Attending Auto Mechanic College? 4 Common Power Steering Problems Typically Seen in Cars

A vehicle’s power steering system is the component that allows drivers to handle their vehicle with ease. Without it, these heavy pieces of machinery would be much harder to maneuver. Power steering systems control the direction of a vehicle’s wheels with help from an alternative power source. In hydraulic power steering systems, high pressure fluids are utilized to facilitate the steering movement. When a driver turns their steering wheel, pressurized fluid flows from a pump in order to move the wheels a certain direction. In electric power steering systems, a battery-run electric motor works with computer sensors to supply power to a vehicle’s wheels, steering the vehicle. While most vehicles today are equipped with electric power steering systems, hydraulic systems are still found in older models.

When a vehicle’s power steering system is malfunctioning, it can be extremely difficult to steer a vehicle, impeding a driver’s safety. If you’re interested in a career as an auto mechanic, read on to discover some common problems that can occur in electric and hydraulic power steering systems. 

1. Mechanic Program Students Should Watch Out for Power Steering Leaks

In hydraulic power steering systems, leakage is often an issue due to the use of fluid. Hydraulic power steering systems are susceptible to leaks due to the highly pressurized fluid interacting with the softer hoses used to transport it. If a driver notices a strong smell of burning oil in their vehicle, accompanied by a grinding noise when turning the steering wheel, this could be a sign of a fluid leakage. Drivers may also notice the appearance of a dark brown fluid on their side of the cabin. 

Power steering fluid leakage is a common problem in hydraulic power steering systems

In the case of a fluid leak, it’s likely that the hose is worn or cracked, requiring replacement. A leak could also be the result of a connection issue. Whatever the case, it’s important for mechanic program graduates to get to the source of a leak quickly in order to prevent damage to other components of a vehicle’s steering system. 

2. Drive Belt Slippage is a Common Culprit

Another problem that can manifest in hydraulic power steering systems is a drive belt slippage. If a vehicle is making a squealing or grinding noise when turning, it’s likely that the drive belt is loose or has slipped. A drive belt transfers power from the crank shaft to the power steering pump, and when this belt slips, it can interfere with the effectiveness of the power steering system. In the case of a loose or slipping belt, this component must be tightened or adjusted while the engine is off in order to restore a vehicle’s ability to steer accurately.

3. Unresponsive Steering is a Frequent Issue in Electric Systems

In electric power steering systems, electrical components can cause problems for the vehicle’s steering mechanisms. Often, an electrical issue will result in an unresponsive steering system. If a driver feels that their steering wheel is stiff and inflexible, there could be a problem with the system’s electrical components. The fastest way to determine the source of an electrical problem is for graduates of auto mechanic college to use a scanner or code reader, which can indicate which components are faulty. 

A vehicle’s power steering system enables drivers to turn with ease

4. A Worn Power Steering Pump May Cause Problems

Within hydraulic power steering systems, it’s not uncommon for power steering pumps to wear out eventually. In the case of a worn pump, the steering fluid will not be pressurized enough to deliver the amount of power necessary to turn the vehicle. 

This problem can be difficult to identify, but one potential sign might be a whining or humming noise heard by the driver when attempting to turn the vehicle. If this issue is diagnosed, a worn pump must be replaced in order to restore the function of a hydraulic power steering system.

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