A modern-day automobile is equipped with many mechanical driver aids, designed to make the job a lot easier for the average motorist. When these components start to go wrong they may sometimes give some early warning signs to the owner, so that action can be taken before complete failure. If you notice a strange noise whenever you turn the steering wheel these days, it could be a sign that you have power steering problems ahead. What could be going wrong and what action should you take?
What Is Power Steering?
A power steering system consists of a pump that is connected to the vehicle's engine, that forces hydraulic pressure through a system to augment your physical effort when you turn the wheel. Without it, you would encounter a great deal of resistance when trying to turn the heavy wheels and tyres on a sealed surface, especially in low speed conditions. As this system comes under a lot of pressure, it can sometimes fail and when the pump starts to give way, it may exhibit a "whining" noise.
Having a Look
Gather more information to give to the mechanic by having a look underneath the car first. Begin by turning the wheel all the way to one side, so that you can access the area and then have a look at the end of the steering rack, where it connects to the wheel. Have a look for evidence of any fluid on the outside of the rubber boot that protects the steering rack. Next, locate the power steering pump itself, which is in between the wheel and the steering column as it emerges from the bulkhead. Have a look to see if there is any evidence of fluid in this area, as well.
While the area in general may be fairly dirty, power steering fluid will nevertheless have a very distinctive orange colour and should stand out. Any leakage is a bad sign and especially if it is to be found on the end of the steering rack. If the fluid is underneath the power steering pump, however, it could be that the seals have failed and you may be able to replace these to fix the problem. In any case, it's always important to have the correct amount of fluid within the system if it is to work properly.
Do You Actually Need Power Steering?
While it is certainly possible to drive any vehicle without power steering, you should never ignore this issue and hope it will go away. If all of the fluid were to leak out it could cause the pump to fail suddenly and if you were in the middle of negotiating a corner at speed, this could cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Sudden failure of the pump could also lock the belt that connects your engine to other components such as the alternator or water pump, so other damage could also ensue.
Your Next Action
It can be tricky to repair or replace a steering component by yourself, so you should take your vehicle into a nearby mechanic for prompt action.