Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Power Steering Problem

Bitter cold and piles of snow can have weird effects on a car. Not long after I freed my Mustang from its snowy tomb, the power steering went out. It's obvious when a car's power steering goes out, because taking turns feels like you're trying to steer a boat. In extreme cases, it can result in a complete lock-up of the steering. If you find that you've got a power steering problem, pull over as soon as you can, as continuing to drive is hazardous and may result in further damage to your car. Once you've safely pulled over, pop your hood and check your power steering fluid levels.

Power steering fluid doesn't typically need to be replaced all that often. Low levels of power steering fluid could be indicative of a leak or a problem with the power steering pump. Older cars may naturally lose some power steering fluid over time, in which case fixing the issue is simply a matter of buying some more fluid and topping off the reservoir levels. If you've had a sudden decrease in power steering, you've probably got a more complex problem than a slow leak. This is something that Stop Leak will not fix, so don't bother. If you can have a friend turn the steering wheel with the engine on while you observe the power steering fluid levels, you may be able to narrow down the problem.

There are generally 4 points of failure for a power steering leak.

  1. The pump
  2. The high pressure hose
  3. The return hose
  4. The steering rack
Of the four options, the steering rack is the most expensive to fix. And that's what was wrong with my Mustang. The power steering reservoir was empty after just one turn which indicated a fast leak. There's no quick fix for this, so I had to have the steering rack replaced, which is both expensive in parts and labor.

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