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Power Steering

What is Power Steering?

Because power steering systems assist you in turning the steering wheel, especially while the vehicle is stopped or at slow speeds, theses systems are often referred to as ‘power steering assist’ systems.

In older vehicles, before power steering was standard, the steering wheel was much larger, and it took many turns of the steering wheel to fully turn the front wheels. This was difficult for most people until the vehicle was moving at a relatively high speed.

 

The solution came about with hydraulic power steering, which uses a power steering pump to pressurize power steering fluid. The pressurized fluid makes it much easier to move the steering gear, so turning the wheels at a stop becomes nearly effortless for the driver. After decades of hydraulically assisted power steering, electronic power steering was introduced.

 

The electronic power steering system works in a much different way, but achieves the same result. Hydraulic lines, the power steering pump, and the power steering leaks that come with them, are no longer present on vehicles with electronic power steering. Instead, an electric motor attached to the steering gear or steering column helps the driver turn the steering wheel. These systems have proven themselves to by much more reliable, and a necessity for vehicles powered exclusively by electricity.   

 

Power Steering Signs and Symptoms of Failure

 

  • Power steering fluid leaking from engine bay
  • Squealing noise when turning the steering wheel
  • Grinding from the power steering pump pulley
  • Difficulty turning in one or both directions
  • Extreme force required to turn the steering wheel while the vehicle is stopped
  • Low pitched whine from power steering pump
  • Power steering fluid in the reservoir is stagnant with engine running
  • Low power steering fluid
  • “Hard” spots occur while turning the steering wheel

Repair Related Advice for Power Steering Systems

  • Vehicles with electronic power steering assist may require the replacement of the entire steering gear when changing the power steering motor.
  • In cases where the power steering fluid is low, but no leaks are evident, the rack and pinion dust boots should be inspected for power steering fluid. If fluid is found, replace the power steering rack and pinion gear
  • Hydraulic power steering lines leaking at the point of connection to the power steering pump or the steering gear may need to be resealed instead of replaced. This can typically be done with new copper washers, o-rings, or fittings.
  • When servicing electronic power steering systems, the battery should be disconnected prior to disconnecting the power steering motor. Leaving the battery connected can result in damage to the vehicle or electric shock
  • Electronic power steering systems are maintenance free, and hydraulic systems should be inspected and serviced according to the owner’s manual
  • Check the owner’s manual and reservoir cap for the proper type of fluid for your vehicle. Failure to fill the power steering reservoir with the appropriate fluid may result in damage to the power steering system. 

Key Component — Power Steering Pump

The power steering pump provides the hydraulic pressure necessary to operate the power steering system. The pressure is then converted into mechanical force in the steering gear or rack and pinion (depending on the vehicle). When the driver turns the steering wheel, the pressure helps push the wheels in the desired direction. More >>


Additional Key Parts

Power steering hoses, Power steering fluid reservoir, Rack and pinion steering gear


 

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