Malfunctions in the power steering unit can cause many problems for the driver. It should be as simple as turning the wheel and the car following suit, but in reality; nothing is ever that simple. Some cars will completely turn off if certain issues occur with the power steering in the vehicle. Others are impossible to turn and can cause accidents or really sore muscles. If the car becomes harder to turn than usually, or turning feels different in some way, you should probably have your power steering checked.
There are actually more components to the power steering system than just the steering wheel. The power steering system is there to basically make steering easier for the driver. It consists of five main parts. The first is the power steering pump which is operated through a belt and pulley system. The next is the steering wheel and steering rack which tells the car which way to go. The power steering system also contains a speed sensor, which senses how fast the car is going and power steering fluid that keeps everything running smoothly.
Sadly, there are a number of things that can go wrong with the power steering system. It is important to know what to look for so you can get a problem fixed before it becomes a major, possibly accident causing, issue.
The power steering fluid is pumped throughout the system in order to assist with turning the wheels. The fluid can withstand up to 12,000 PSI of pressure while flowing through the system. As fluid gets old it oxidizes. This will cause the color of the fluid to change from red to dark grey or even black. If the fluid has bubbles in it that can indicate that there is air somewhere in the system. Also, if there is debris within the fluid that indicates something is wrong with the system. Any of these issues with the fluid is reason to take your car to a mechanic to be evaluated.
There should always be a high level of fluid within the power steering system. Think of it like blood running through your veins. If there is not enough, something is seriously wrong. You may have a leak, which could be relatively easy to fix. The problem is that while a leak may be easy to fix, the damage that can be caused from ignoring a leak are not as easily mended.
As the driver of the vehicle, you become accustomed to steering the vehicle. Any change in the amount of pressure you feel while steering can indicate a problem. If it becomes too easy or too hard to steer that could mean something within the power steering system has malfunctioned and you should take your car to be evaluated.
Clunking, squeaking and squealing are all common noises associated with power steering problems. It can indicate a slipped driving belt or the steering pump.
The power steering system is typically relatively easy to fix and catch problems with. Most of the time, its normal wear and tear or the system just needs to be flushed out with a high power solution. Either way it goes, it’s better to take your vehicle in and see what’s going on rather than waiting until you have no steering at all.