Think back for a moment about the cars from the early 1900s. Although you may have never climbed into one, just watching them in the movies, you can tell it was an entirely different experience than what we have today.
The wheels were a lot taller and narrower. Almost like the idea moved from a bicycle over to the automobile.
Cars didn’t have much structure to them. They were often open frames, not a lot of comfort on the inside, dangerous if the driver happened to bump into something.
And if you grabbed hold of the steering wheel, you would have been amazed at the size. They were much larger than we had today, taking up a lot of space in front of the driver.
There was a reason for that. It took a lot of effort to control a car into corners and turns. The large steering wheel gave the driver the ability to put effort into the turn. It gave them the ability to crank the wheel while keeping it under control.
But all of that changed in the early 1950s as power steering was introduced to the marketplace. Power steering added control to vehicles. It also made the steering wheel smaller, which meant more comfort for the driver inside.
Think about your actions today. With one finger on the wheel, you can adjust it and make minor corrections in how you drive. Nudge it just a bit and you can change lanes. With one hand, you can corner, even park your car without exerting any pressure. That gives you the ability to think about other things – like what’s for dinner as you stop by the grocery store.
Understanding the power steering system
Today’s modern power steering is a hydraulic-controlled system that makes driving a breeze. A dedicated pump moves power steering fluid from a reservoir into the power steering column.
Have you heard the term “rack and pinion?” Rack and pinion is the most common steering gear system used in cars and trucks today. A rack is a long, flat gear with prongs located on one side of it. The pinion is a round gear connected to the steering shaft attached to the steering wheel. As you turn the wheel, the pinion gear rotates, connecting with the rack as it moves back and forth, giving you your turning radius and moving the car from right to left.
To make the steering process easier, hydraulic or high pressure steering was introduced. Think of this as a steering assist program designed to make the process easy for you to do. With a hydraulic system, fluid moves throughout the system, giving the power steering system the pressure it needs to move the steering wheel.
What problems can occur with the power steering system?
If your car is in perfect condition, driving is effortless. But the more you drive, the more opportunity for parts to wear down. Like every part of your car, power steering will eventually have problems. If you recognize the telltale behaviors early enough, you can avoid emergency repairs.
Your power steering system will alert you to potential problems with these behaviors.
Screeching as you start your car. Have you ever started a car and heard a high pitched screeching noise? It may be a problem with a belt. As belts age, they harden and start to decay. As they move, especially when cold and sitting for a while, they can screech or chirp as they move into action. You might also hear a similar sound as you move through hard turns. While it’s often a belt, it could also be a sign your power steering pump is wearing down.
Hard steering. The longer you drive a car, the more familiar you are with how it performs. It any part of the steering system starts wearing down, you can start to detect stiffness in movement, where the wheel feels like it’s more difficult to turn. If you start having to put more power into the way you move the steering wheel, it’s a sign you have problems with your power steering system.
Less responsiveness to your movements. When your car is new, barely touching the steering wheel can have your car moving quickly from one side to another. Over time, you might have to turn the wheel more for those same movements. As you start feeling even a bit of hesitation, be aware that the power steering pump may be failing.
A rumbling noise while moving into turns. If you hear a rumble or moan when moving into turns, it’s an indicator something is wrong with the power steering system. While it may only be a leak, it could also be the power steering pump is failing.
Fluid leak. To work effortlessly, the power steering system used power steering fluid. If the levels decrease over time, you’ll have power steering problems. A leak in power steering fluid levels can allow air, dirt, or grime into the system, putting stress on the mechanics of the power steering system. This can enable any of the above symptoms to occur. Keep watch underneath where you park your car on a regular basis. If at any time you see liquid, bring it in and let one of our mechanics take a look.
Finding a leak can be difficult. It can leak out of the steering pump. It can be from a hose that is failing. It could be somewhere in the rack and pinion system. If you have an indicator light come on your dashboard, the power steering fluid has dropped below acceptable levels. But if it’s just beginning, it may be a little more challenging to find. That’s where our expertise comes into play.
Make sure your power steering system is working
Power steering fluid is usually a reddish or light brown color. If it begins to leak, and you find it pooling underneath your vehicle, keep in mind that it’s similar in color to your transmission fluid. Power steering fluid usually leaks by the front of the vehicle, whereas transmission fluid will be more centralized, towards the middle of the car.
Whatever problem you’re currently having with your power steering, the important part is to get it fixed as quickly as possible. Repairing early means you’ll be back on the road safely in no time, and do so for less cost.
How can we help you with your power steering problems?