How to Diagnose Power Steering Problems

Most modern cars come equipped with power steering, but as systems age they can wear out. Problems with alignment or the power steering pump can also cause the power steering system to stop working. Follow the simple tips and techniques below to diagnose your power steering problem.

  • Check the power steering fluid level. If there's not enough fluid, it'll be hard to make turns. Unscrew the cap of the power steering pump and check the fluid level. If it's not full, buy power steering fluid from your local automotive supply store and refill the pump. If you have to add fluid frequently, you may have a leak.
  • Inspect the hoses and lines around the power steering pump for possible leaks.
  • Lift the front end of the car with a jack. Check the seals of the rack and pinion for leaks. If you have an older car, you may have a recirculating ball unit to check instead.
  • Check for loose belts. Have someone turn on the engine and turn the steering wheel while you listen for any noise coming from the pump. A screechy, loud sound indicates a loose belt that needs adjustment.

If none of these steps pinpoints a problem, a mechanic can raise your car up on a lift or ramp to check for problems under the car. A mechanic can also look for problems within the steering column itself.