Power steering has been a system installed in almost all cars since the Second World War, and while it is immeasurably useful while driving, it is does have a few problems that can cause its failure. If you have a car and are worried about how you'll know when you're power steering has issue, below are some of the signs.
Pumps – A number of problems that occur with a failing power steering system can be attributed to the pump. The most obvious indicator will be a sharp, shrill nose when turning the steering wheel sharply to either the left or right. Even when the car is idling, listen for a repeated chirping noise or a muted chattering under the hood. The steering will become very hard to turn when this happens, which indicates that the pump might be failing. The noises are also very hard to ignore, so when you hear them, you might want to pay close attention to your power steering unit.
Belt – The belt, just like the pump, will produce a screeching sound and a chatter-like shake when you turn the steering. This is a sign that the belt has slipped. This problem can also cause heat to transfer to the power steering pump shaft from the drive belt. This can result in damaged seals and bearings in the pump, creating a choppy steering experience. Furthermore, belts can slip when soaked with oil, and though this occurs rarely, you will notice it through the production of a tar-like burning smell in your car. This is probably a sign that the pulley is not working as it should and needs a diagnosis.
Belts are subject to wear and tear or cracking after a while. While it may appear that then exterior of the belt is in good shape, the wear usually occurs on the interior surface where the pulley grooves are and causes your power steering wheel to lose functionality, becoming very difficult to turn. Worn-out belts should be replaced immediately.
Check your drive belt regularly for potential cracks and tightness to avoid steering problems and costs that may arise from a damaged drive belt.
Power steering fluid – Just as the numerous systems in a car need some type of oil or fluid, the power steering unit requires power steering fluid. One common problem is inadequate fluid in the unit. When this happens, you will hear a low humming sound that is constant while driving and idling, and the steering wheel will become hard to turn. Simply remedy this by adding more fluid, until the dipstick is at the full mark. A humming sound can also mean that the pump needs a total flush. Aged fluid can also cause problems by clogging the lines and subsequent failure of the system. You can tell that that your fluid needs replacement if it appears muddy or brownish or if it has a foamy texture, as it can no longer move through the lines and hoses properly. Discoloured fluid, especially a dark grey colour, can indicate a mixture of fine metal shaving and fluid from worn-out bearings.