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My Car's Power Steering Failed: What to Do?

Karen Menezes Karen Menezes 08 September 2016

Think nothing can go wrong with the power steering of your car? Think twice! Read on to know why it could fail and what needs to be done in case of power steering failure.

Understand Car power steering

It’s a beautiful sunny day and you’re driving your car to supermarket down the lane. You have to take a turn to the right.

I am sure you do know that the whole rationale behind a power steering wheel is to allow the driver to steer the car with little effort on their part.

In spite of this, if you find yourself putting in too much effort, then perhaps you may not be losing your muscle power. You may be just losing the power steering functionality.

What can actually go wrong? And why? Let’s find out.

Back to the basics: The functioning of power steering

Before the functionality of power steering existed, a driver was expected to use a lot of force to turn the vehicle. But, the concept of using hydraulics to maneuver an automobile brought about a revolution in the modern navigation technology. That’s how the concept of power steering was born!

When a driver inputs a movement on the steering wheel, the hydraulic pump, which is driven by the engine provides the wheels torque (type of rotational force).

A pump is used to maintain pressure in the hydraulic system. It uses fluids to control the motion of the valves and pistons. This enables the wheels to turn with less effort on the part of the driver. The hydraulics reduce the pressure of your actual gears and internal mechanisms. You may think you’re the one steering the wheel. But, the reality check here is that the hydraulics are doing most of the work for you.

With minimum effort, you can turn the wheels in the direction you desire.

When it all gets messed up: The symptoms of failure

When there is a problem with the steering, as a driver, you would be the first person to know it with these signs:

  • Additional physical exertion

    Driving would no longer be pleasurable. You would end up feeling rather sore.

  • Power Steering Fluid level

    The power steering fluid level should be checked often. If the level is low, it indicates a leakage and a repair is required in the system. If your car has been parked for some time, you would be able to spot a leak in the power steering line.

    Fuel pumps for the internal combustion of automobile engine fall into two types: Electric and mechanical (which were a part of many earlier cars). When it comes to electric pumps, you won’t be able to figure out oil leakage easily. You would probably have to look into the car owner’s manual for information.

    Low levels of power steering fluid can make the pump noisy causing the steering wheel to vibrate vigorously. In some cases, especially with older cars, the pump itself could fail.

  • The Look of the Power Steering Fluid

    Once a month do check how the power steering fluid appears. If you catch something wrong, you can surely avert a major accident that could have happened in the near future.

    When the fluid is old and hasn’t been changed regularly, the tubes that move the fluid tends to harden up which can cause power steering failure. New fluid is generally red in color and has a distinctive odor. While fluid that has turned dark gray in color is a sign oxidation.

    If you see bubbles or foam present in the fluid, it means there is air or water present in the power steering line, which can degrade the functioning of the power steering pump.

  • Shrieking Sounds

    If you hear a whining or squealing sound when you turn the steering wheel sharply or while driving slowly, it means that the power steering pump is low on fluid and could be failing. Sometimes, even the chattering sound under the hood as soon as you start the car indicates failure of the power steering pump.

And the crisis: Handling Sudden Steering Failure

What if you miss out on the warning signs and the power steering goes haywire when you’re behind the wheel?

  • Warn other motorists

    If your power steering fails when you’re driving at high speed, do NOT panic! Turn on the indicators/hazard lights to warn other drivers that you’re having emergency car issues. This will compel them to get out of your way.

  • Move to the side of the road

    Do this carefully as steering at this moment would be harder than before. Gently hit the brakes. Slamming the brakes with force could spin the car and without steering control, you wouldn’t be able to get the car straight on the side of the road.

  • Don’t drive to the mechanic if not possible

    Once you get the car to stop, you can turn off the engine and then on again. If the wheel turns without much effort you can drive it to the nearest garage. But if the steering is hard enough, then you can call for the towing vehicle.

Power steering failure is scary if it actually happens. The best way to prevent it with regular servicing and maintenance of your car with your authorized car service center.

Note: Coverfox does not provide Roadside Assistance Services (RSA) services. In case your insurance company is providing RSA, you would have to contact their RSA number.

To know which insurance companies offer the RSA service, you can do a car insurance comparison online.

Karen Menezes
Written by Karen Menezes
An optimist at heart, Karen loves to see the world through a pair of rose-tinted glasses. An award-winning blogger, she loves to dream with her eyes open. Writing is not her passion, it’s an OCD! If at all she isn’t writing, you can find her shopping online or experimenting with DIY recipes.