Power steering has been standard on cars for many years. It uses a fluid-filled system to aid the process of turning the wheels. In short, a small movement of the steering wheel is translated into a much larger movement of the road wheels. It has made driving much easier!
However, as with any mechanical part, the power steering can fail. The most common part to fail is the pump as it moves the fluid the right amount to turn the wheels as indicated. It is worth knowing the most common symptoms of a failing power steering pump as this will enable you to deal with the problem sooner rather than later.
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Steering Wheel Feels Stiff
Your steering wheel is generally light and easy to turn. If it starts to feel stiffer then you know you have an issue with the power steering and the pup is the most likely problem.
If you hear a whining noise when you turn your steering wheel then this is a good indication that the fluid level is low in your power steering system. The good news is that, at this stage, there isn’t an issue with your pump.
But, as the system is sealed, a reduction in fluid suggests a leak. If it isn’t dealt with quickly the pump can be damaged, resulting in an expensive repair bill.
Slow Response When Steering
You know your own vehicle but, in general, you turn the wheel and the car turns instantly. If the driving wheels appear to be slow responding to turning the steering wheel, you probably have a failing steering pump. The pump is effectively struggling to do its job, most likely because it is wearing out.
A squealing noise when you first start your car is often dismissed as a loose fan belt. However, this can also be a sign that the power steering pump is starting to fail and making the belt slip. If you notice the same noise when you turn the steering wheel then it is almost certainly the steering pump. It will need looking at as quickly as possible.
Yes, your car can also groan to indicate an issue with the power steering pump! These are actually the worst sounds you will hear as they tell you the failure is imminent. Groaning is often a mixture of low fluid levels, a straining pump, and a lack of lubrication causing the bearings in the pump to fail.
Unfortunately, when you get to this stage it is unlikely that you will be able to save the pump, you will be looking at replacing the power steering system. Again, you’ll need to speak to the professionals regarding the best way to do this.
Don’t forget that if the pump fails completely it will likely cause damage to your steering rack and associated lines. That will make it a significantly more expensive repair job.