Power assisted steering is a mechanism which enables a driver to steer a vehicle more easily. It consists of five parts, including the power steering pump, steering wheel, steering rack, speed sensor and steering fluid. While the complete failure of a power steering is small, owing to the large number of parts involved, things can go wrong. If you know the symptoms, you can avoid costly repairs in the future by identifying the problems early on.
Power steering fluid is pumped around the system to assist with the turning of a wheels. It withstands up to 544kg. of pressure, while it flows through the mechanism. The colour of the fluid can indicate problems. As old fluid oxidises, it changes from red to dark grey or black. The fluid may also have bubbles in it, indicating an air leakage into the system. Finally, loose debris might be carried in it. Look at the steering fluid for these symptoms, which will show a damaged power steering system.
It is important that there is a constant high level of steering fluid in the vehicle's power steering system. This is the blood of the system, if it runs low it indicates that there is a leakage within the system. This symptom shows that there must be a hole in a pipe, or a connection is out of line, and therefore causing the fluid to drip out.
As a driver, you may notice changes in the power steering while you drive the vehicle. Instead of applying little force to the steering wheel as you turn corners, the steering might become more difficult--like a manual system. Jumpy steering may also be experienced. This is a sign of a malfunctioning drive belt, caused by excessive heat being generated. Alternatively, the drive belt may lack tension and is sliding out of place.
Squeaking, clunking or squealing noises are symptoms of power steering problems. The unusual noises can be caused by a slipping drive belt, which has become out of shape. Alternatively, it could be the steering pump, which is failing. If this is the case, you will hear strange noises when you turn corners. Listen to the sounds coming from the car to assess this.