The Top 5 Causes of Power Steering System Damage
If you’ve ever tried to drive a car without power steering, you know just how vital this important system is for modern driving. Power steering makes maneuvering your car easier, safer, and more comfortable for you and your passengers. It gives you the ability to swerve to avoid obstacles or unexpected intruders on the road such as animals, other vehicles, or pedestrians who aren’t paying attention. Your power steering plays a significant role when it comes to the safety and agility of your vehicle, meaning it needs to be dependable. And for the most part, your power steering system is. However, it’s not unbreakable nor is it immune to damage. There are actually a number of things that could go wrong with your power steering, and when they do, you could be stuck trying to keep your car under control without the help of this crucial system. In this blog we discuss the top five causes of power steering damage, as well as some tips for preventing power steering failure in your vehicle.
Editors note: Originally published in 2017, this blog has been modified in 2020 to reflect technical and industry updates.
Power steering is a hydraulic system, meaning it uses the power of a force pushing on a liquid in order to create motion. These types of systems are capable of exerting extremely high amounts of force with little energy input, making it an effective way to control your car. However, this harmonious system only works properly when the hydraulic fluid is clean. Contaminated fluid can wear down fittings, clog the steering system, create an increase in friction, and even causes the failure of some components, such as your pump. This is why you should change your vehicle’s power steering fluid at the manufacturer-recommended interval, which you can find in your owner’s manual.
Improper Fluid Levels
In order for your power steering system to work properly, it needs a very precise amount of fluid running through it. Too much and your valves and seals could collapse under the pressure. Not enough and the fluid can’t exert the force needed to turn your car. Replacing your fluid on time will help prevent this issue, but any leaks can cause a loss of fluid that will ultimately lead to power steering failure.
Power steering is made possible by an engine-powered pump. Because your engine is connected to your power steering pump, any stretching, fraying, corrosion or breakage can cause the immediate failure of your system. We recommend having your power steering belt checked with every maintenance service, and replacing it if it shows any signs of wear, aging, or damage.
Damaged Steering Pump
Your power steering pump is the main component in your system. They are used every time you drive your car. While pumps are quite durable, they can and will eventually wear out. Too much strain on a pump can cause them to fail prematurely (i.e. strain from being pushed to operational limits like turning your steering wheel all the way to the right or left). If you begin noticing a lot of noise when you turn the wheel, your pump may be on the verge of failure.
Too Much Force
Power steering can withstand some less-than-ideal road conditions, including potholes, unexpected bumps, or hard jolts against your wheels. However, it’s important to remember that your system isn’t invincible. Pumps, belts, and other steering system components can break if put under too much stress too quickly. This is why we strongly recommend avoiding particularly rough roads, unless you have a vehicle equipped with a steering pump designed to handle such obstacles, such as a 4x4 vehicle or all-terrain SUV used for off-road driving.
Power Steering Maintenance
Maintaining your power steering system is actually easier than you may think. By driving safely and predictably, you’ll prevent a lot of the sudden strain on your system and keep it working for many years to come. Just like most components of your vehicle, general maintenance can go a long way.
- Check your hoses and power steering pressures: The power steering fluid in your system goes through two different hoses: a high-pressure and a low-pressure side. Leaks can form on either side, so it’s important to make sure that both hoses are not leaking.
- Keep an eye on your steering fluid: Every time you change your oil, check your car’s most important fluids, including your coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. If your power steering fluid looks like it’s getting dirty or low, bring your car in to have your system flushed. This proactive maintenance could prevent you from having to prematurely replace your pump.
About Christian Brothers Automotive
Christian Brothers Automotive is the name customers have turned to for over 30 years when they need their power steering and other important systems maintained. From repairs and replacements to general upkeep and tune-up services, we keep your car working safely and efficiently. All of our shops are staffed with certified technicians trained in all makes and models, meaning you can bring your car to us for any of your needs. Plus we offer courtesy shuttles and a comfortable waiting area while we complete your vehicle service.
Schedule your next maintenance appointment at your local Christian Brothers Automotive today.