5 Signs That Your Power Steering System Is Failing

Your power steering system is one of the most important components in your vehicle. If you have a newer model, you likely won’t have any issues until your car is between 5-15 years old. Yet, anything can happen, and vehicle care knowledge is valuable!

Power steering has been around since the early 1950s and allows drivers to steer without actually pulling the full weight of the front end to turn a corner.

There are two commonly used power steering systems: electric and hydraulic. Hydraulic is the most popular in midsize and full-size cars. It works by using a pump powered by your car’s engine via a belt to circulate pressurized fluid through two hoses that connect to a ‘rack and pinion’ which measures how much power to provide to the steering wheel for your car to turn smoothly.

Issues with power steering can be sudden or very gradual. The good thing is that the signs are quite clear; let’s cover a few of the main ones:

  1. Leaking

Power steering fluid is usually a shade of yellowish pink and becomes red when oxidized. If you see a reddish puddle under your car, this is power steering fluid. A leak can mean there is a small hole in one of the two pressure hoses or that there is an issue with the pump.

If you see a leak, have it checked out as soon as possible. If the hose is the culprit and you live in a colder area, the rise and fall of temperatures combined with the pressurized fluid can cause the pipe to burst upon the start-up of the vehicle, quickly draining your system. It can be a simple fix but getting your vehicle to the mechanic after this happens is tricky.

  1. Whining during acceleration

This is a symptom that is often overlooked as most individuals will look and listen for issues with the steering wheel only. However, a whine during acceleration can mean that your system has become aerated.

Your system may have become aerated due to a budding issue with the rack and pinion or air let in through a faulty pump. If you find yourself refilling your power steering fluid often but see no leak, it is likely leaking into the rack itself. This almost always means a replacement.

  1. Squealing noises

If immediately upon startup you hear squealing, it could be your accessory belt that controls the power steering pump. This is often a simple fix of just having it tightened, but if the squealing occurs during turning, you may need to replace the pump.

It may also just be that your power steering fluid is low or your system requires a bit of lube. The experts at Quality Auto Repairs recommend having your steering components lubricated every time you have an oil change.

  1. Grinding sounds

Now, this is one of the most tell-tale signs that there’s an issue with your power steering system. If you feel and hear grinding and/or groaning when you turn the wheel, even if it only happens during a very deep turn, there is more than likely an issue with either the rack and pinion or the pump – normally the pump.

  1. Sluggish steering

If your steering feels sloppy, sluggish, or unresponsive it often means that there’s an issue with your power steering system, particularly the pump.

Low fluid is also often the culprit here. Power steering fluid doesn’t need to be replaced often but still should be occasionally. Examine your fluid regularly. If you notice it’s a brown shade, it needs to be replaced. It should be yellowish pink and have a slight scent to it.


If you find you’re replacing your power steering fluid very frequently and your steering improves only for a few days, it’s likely a larger issue.

Adding fluid can mask a lot of issues, but they will return eventually. If you’re ever unsure whether or not you’re experiencing a power steering issue, contact the service experts at Maritime Vehicle Providers.

It can be daunting to learn you need to replace power steering components, as they can be expensive. If you have an older vehicle, ask your mechanic to source parts from your local reputable junkyard.

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