You may have noticed that your power steering in your car or truck has started to make a squealing noise, or is not working as well as it used to. It may happen when when you turn your steering wheel all the way to the right or left, or it may happen anytime the wheel turns, or it just happens all the time. There are a few simple things to check before you spend the money on having the whole power steering system fixed or replaced.
Check that your power steering pump belt is tight
When you turn your steering wheel all the way to the left or right and you hear a loud screeching or squealing noise, the common issue is that your power steering belt is not tight, or is worn and needs to be replaced. First inspect your belt, if it looks worn, or the rubber looks dried and cracked, replace it. If the belt looks to be ok, then check the slack on the belt by pulling and pushing on it. There should not be much play in the belt and it should feel tight. If it moves up and down easily then the belt needs more tension. Every make and model has different setups for power steering and it’s beyond the scope of this article how to adjust it. But generally there is a bolt or two that needs to be loosened, and you push or pull your power steering pump in a direction that cause the belt to get the most tension, and you tighten all the bolts back up to retain the tension you put on the belt.
Check Your Power Steering Pump Fluid Level
If your power steering makes noises all the time, some times, or just doesn’t work as well as it used to, then you need to check your fluid level. Remove the cap on the power steering pump which is located some where in your engine bay. The cap will most likely have a dip stick attached to it with two markings. With a paper towel or old rag, wipe clean the dipstick, and place it back into the pump, and then pull it back out to check the fluid level. One will have a marking for a cold fluid level, and one will have a marking for a hot fluid level. If you just recently drove your car and the engine is still hot, then you will probably want to check the Hot level of the power steering pump. I prefer checking my power steering fluid when it is cold, and wait an hour or so after driving it to check to ensure the fluid has cooled off. Your fluid should be right at the mark for hot or cold, if it is below this mark, then pour more power steering fluid into the pump until the level is at the mark for the temperature you are checking.
Check That the Power Steering Fluid is Clean
Another common problem is that the power steering fluid is dirty and old. This can be easily checked by removing the power steering pump cap and placing a drop of fluid on your finger. Check the color, it should be a deep red. If it appears dirty, or has a brown tint to it, then it is dirty and the pump needs to be flushed and replaced with new fluid. Also check to see if you see any dirt particles in the fluid. If you see dirt particles in the fluid, it will need to be flushed and replaced. I suggest taking your car or truck to a shop to have the power steering pump flushed.
Your Power Steering Pump May Have a Leak
Check all around your power steering pump, including all the hoses that connect to it and see if it appears it is leaking. Check underneath the car or truck as well for fluid on the ground. If you notice red fluid directly below the power steering pump, or coming out of one of the hoses, you have a leak that needs to be repaired ASAP. If you don’t know how to do this, then take it to a mechanic. If you have a leak, you would also notice that your fluid level is low, as described above.
Your Power Steering Pump Needs to be Replaced
If you have checked everything listed above and are still having problem, then most likely there is a problem with your power steering system, and you will need to have it serviced or replaced. Unless you know what you are doing you should take it to a mechanic to have it serviced professionally.