Are you having problems turning the steering wheel on your car, especially in relatively slow-speed corners? Are you having to put a lot more effort into this work than normal and wonder what could be going wrong? If so, you should begin to suspect issues with your power steering pump, and it pays to know a bit more about this crucial device. How does it work, why does it begin to fail, and what should you do next?
Relying on Technology
A hydraulic power steering pump uses pressurised fluid to help do the heavy-duty work associated with turning those wheels. Without such a pump, it would be extremely hard to manoeuvre your vehicle in a tight parking space. This is due to the amount of resistance the road surface offers to the surface of each tyre.
Understanding Pump Operation
A pulley and belt system links the steering pump to the engine crankshaft. As the engine turns, power is supplied to the pump's impeller, which spins at high speed and is sufficient to build up the right pressure level within the system. The pump is connected to a hydraulic fluid reservoir which is, in turn, linked to the steering rack. So, when you turn the steering wheel in a certain direction, the pump will force fluid through supply pipes to give the steering rack a helping hand and move that heavy wheel and tyre.
Putting up with Pressure
Power steering pumps are well designed and should put up with a great deal of wear and tear in a harsh environment. However, they will begin to wear out, and the first things to go will be the rubber seals and o-rings surrounding the inlet and outlet pipes. As these degrade, some of the fluid may leak out, and if there is insufficient liquid within the pump, it will certainly overheat.
Discovering Additional Symptoms
One of the first signs of a problem is that stubborn steering wheel, but you may also notice a strange, whining noise as you attempt to turn. This is due to low fluid levels and a pump that is trying to work too hard to achieve the same objective. If you carry out an inspection, you may also notice a puddle of fluid underneath your car and very close to the bottom of your steering column. This indicates that fluid is leaking, and your power steering pump is in urgent need of care.
Replacing the Pump
Unfortunately, you cannot repair the power steering pump once it has seen its better days. You will need to replace it with a new component and should take care to buy the highest quality, recommended replacement.