Before power steering, turning a vehicle took considerable arm strength. The sheer weight of the vehicle, combined with the friction between the front tires and the road, meant getting the vehicle to go where you wanted took some serious effort, particularly at lower speeds. It also meant vehicles were less agile, and avoiding accidents was more difficult. However, with the progression and advancement of this pivotal system, today’s vehicles are easier to drive and safer than ever before.
Your power steering works using a hydraulic system, meaning it uses the power of liquid under pressure to push pistons that turn the wheels of your car. However, in order for these systems to work correctly, the liquid lines and connections need to be solid and sealed. Leaks result in reduced pressure, which causes pumps and other important components to wear out. When they wear out, or the pressure in your power steering fluid lines drops too low, your power steering will stop working and will make your car difficult, if not impossible, to drive.
* Editors note: This blog, originally published in 2015, has been updated in October 2019 with expanded and new information.
What Causes Power Steering Leaks?
As with just about every other component in your car, time and use are the largest sources of wear and tear that eventually result in problems. Typically, it’s the softer-material components that go first, as they’re most prone to damage. In your power steering system, this would mean your O-rings, gaskets, and seals that keep connections tight and prevent leaks. Over time, the fluctuations in temperature in your vehicle, combined with oxidation and exposure to the atmosphere, may cause these rubber or plastic parts to corrode, solidify, and crack, causing leaks.
However, even sturdy and solid parts may not withstand the rigors of driving, particularly in areas with uneven road conditions. Bumps and jolts from rough roads cause shaking and shifting, and over time this shifting can create weaknesses that eventually turn into leaks. Additionally, these components can be a real nuisance to replace.
How to Avoid a Power Steering Fluid Leak
To avoid leaky power steering fluid, these few simple precautions can go a long way. Here are a few tips that can help your power steering continue working properly for years to come.
Never Turn Your Wheels All the Way in Either Direction: Power steering systems are designed to work within certain tolerances, but may face significant strain when pushed too far. How far is too far? We’d say turning your wheels all the way until they stop turning is too far. Turning your wheels until they hit your stopper puts strain on your pump, your lines, and all of the softer components we discussed previously. You could not only ruin your pump, but also spring a power steering fluid leak that isn’t an easy fix. Do yourself a favor—when your wheels reach your stopper, back them off slightly before you continue moving. You’ll be glad you did when you avoid a trip to the auto care shop.
Recondition Your O-Rings & Seals: Power steering leak stoppers are substances designed to help recoat and reconstruct seals, O-rings, and other components in order to prevent leaks. As these components age, they begin to crack and lose their shape, but these chemicals restore that. We strongly advise getting a power steering fluid flush when your vehicle hits the 100,000 mile mark, and then doing so again every 50,000 to 75,000 miles after that. This simple service could help you avoid the hassle of a leak, broken system, or an expensive and serious repair.
Monitor the Condition of Your Serpentine Belt: Your serpentine belt is the long belt that goes around several cranks and pullies underneath the hood of your car. If this belt breaks or starts to slip, your power steering pump will feel the effects and will stop working altogether (along with several other components in your vehicle). You won’t have to replace your serpentine belt all that often, but you should do so as soon as possible if you notice the belt starting to fray, stretch, crack, or show visible signs of damage.
About Christian Brothers Automotive
For more than 35 years, customers all across the country have turned to Christian Brothers Automotive when they need their vehicle repaired or maintained. Whether you need a big repair for your power steering system or you need help with general maintenance, our certified automotive technicians can make sure you get the finest services and the best customer experience available. We believe in treating every customer the way they deserve to be treated, and that includes offering a comfortable waiting area or even a courtesy shuttle.
If you need your power steering system serviced, pick up the phone and call your local Christian Brothers Automotive to schedule an appointment today!.
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