Before power steering was standard, you would crank a great big steering wheel. The core of power steering is the pump, which pressurizes the power steering fluid to provide smooth and easy steering. Most pumps are driven by a belt run by the engine, but some are now electrically powered.
A high-pressure hose passes fluid from the pump to the steering gear. A low-pressure hose returns the fluid back to the pump. These hoses can develop leaks, so ask us to inspect the hoses whenever you come for an oil change. A power steering fluid level check may be on the checklist for a full-service oil change, because low fluid can damage the power steering pump.
The fluid cleans, cools, and lubricates the power steering system. The fluid does eventually break down and collects unwanted moisture, so the pump will need to be replaced. Many manufacturers specify power steering service intervals. Unfortunately, this important service is sometimes left off the maintenance schedule, but should still be done every 25,000 miles or every two years. We can use a detergent to clean the system and replace the old fluid.
Here are some warning signs of trouble with your power steering:
- Harder to turn the wheel,
- Erratic power assist or uncontrollable swaying,
- Hear loud whining coming from the pump,
- Need to top-off the fluid frequently,
- Or hear squealing belts.
Remember to never hold the steering wheel to the far right or far left for more than a few seconds at a time, because that can wear out your pump faster. Damage or hard knocks can cause other steering components to get bent or damaged like a ball-joint, idler-arm, steering-gear, steering-knuckle, and tie rod. Some warning signs of damage include:
- Steering free play,
- Uneven tire wear,
- And an off-center steering wheel.
An annual alignment check can reveal bent or damaged steering components.
Most SUV’s, pick-ups, and rear-wheel-drive vehicles may need regular front-wheel-bearing service or replacement. We also recommend replacing the wheel-seal when the bearings are serviced. Check your owner’s manual maintenance schedule or ask us. This service is usually required around every two years or 40,000 miles. If you drive through water, the bearings will need service more often.