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You are absolutly correct. There is a short in the electrical system. Start be checking the battery terminals for corrosion or loose. It's lickly related to your battery or alternator. If you feel motivated remove them and have them checked. I'm not sure where else you can go to have this done for free but Firestone perfoms an electrical system check on the battery when you get your oil changed. This is done at no charge.
The wires should have a connector at the end of them. If there is no connector a wiring repair is necessary. If there is a connector still attached you can simply plug it back in. Take a look behind the mirror and you will see a hole in which the connector inserts.
remove the connector and slide a socket over the end of the sensor. attach an extension to get you away from the engine so you can turn you ratchet.
it getting louder when you turn the steering wheel leads me to belive there is a propblem with you power steering system. Start by checking the power steering fluid level. If you don't know how to do this you can simply read your owners manual or take it to a parts store such as autozone and they would happily check it for you. You can also take it to the shop you get your oil changed at and request that they check it. If they want to keep your business they will check it and top it off for no fee. Most places will check and top it off during an oil change.
There are several reasons why the jo may need to be done but here are a couple. Poor parts may have been used to make the repair and they failed alreay. The job was'nt done properly such as torqing the bolts or adding enough sealer where there is no gasket material.
It's on youtube. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99r1oERKUrI
Because your running it without fluid the damage is questionable. Start by fixing your leak and flush the power steering to remove any metal debris. Fill the fluid and drive it to see if you feel or see any other problems. Not sure what you need so cost is not possible for me to offer.
Possible loose connection at the battery. Check your terminal tighness by grabbing one cable at a time and turning it. Also the new battery may have failed. Not very common but always a possibility.
Check fuel pressure. Possibly a bad fuel pump or clogged fuel filter.
The fluctuating fuel gauge is probably a bad fuel level sending unit. There are little teeth that swipe a circuit board which then the computer reads the resistance and tells the IPC the fuel level reading which you see. The gas tank will have to be removed to replace this part. Before doing this have a knowledgable mechanic test the circuit so your not just replacing parts. As for the ignition switch it sounds like theres a problem with the ignition lock cylinder. I believe the problems to not be related.