Today's vehicles are all equipped with a power steering pump to make handling much easier. Through general use, or severe conditions, the power steering pump can begin to leak. Leaking fluid will cause the steering to be less responsive and cause the steering wheel to become much harder to turn. Knowing the symptoms of a failing power steering pump can save you from an accident or more damage to the steering components.
1. Low Fluid
Leaking fluid is a direct result of a failing pump. If you notice a problem with low fluid levels, top it off and monitor it carefully. A leak will become quickly apparent when your car can’t retain fluid. This problem can be caused by other damage in the power steering system, like a cracked reservoir, so be sure to check for other symptoms related to a power steering pump to isolate the source of the problem.
2. Stains on Driveway
If you don’t notice low fluid right away, or your car’s indicator for low fluid hasn’t tripped, one of the most telltale signs of a fluid leak is stains on the driveway near the front of the vehicle. Power steering fluid is dark in color and will be around the area of the driver’s side near the front tire. Since a leak is one of the most direct symptoms of a failing pump, it should always be among the parts you check upon discovering an issue.
A faulty pump can actually cause squealing noises in a few different places. Sometimes you will hear this noise as you drive around sharp corners, but it can also occur when you’re driving slowly, when you’re turning the wheel, or just for a few seconds when you first start the car. Any of these are a good indicator that you need a replacement.
4. Hard Steering
When there is enough fluid in the pump, the steering wheel will glide without a lot of effort, but if the pump is leaking, or air is inside, the steering will be quite hard and stiff, especially when driving slowly or during colder months.
5. Erratic Behavior
The steering wheel will begin to work with or without power steering during driving, constantly changing how hard it will be for you to steer. Also, when you’re driving slowly and turning the wheel, it may feel like there is a delay for several seconds before the car responds. This can mean that there is air buildup, the pump is leaking, or it is not pushing the fluid as it should.
If you notice any of these issues with your vehicle, you need to take it to get serviced immediately.