6 Symptoms of a Bad Power Steering Pump and Replacement Cost

The power steering system was created in 1951 to help the driver turn the vehicle easily. This is a welcome advancement in technology in an era when automobiles are becoming larger and heavier. Moving objects with greater mass requires more energy, especially at low speeds.

Classic power steering uses a power steering pump to move pressurized hydraulic oil to provide assistance, while some modern designs use electric motors instead.

It is often said that hydraulic power steering can provide a better steering feel, but with the latest developments in electric power steering, this is not always the case. Electric power steering systems generally require no maintenance and have slightly better fuel economy because they do not have a power steering pump and are not driven by accessory belts.

Read on to understand how hydraulic power steering pumps work, what are the symptoms of power steering pump failure, and how much it costs to replace the pump if the pump fails.

How a Power Steering Pump Works

The power steering fluid is pressurized by the power steering pump and delivered from the oil tank to the steering gear through the pump's output. When the vehicle is running, the pump is powered by a pulley connected to the vehicle accessory belt.

The fluid exerts pressure on the steering gears, turning the wheels. The pressure increases as the engine speed increases. Since there must be enough pressure to turn the wheels at idle, the pressure at high engine speeds is usually unnecessary. This overpressure is dissipated through the pressure-reducing valve.

When the steering wheel is not turning, the car should not apply steering assistance to the wheels, so a sensor called a rotary valve uses a torsion bar to determine when the wheel is turning. The torsion bar will twist as the torque is applied.

One end of the torsion bar is connected with the steering wheel, and the other end is connected with the steering gear. This ensures that the amount of torque applied to the steering wheel is equal to the amount of torque applied to the wheels. This is how the driver controls how much the front wheels turn.

Driving without a functional power steering pump is unsafe because it affects how the driver's input moves the car.

The steering force of a vehicle with a damaged power steering pump is significantly higher, so that some people in some vehicles may not even be able to turn the steering wheel at all! Generally speaking, the heavier the vehicle, the harder it is to turn the wheels without assistance.

Note: Driving a vehicle with a power steering failure may be more difficult than driving the same car in a trim that is not equipped with power steering. This is caused by the resistance of the power steering components, which creates resistance to the system, and the driver must overcome this resistance. In addition, manual (unpowered) steering is slower than usual, which means that the driver has more leverage on the front wheels.

Bad Power Steering Pump Symptoms

All parts of a car have a limited service life, and the power steering pump is no exception. Pay attention to (and ears) these abnormal behaviors. These abnormal behaviors may indicate a problem with the steering pump. If you find any of them, please have a mechanic inspect them to prevent irreversible damage to your pump.

1. Low and/or Leaking Power Steering Fluid Level

Power steering fluid is an important part of the pump, so running the pump with insufficient power steering fluid can cause problems. The pump may also be physically damaged due to wear or aging.

The storage tank for the power steering fluid is located under the hood, usually on the passenger side of the vehicle, but this depends on how the engine is installed. Check the liquid level to make sure it is within the proper range. There should be a low and a full mark on the reservoir.

If you find any leaks between the pump and the reservoir, you should repair the affected parts before driving the vehicle to reduce damage. The power steering fluid is usually red or reddish brown, so seeing a puddle of this color under the vehicle is a big clue that there may be a problem with the power steering pump.

2. Gray Power Steering Fluid and/or Visible Metal Flakes

When checking the fuel tank level, pay attention to the color of the power steering fluid. If it is gray, it means that it has been oxidized and is not working properly. Oxidation occurs when excess air enters the system because it may pass through a faulty power steering pump.

A bad pump can sometimes cause metal flakes (gray or chrome) in the power steering fluid. Metal-to-metal friction and material wear due to deterioration may be the culprits.

3. Squealing Upon Startup

This is a common symptom when the accessory belt is loose, but it may also indicate that the power steering pump is broken. Before replacing the pump, first check to make sure that the tension on the accessory belt is set correctly.
If you hear a squeal when making a sharp turn, not just when starting, it may indicate a problem with the pump, not just a loose belt.

4. Whining or Groaning Sound While Turning

Other abnormal noises may be caused by a malfunctioning power steering pump. Moaning is worse than complaining because it usually indicates a lack of enough fluid, which may damage other components in the power steering system. Any kind of sound may also be caused by bearing damage.

As the engine speed (RPM) increases and the steering wheel rotates, this whining or groaning usually intensifies. If you hear unusual noises when turning the steering wheel, try to go to a safe place, such as a lighter road, and drive in different ways (such as acceleration, deceleration, starting, and varying degrees of turning) to find the situation(s) ) Causes the problem.

This is important information for mechanics so they can more easily identify problems.

Note: Some power steering pumps will groan when fully locked for more than a few seconds. This is somewhat normal, but it is very difficult to do this for more than a moment on a power steering pump and should be avoided as much as possible.

5. Steering Wheel Slow to Respond

As expected, turning the steering wheel should immediately turn the front tires. If you turn the steering wheel and the tires of the vehicle must "catch up", there may be a problem with the power steering pump.

This can be dangerous because when the vehicle does not react to the driver's input as expected, the reaction time will increase because the driver may have to correct their initial input. If the driver tries to steer to avoid something or someone, but the vehicle does not respond as it should, this may even cause a collision.

This situation may also indicate other problems with steering components or front suspension components, which should be resolved as soon as possible.

6. Increased Steering Effort

A vehicle with a power steering system should be easy to steer. If the steering gear of your vehicle looks unusually heavy and difficult to turn, it is best to check the power steering pump.

Power Steering Pump Replacement Cost

The power steering pump replacement cost by a professional varies greatly, depending on the location of the replacement and the vehicle being repaired. The average cost is between US$350 and US$700.

In this case, parts are usually more expensive than labor because the pump is usually relatively easily accessible in the engine compartment. The price of labor ranges from US$150 to US$250, and the price of pumps and related parts ranges from US$200 to US$450.

As always, shop around and find a car mechanic you can trust at the best price. After finding a good car shop, it is best to establish a solid working relationship with the car shop to get the best service and possibly even some discounts.

An experienced mechanic may be able to replace the power steering pump at home, using some basic hand tools and a special tool for removing the pulley from the pulley shaft. These tools can usually be rented from an auto parts store.