POWER STEERING PROBLEMS
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HOW DOES POWER STEERING WORK?
In years gone by, power steering, also called “power assisted steering”, is a mechanism that helps the driver of an automobile to steer the vehicle. In most automobiles, power steering uses a hydraulic system to aid in turning the vehicle’s wheels. A hydraulic pump enables a small amount of fluid to be pressurized. The pressure created assists the steering mechanism in moving the tires as the steering wheel is turned. The parts of the power steering system includes a pump, power steering liquid, a pressure hose assembly, control valve and a return line.
2 Basic Types of Power Steering Systems:
1) Rack and Pinion System. This type is the most commonly used power steering system on today’s vehicles. It is comprised of two main components: the rack- and-pinion itself and a power steering pump.
There are two high-pressure hoses from the steering mechanism that are connected to both sides of the center seal. One directs high-pressure hydraulic fluid from the power steering pump to the steering mechanism, while the other allows fluid to flow back to the pump. When the steering wheel is turned left or right, the steering mechanism allows the hydraulic fluid to pass to that side of the rack. It is this pressure that gives an assist by pushing the seal and rack in one direction or the other.
2) Conventional or Integral Steering Gear System. This is generally used on trucks. This utilizes a series of steel balls that function as rolling threads between the steering shaft and the rack piston. A gear assembly connects the wheel shaft to a series of links that turn the wheels to the right or left.
Today, it is really hard to find a car or truck that doesn’t have power steering, But if you think about older cars and how much bigger the steering wheels were, you will see that because of power steering, we don’t need those huge steering wheels anymore.
Power Steering Preventive Checks
To avoid major trouble with your car’s power steering, it is always best to nip potential problems in the bud before they develop into something serious. You can only do this by regular checks.
Fluid levels. The power steering fluid level should be checked often. A low fluid level can indicate a leak in the system. This can usually spotted after your car has been parked for some time. Look for red splashes once you move it. Allowing your power fluid level to go low can cause the pump to become noisy.
The look of the fluid itself. Old or degraded power steering fluid can cause the tubes in the power steering system to gum up. This can lead to power steering failure. What are the other signs to watch out for? New power steering fluid is red with a distinctive odor. Oxidation may have already occurred if it has turned gray. Look out for foaming or bubbles, too. Their presence in the power steering fluid point to water or air in the power steering line. Flakes of chrome in the power steering fluid will point to a degradation in the power steering pump.
Drive Belts. Check that the drive belt has the right tension. A loose belt can cause the power steering pump to fail. The belt can also slip off the drive train or break. This indicates the pulley is not working properly. Heat can also transfer from the drive belt to the shaft and pulley system of the power steering pump
Common Symptoms of Power Steering Problems
Your Wheels Seem Difficult To Turn
This seems like a no-brainer, I know. Low levels of power steering fluid is the usual cause of difficulty in turning the wheels. Other causes might be a leak in the power steering rack (see description below) or damage to the power steering belt. If you try topping off the fluid,m and the fix is only temporary, you probably have a leak in the power steering rack that should be taken care of.
Your Steering Wheel Itself Vibrates While You Are Not Moving
I know this might seem odd at first and kind of a surprise that this might indicate a power steering problem, because you are not steering at all, but rather standing still idling. However, violent steering wheel vibrations are an indication that the power steering belt is either damaged, loose or needs to be replaced.
You Hear A Squealing Or Even Whining Noise When The Wheels Turn. Similar to above where the wheels are difficult to turn, these noises may indicate that the power steering fluid is low. The fluid may simply be low, or you might have a leak in the power steering rack. Or the pump itself might be failing. When you start the car and you hear a clunking or chattering under the hood that can also be an indicator that the power steering pump is failing.
Whatever the situation, we will identify the problem and let you know our findings before we start any repair work.