Tag Archives: Power Steering

Power Steering 101 and Troubleshooting

Power Steering 101

What is Power Steering Anyway?

Power steering is a complex mechanical system with a pretty simple job. The power steering system makes it easier for you to steer your car. For this reason it is sometimes known as the steering assist system or SAS. Without it, steering would take its toll on your arms and your daily commute would be physically strenuous instead of just mentally stressful.

 

What are Some Common Problems with the Power Steering System?

Leaks are the biggest potential problem facing the power steering system. The pump, hoses, or reservoir can develop cracks and leaks over time. Loss of fluid will mean a loss of pressure. That means the power steering will give less assistance. You will find steering difficult, especially at lower speeds. Low fluid can also cause the pump to wear out mechanically more quickly, which will also reduce the power steering performance.

 

The pulley that runs the power steering pump can also become worn or warped. If that happens, the pulley will struggle to bring the pump up to speed, which will make the pump run inefficiently. As you may have already guessed, this will make steering difficult.

 

Problems with power steering cooling devices can lead to damage to other power steering parts. Also, as mentioned above, problems with the power steering pressure sensor could cause the engine to stall while turning at low speed. The check engine light may also come on if the power steering pressure sensor stops working.

 

Power Steering 101

 

 

How do I know if my power steering pump needs to be replaced?

If the power steering pump fails, you may find yourself transported back to a time before power steering (only worse since vehicles with power steering have tighter steering ratios than manual steering vehicles), at least as far as your handling is concerned. You will find the vehicle hard to steer, especially at lower speeds. Rolling tires offer less resistance than slow-moving or stationary ones.

 

The power steering pump can leak fluid making it much less effective. If you have a power steering fluid leak, you may notice a red, oily discharge where you park. Parking over a piece of cardboard or butcher paper may make the leak easier to identify. A power steering fluid leak could also come from the hoses or the rack and pinion or steering box, so be sure to check them first.

 

If the pump is trying to run on low fluid, it might make a high pitched squealing noise. Running the pump too long or too often with low fluid can wear out the internal parts and should be avoided.

 

Rack and Pinion Power Steering

 

How do I know if my power steering pump reservoir needs to be replaced?

Over time, the power steering pump reservoir can develop cracks and leaks, leading to lost fluid. If you have a power steering fluid leak, you may notice a red, oily discharge where you park. Parking over a piece of cardboard or butcher paper may make the leak easier to identify. You may also find that the power steering fluid level is frequently low. Be sure to check the fluid level with the vehicle parked on a flat surface.

 

The appearance of the fluid itself can indicate leaks in the power steering system. If the fluid has turned from a reddish color to grey, then the fluid is oxidizing. If there are bubbles in the fluid, then air has gotten into the system. Either of these things could be signs of cracks, which could also lead to leaks. A power steering fluid leak could also come from the hoses, so be sure to check them first.

 

Low power steering fluid can making steering difficult, transporting you back to a time before power steering (only worse since vehicles with power steering have tighter steering ratios than manual steering vehicles), at least as far as your handling is concerned. You may find the vehicle hard to steer, especially at lower speeds. Rolling tires offer less resistance than slow-moving or stationary ones.

 

How do I know if my ­­­­ power steering hoses need to be replaced?

Power steering hoses face both the high pressure and temperature of the fluid inside them – sometimes over 1500 pounds per square inch and 300 degrees Fahrenheit – as well as the heat from the engine.  All that pressure and heat can really wear a hose down.  The hose may become soft or brittle, and it may develop holes that cause leaks.  Similar problems will develop regardless of which hose has the leak.  You can determine which of your hoses need to be replaced by visually inspecting them for leaks or wear.

 

If your power steering hoses are leaking, it will make your power steering less effective.  You may find it harder to steer at low speed, and you might hear a groaning noise as you turn the wheel.  The lack of fluid will also put strain on the pump, which you may notice as a whining sound.  Too much of this kind of overwork can wear out the pump, and leave you with a big repair on your hands.

 

You may also find that, if you check your steering fluid reservoir, the fluid level is low.  Fluid leaks put you at risk by making it harder to steer.  They are also a fire hazard, because the steering fluid is oil which can ignite if exposed to the hot engine.

 

 

Fall Maintenance Tips for Your Car or Truck

Car Tips for Fall

Here are 10 practical tips to help get your car ready for fall.

 

Check the brakes and tires.  Inclement weather and associated road conditions and other hazards require good stopping power. That means good brakes and tires. If the tires have wear bars showing, say the experts, you need to replace the tires. Most good brake and tire shops will inspect the brakes and tires at no charge. Also check the tire pressure, as tire pressure drops when the outside temperatures plummet. Keep the pressure at levels recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

 

Check the lights. Walk around the outside of the car and check the operation of all lights: headlights, taillights, parking lights, brake lights and emergency flashers. Replace all broken bulbs and those that have stopped working. Make sure all lights are clean. If you own an older vehicle with sealed-beam headlamps, you might want to pony up for halogen lamps for improved visibility and safer driving.

 

Replace wiper blades. The purpose of wiper blades is to completely clear the windshield. Cracked or worn blades won’t do an adequate job. Check the blade’s rubber to ensure it is flexible and operate the wipers to see that the blades clear the glass. Replace worn blades.

 

Make sure heater/defroster work. Driving with an improperly working heater isn’t fun or safe. Driving with fogged-up windows is an accident waiting to happen. Check front and rear window defrosters to ensure proper working condition. If necessary, have heater and defroster systems repaired.

 

Have the battery checked. A fully charged battery is necessary to start the car in cold weather. Have the battery and charging system inspected by a trained technician who can replace it if required. If you see signs of corrosion on the battery terminals or cable ends or if you spot loose connections, your battery needs attention.

 

Inspect under the hood. Looking under the hood will allow you to identify any obvious signs of wear or items that need replacing or fixing. Look for leaks, cracks or loose clamps in the cooling system and squeeze the hoses and replace any that are spongy-feeling or brittle. Inspect the underside of drive belts for fraying and replace as required. If you’ve noticed any engine noises, experienced sputtering or other engine problems, have a licensed mechanic thoroughly inspect the engine and make any necessary repairs.

 

Change oil and air filter. If the oil is dirty or you’re at your recommended oil change time, change the oil. Also check the air filter to ensure that it is clean enough to allow for proper operation. If you can’t see light through it when you hold it up to a 60-watt bulb, it’s time to replace the air filter.

 

Refill cooling system. Experts such as AAA recommend checking the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is too low, add a 50/50 solution of water and coolant to allow proper antifreeze capability. It may be necessary to refill the cooling system.

 

Check all fluid levels. This includes washer fluid, along with transmission, brake and power steering fluids. Make sure they are all at or above minimum safe levels and refill as necessary.

 

Get a good car wash/detail. It may sound crazy, spiffing up your car with an extra-special wash or even a detail, but when your vehicle is clean, it’s easier to spot any potential problems.

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