The Top Five Causes Of Power Steering Failure


There are a lot of different systems in your car which can break down and cause problems, and one of them is your power steering. What power steering does for your vehicle is that it allows you to turn your car with ease, often with nothing more than a small motion with one hand—without it, you’d have to put a ton of muscle into the wheel to get the car to turn. Maneuvers like U-turns and sharp corners would be a workout to complete. As you might expect, nearly every vehicle sold in the United States today has power steering as a standard feature.

However, as with any mechanical component in your car, failure is possible for your power steering system, and that could mean trouble.

Here are the five most common reasons why failure happens, and how you can tell if you’re experiencing this problem.

Fluid Contamination

Your steering pump is actually a hydraulic system, which means that it uses pressure against a volume of liquid to do work. However, in order for these systems to work optimally, the fluid must be clean, contaminant-free, and have no intrusions like air bubbles, other fluids, or issues which may change its mechanical properties even slightly. Contamination most frequently occurs when the tubes and hoses in your steering system deteriorate and fall apart. Likewise, moisture can get into the fluid and increase friction. Ultimately, this leads to a failed pump and steering which becomes extremely stiff, especially when your car isn’t in motion.

Low Fluid

Your power steering system relies on having a very specific amount of fluid in the system in order to work correctly. If you look under the hood, there’s usually a small reservoir where you can pour in new fluid, and you will probably notice that the minimum and maximum lines are quite close together. When there isn’t enough fluid in your system, your pump won’t have a proper lubrication, the fluid temperature can rise, and your pump could wear out prematurely. All of these combined lead to premature power steering failure and tedious repair.

Snapped Belt

The pump which powers your power steering system is run by the crankshaft of your engine. On your engine is a pulley, which turns a power steering belt that’s connected to the pump, supplying it with constant, consistent power. However, belts wear out, and they crack, fray, and could snap when they do. Should your belt snap, you’ll know it immediately. Your power steering system will give out and almost immediately your steering will become tremendously stiff and difficult to operate because your pump is no longer being supplied with power by your engine.

Worn Pump

Power steering pumps are mechanical components with moving parts, and pretty much every mechanical component with moving parts will wear out with age and use. Seals wear out, internal parts become deformed, and eventually, friction simply takes its toll. Over time, the pump simply loses pressure and your steering becomes stiffer. But if your pump were to give out completely, you’d lose all fluid pressure in your system, your power steering would fail and you’d be forced to replace the pump.

Fluid Leaks

One of the easiest ways to lose fluid pressure is for even a small leak to develop in one of your fluid lines. This isn’t usually something that happens suddenly. Most of the time it starts with a worn seal slowly starting to wear out and fail or a hose developing a minor flaw. Eventually, these small problems become bigger, and when they become bigger, they cause your pump to fail and your power steering to give out. A leak can be arguably the worst problem, requiring the replacement of hoses or fluid lines, replacement of seals, and probably a new pump as well.

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