover a power steering leak, rather than simply continuing to add fluid every time it gets low, you should fix the problem permanently so you don’t have to continue to check your power steering fluid level. Replacing lines or seals can be a surprisingly difficult task due to the location of your power steering pump and steering gear or rack. The easiest way to seal your leak is to do it from the inside out!
BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak will do just that. BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak is specially designed to restore the seals and hoses in your power steering system to stop your leak permanently!
Pick up a bottle of BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak today! You can purchase any of BlueDevil’s stop leak products at our partnering local auto parts stores like:
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