A fluid leak in the power steering system can be one of the most mysterious repairs to diagnose.
Hydraulic power steering systems use a pump that pressurizes hydraulic fluid and sends it down to the mechanism that turns your wheels, either a steering gear or rack and pinion depending on the type of vehicle you drive. Since this system is fairly simple and robust, it rarely has problems. Most people never have to think about their power steering system or how it works and, if you do discover a leak, your first thought probably won’t be to check the power steering fluid level. But, if you do have an issue with your power steering pump, a leak is one of the most common culprits. While the specific cause can vary depending on the design of your system, there are 3 different places you might find a leak:
First, your power steering pump itself may leak. The leak would be at the point where the pump shaft exits the pump body and is connected to the pulley. If you have a leak here, you will find fluid dripping from behind the pump pulley. In this case, the best thing to do is have your power steering pump replaced. This is usually a relatively inexpensive maintenance item and ignoring the leak can lead to future problems like bearing or pump failures.
Another common location for a leak is the hoses and tubing that carry the power steering fluid from the pump to your steering gear or rack. Leaks commonly occur at junctions where a rubber hose transitions to a hard line or where a hard line screws into the rack or pump. If you find a leak at a connection, you can have your mechanic tighten the connection; if you have a soft hose that’s leaking, it’s best to replace that hose.
The last and most common power steering fluid leak happens in the actual steering gear or rack. The seals here are subject to the most road grime and dirt which can wear down the shafts and seals making this part more prone to leaks. Again, leaks are usually found at connection points and seals. You may also see a leak from where the steering column attaches to the steering rack but these are less common.
If you find a leak in your steering gear or rack and pinion, you should see a professional mechanic as soon as possible. In most cases, broken seals are non-replaceable and professional replacement will be needed. At V&F, our expert mechanics use the latest diagnostic equipment, and high-quality CARQUEST auto parts, to make sure we get the job done right. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.