New Orleans Auto Repair

How to Diagnose and Fix Power Steering Problems

Power Steering Oil

Has your power steering suddenly stopped working?

The steering system is one of the most critical parts of a vehicle. Modern cars use a power steering system, which makes it easier to turn the steering wheel.

Electrics, hydraulics, or a combination of both powers this system.

Power steering makes driving more comfortable and safer.

You might have overlooked some common power steering failure causes.
This is why diagnosing power steering problems is essential. You should already know this, but if your steering gives up on you while you’re driving, car insurance will be the last thing you’ll worry about.

power steering failure causes

It can be almost impossible to turn the wheel in tight spots without power steering.

Loss of power steering is prone to multiple issues including:

Fluid Loss

Want to know how to fix a leaking power steering?

Power steering systems operate through the use of fluids carried by soft hoses. It’s efficient, but it is susceptible to leaks.

Lost fluid leads to less pressure, which results in a loss of steering power or assistance.

A sign of a leak begins when you start to feel annoyed with steering. Once you notice or feel it, it is best that you do a quick check.

Power Steering - Shira Diamonds

There are different places a leak may occur. It can happen in the steering gear, steering pump, or the rack and pinion system.

You can stop it by applying a sealant, and refilling steering fluid to optimal amounts. If the damage is too big for a sealant to stop, replace the hose instead.

The Air In The System

A leak can also introduce air into the system, which will introduce similar power steering problems symptoms as fluid loss. Aside from leaks, loose fittings can also be the culprit.

A pressure gauge will help release excess air from the system. Replacing faulty lines will also get the system back to full efficiency.


Clogs are challenging problems to diagnose. They are basically the accumulation of dirt in the steering fluid, and its symptoms are the same as air and leaks.

The accumulation is often caused by not replacing steering fluid for a long time. There’s a high chance that the steering fluid is dirty if there are no leaks or air, but the steering is sluggish.

Flushing the system and replacing the steering wheel fluid is the solution. Like any other car fluid, you should replace the steering fluid often to extend the life of your power steering.

The Power Steering Pump

The pump directs fluid from the reservoir into the steering gear. It applies the right amount of pressure to help the wheel move without much resistance. Remember that pumps wear down due to frequent use.

The first sign of a problem is usually hummed or whining. These noises can indicate that the pump is not working at its maximum capacity.

The wheel then responds slower or becomes stiff because of this. The sounds emanate as you turn the steering wheel.

Diagnosing a pump requires a power steering pressure test. Before the test, there must not be any leaks, and the system must have enough fluid. These are the processes involved in pump testing:

  • The technician installs a pressure gauge pump while the engine is off. A thermometer is also placed in the reservoir. The gauge’s shutoff valve must be open.
  • The engine starts and remains idle. The tech turns the steering wheel to the left and right several times to release any trapped air. The movements will also increase temperature and stimulate the fluid.
  • The technician closes the shutoff valve for five seconds. He then compares the gauge measurements to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • If you’re doing the test, do not close it for more than five seconds as that may cause pump damage. If the reading is not up to the standards, the pump needs replacement.

Rack and Pinion

If the pump circulates steering fluid like a heart, then the rack and pinion serve as the system’s brain. It receives the input from the driver, sending mechanical signals to help make turns. It involves many parts, such as a gearbox. Like the pump, it can also wear out over time.

Having a worn-out rack and pinion can be dangerous.

Some signs a rack and pinion has problems include the following:

  • Very tight steering wheel: this is a sign that the rack is building up the heat or is losing pressure. If discovered early, a minor repair done by a service center will solve this problem.
  • Grinding noise: this noise means that the gearbox lacks lubricant. A lack of lubrication leads to excess heat as metals get into contact, which will damage the system over time. This sound may occur if the car hits a bump while turning. Once heard, it is vital to consult professionals to help fix the problem.
  • Burning Oil Smell: while this is less common, the smell is a sign of damage. The aroma is usually strong and gets released when the gearbox turns hot. If this happens, stop the vehicle immediately and call a mechanic. The smell is a sign of overheating, and it can turn into a fire.

Even without professional help, diagnosing power steering problems can be easy. Many issues can have easy solutions. It is essential to know how to approach each situation. When in doubt, do not hesitate to call professional help. It is better to be safe and prevent accidents.


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