10 Common Power Steering System Problems

Top 4 Signs of Power Steering Failure

Posted on 7/9/2021

While some car parts are talked about more than ot

While some car parts are talked about more than others, they all play an integral role in ensuring that it runs smoothly and you can safely get to where you need to be. Your power steering pump is one of the many fundamental parts that you need to have functioning for your vehicle to run safely. As a car owner, you need to know the symptoms of having a bad or even failing power steering pump.

A vehicle's power steering pump is required to apply the correct amount of pressure to your wheels so that you'll have a stable turn. There are some signs that you can be on the lookout for to know if your power steering pump is failing. 

Whining Noise When You Turn the Wheel

Whenever you hear a whining noise during a turn or changing lanes, that's saying something is problematic with your steering system. You may be presented with a leak in the pump or are running low on the power steering fluid. If you are running your power steering fluid dry, it can severely and negatively affect your entire power steering system.

Slow Responding or Stiff Steering Wheel

If you're turning a corner and you find your steering wheel delay in responding, it generally implies your power steering pump is at fault. The same goes for your steering pump if your steering wheel stiffens up.

Squealing Noise Upon Starting Your Vehicle

When you have a defective power steering pump, there can be a squealing sound when you start your vehicle. The sound usually lasts up to a minute or so when you start your car.

Reddish Puddle Underneath Your Car

Your power steering pump may be flowing from a crack in the housing area or even the reservoir when you see a pool of red solution under your car.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to have a complete vehicle inspection. Our ASE-certified technicians are happy to assist you and assess whether you have a faulty power steering pump. If you require a power steering pump repair, give us a call or visit John's Auto Care today!

3. Failing Steering Rack Mount

Most modern cars use a “rack-and-pinion” steering system. Rack mounting bushings are attached to the steering wheel, and move side-to-side to absorb impacts from the suspension. If the steering rack begins to wear out, you may notice “jerking” of the wheel when going over bumps, inconsistent steering, or “clunking” sounds in the steering column. Clicking or popping noises may also be present.

If you notice these issues, get your car inspected by a professional mechanic right away. You will likely need to replace the bushings, and have the steering rack mount repaired.

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Worn Pump

Like any other mechanical system, power steering pumps will wear out.  A worn power steering pump may hum or whine or may not make any noise at all.  Either way, it will have a low fluid pressure that will not give as much assistance as you try to turn your steering wheel.  Diagnosing low-pressure pumps is extremely difficult as there are usually no high-pressure ports in the system. In this case, the only option is to replace the pump.

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11. Dealing With Electric Power Steering Systems

Electric power steering systems have been around for some time now. This configuration may include a simple electric motor assisting a hydraulic steering pump or an electric motor(s) and module(s) replacing the hydraulic system completely.

Depending on your particular configuration, you may need one or more special tools to diagnose the system.

If you don't have experience with electrical systems, this may be a bit more complicated to diagnose, especially without the necessary equipment.

For example:

  • You need to use a digital multimeter (DMM) and/or scan tool to check trouble codes, wires, power steering sensors, and modules. And knowledge about the particular system in your vehicle.
  • Problems with steering wheel that doesn't return to center for example, may prompt you to check a steering position sensor.
  • If you are 'feeling' road irregularities through the steering wheel, you may need a scan tool to check sensors sending speed and steering wheel position data to the modules.
  • You may need to analyze module learned information to deal with 'pulling' issues.
  • Depending on your particular system, you may need to calibrate, perform a relearning process on a module, diagnose trouble codes, and update software.

In many cases, you'll need to replace just a module, a position or torque sensor. However, replacing a particular assembly when dealing with a failed component is not uncommon on some models.

Make sure to consult the vehicle repair manual for your particular vehicle make and model.

5. My Car Wanders Left and Right

When you are driving down a straight and leveled road and you need to turn your wheel left and right to keep the vehicle going straight, you may have one or more problems in the steering system.

Check for:

  • Worn or damaged linkage or tie-rod end
  • Leaking rack and pinion
  • Steering column U-joint bolts loose
  • Loose or damaged steering gear bolts
  • Worn steering gear

Other potential problems:

  • Tires uneven
  • Alignment issues
  • Strut assembly worn
  • Stabilizer bar loose
  • Worn or broken suspension springs

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Symptoms of power steering system failure

The signs and symptoms may be there, but it is equally crucial for you to be aware of these failing power steering system signs so that you can acknowledge the problem and take necessary action to get it fixed. 

The warning sign will remain until you get the power steering system fixed. This is important as a power steering system failure that will affect your car’s overall handling efficiency and might impose greater risks to the safety of you and your passengers.

Look out for the following signs that indicate power steering problems:

1. Stiff Steering Wheel

Running smoothly on the function of a power steering system, you are not supposed to feel the pressure while you turn the wheel – failing to do so is an indication of power steering problems.

If you feel the need to steer hard and heavily, you might need to get your power steering failure resolved. 

2. Slow Steering Response

If you feel that your power steering system is giving a slow response to the steering inputs, these could be signs that indicate power steering issues.

3. Issues in Handling the Steering 

A loosening feels on the control of your steering wheel might be an indication of a failing power steering system. Signs like  – steering wheel slipping out of your hand while you still try to handle its control, or you need to turn the steering excessively in order to complete a full turn of the vehicle indicate steering issues. A vehicle wandering to the wrong side or pulling to a specific side might point to failing steering gear. 

4. Squealing or Whining Noise 

If you hear a squealing noise when starting a vehicle or a whining noise is heard while you’re turning your vehicle,  then you have an indication that something is not right with the power steering system of your car. The whining sound will increase with the increasing speed of the engine (RPM) and as you continue turning the wheel.

5. Groaning Noise 

The groaning noise is probably the most critical noise that indicates a power steering system failure and will get worse as it further degenerates. This noise might be indicating a deficient power steering fluid level which if continued to run, might even damage the other parts of the system.

6. Low Fluid Levels

All the fluids in your car play a specific role in their respective functions. Similarly, just like braking fluid, coolant or the oil levels, your power steering fluid is essential for its proper functioning. Driving with a low fluid level might even damage your power steering system. You must be aware of how often you should inspect your car fluids. 

A low fluid level could be the reason for a power steering system failure. Either your system could be running low on the fluid, or there might be a leakage of which you’re unaware. The power steering fluid is mostly either red or reddish-brown. You can locate its reservoir (based on your car’s engine location) and must regularly ensure that it’s filled to its adequate level and that there are no leaks in and around it. 

7. Changed Fluid Color

While checking the fluid levels, you can also ensure the fluid’s colour appearance. A grey-coloured fluid or presence of metal flakes in it might indicate a faulty steering pump that caused the fluid’s oxidation.

Could you relate to any of the symptoms mentioned above?

If yes, then it is definitely the right time to get a professional check done for your car. 

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