If you’re experiencing power steering fluid leaks, it’s important to take action as soon as possible. Not only is this a safety hazard, but it can also lead to costly repairs down the road.
If your car is leaking power steering fluid, you may see a puddle of clear, reddish-brown, or black liquid underneath it. Another symptom of a power steering fluid leak is difficulty turning the steering wheel and whining or grinding noises when you turn the steering wheel.
In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms of a power steering fluid leak, as well as the causes and fixes. Stay safe and keep your car running smoothly by reading on!
Table of Contents
Where Can Power Steering Fluid Leak From?
There are several places where your power steering fluid can leak from. Let’s see:
1. Pressure Hoses:
The most common place for leaks is the power steering hose. These hoses can develop cracks or holes over time and need to be replaced if they leak.
2. Power Steering Pump:
Another common place is the power steering pump. This part of your car’s system pumps the power steering fluid throughout the system, and if its seals crack or wear out, it will leak fluid.
3. Power Steering Fluid Reservoir:
The power steering fluid reservoir is another potential source of leaks. If the reservoir is cracked or damaged, it must be replaced.
4. Power Steering Boots:
The power steering boots are the rubber seals that keep the fluid in and dirt out. If these fail, they will need to be replaced. But they will also cause you the headache of having to bleed the power steering system.
What Causes Power Steering Fluid Leak?
Now that we know where the leaks can occur, let’s see what causes them:
1. Worn Out Seals and O Rings:
Many parts of a power steering system are closed by seals and O-rings. Seals and O-rings are used in many power steering systems to prevent fluid from leaking.
With time these parts can get hard, dry, and cracked, causing fluid to leak. In some cases, the leaks can be severe enough to cause the power steering system to fail.
One of the most common seals that may cause a leak is the pinion seal.
2. Malfunctioning Power Steering Pump:
A power steering pump is a key component of a vehicle’s power steering system. It is responsible for providing hydraulic fluid pressure to the power steering system, which in turn assists the driver in steering the vehicle.
Over time, however, the pump can develop leaks. These leaks can be caused by various factors, such as wear and tear, damage to the pump, or incorrect installation.
If left unchecked, these leaks can eventually lead to failure of the power steering system, making it difficult or even impossible to steer the vehicle.
There are several ways to tell if your power steering pump is leaking. We’ll cover those things in the next section.
3. Using Wrong Power Steering Fluid:
One of the most common causes of power steering fluid leaks is using the wrong type of fluid. There are many different types of power steering fluids, and each one has specific applications.
For example, some fluids are designed for cold weather, while others are intended for use in hot weather. Using the wrong type of fluid can cause the seals and O-rings in the system to break down, leading to leaks.
It’s important to consult your owner’s manual or a professional mechanic to determine what type of fluid is best for your vehicle.
How to Know if Power Steering Fluid is Leaking?
There are several ways to tell if your power steering fluid is leaking. Here are some things to look for:
- Irresponsive Power Steering System
- Screeching Noise While Turning
- Low Power Steering Fluid Level
- Service Power Steering Message
- Stiff Steering Wheel
- Fluid Puddles in Driveway
Let’s dig deeper into each of these symptoms:
1. Irresponsive Power Steering System:
An irresponsive power steering system is one of the first signs of a power steering fluid leak. If you find that your vehicle’s power steering system is not responding as well as it used to and the steering wheel starts shaking, there’s a good chance that there is a leak somewhere in the system.
This is because when the power steering system develops a leak, in addition to the loss of fluid, air from outside can also enter the system. This air leads to cavities and bubbles in the power steering fluid, which makes the system less responsive.
Another reason is the absence of an ample amount of hydraulic fluid pressure. A power steering system needs a certain amount of hydraulic fluid pressure to function properly.
If there is a leak in the system, the level of hydraulic fluid pressure will drop, making the system less responsive.
2. Screeching Noise While Turning:
Another symptom of leaking fluid is a screeching noise while turning. The most obvious reason behind these noises is that the steering system’s pistons and other moving parts are not properly lubricated.
This can cause these parts to rub against each other, leading to the formation of screeching noises. In some cases, the noise may also be caused by air bubbles in the power steering fluid.
These air bubbles can create a cavitation effect, which in turn can lead to screeching noises while turning.
3. Low Power Steering Fluid Level:
If you find that the power steering fluid level in your vehicle’s reservoir is low, it’s a good indication of a leak somewhere in the system.
There are several reasons why the power steering fluid level might drop. But the most common cause is a leak in the steering system. Other reasons include evaporation and contamination of the fluid.
It’s important to check the power steering fluid level regularly and top it off if necessary.
4. Service Power Steering Message:
Though many cars don’t have this feature of dashboard warning light, some vehicles have a service power steering message that pops up on the instrument panel when there is a problem with the power steering system.
If you see this message, it can indicate a leak in the system, and you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.
5. Hard Steering Wheel:
If you find that your vehicle’s steering wheel is hard to turn, it can be an indication of a power steering fluid leak.
This is because when there is a leak in the system, the level of hydraulic fluid pressure will drop. This low hydraulic fluid pressure makes it difficult to turn the steering wheel.
This can be especially apparent when turning the wheel at low speeds. The steering may feel heavy or stiff, making it difficult to keep the vehicle in a straight line.
6. Fluid Puddles on Garage Floor:
One of the most obvious signs of a power steering fluid leak is fluid puddles in your driveway or garage. Power steering fluid is usually red or dark in color and has a distinctive smell. If you see liquid puddles under your car, it’s a good indication of a leak in the system.
How to Repair Power Steering Fluid Leaks? A Complete Guide!
You’ll need to repair the rack if you have a steering fluid leak. This section will outline how to fix power steering fluid leaks.
Before we get started, let’s get our tools straight. You are going to need a few tools, including:
- Ball joint puller
- Rack and Pinion holding tool
- Metric wrenches
- Set of metric sockets
- Bushing puller
- Oil seal test tool
- Axle shaft bearing remover
- Clamping tools
- Handle sets
- Vacuum pump and gauges
- Nut wrench
Now that we have our tools let’s get started.
Confirm the Origins of Leak:
The first step is to find the source of the leak.
- Power steering fluid leaking from your car can often be attributed to a faulty power steering pump, rack, pinion unit, or hose.
- Once you have found the source of the leak, you can then proceed to repair it.
Removing the Power Steering Rack:
The power steering rack is located at the front of the car. It is a large, cylindrical unit attached to the vehicle’s frame.
- To remove the power steering rack, you’ll need to first remove the wheels.
- Once the wheels are off, you can access the bolts that hold the rack in place.
- Use a wrench to remove the bolts and carefully pull the rack out of its housing.
Removing Power Steering Bushings:
Two bushings connect the power steering rack to the car’s frame. These bushings can wear out over time. When this happens, it causes the power steering rack to move around, which can cause leaks.
- To remove the bushings, you’ll need to use a bushing puller.
- Once you have the puller, attach it to the bushing and twist it clockwise.
- This will cause the bushing to come out of its housing.
Secure Steering Link Assembly:
The steering link assembly connects the power steering rack to the wheel. It is a long rod with a series of joints that allow it to move.
- To remove the steering link assembly, you’ll need to disconnect it from the wheel first.
- You’ll need a wrench to loosen the nut that holds it in place.
- Once the nut is loose, you can pull the intermediate steering shaft out of its housing.
- If you are having trouble removing the steering link assembly, you may need to use a clamping tool to hold it in place while you loosen the nut.
Inspect Tie Rod Ends:
Play and excessive wear of ties rods ends can also build up pressure in the power steering system, which can cause leaks.
- To inspect the tie rod ends, you’ll need to remove them from their housing.
- Inspect the inner and outer surfaces of the tie rod end for any wear or damage.
- You’ll need to replace the tie rod end if you notice any damage.
Remove Fluid Cylinder and Stopper:
The next step is the removal of the fluid cylinder and stopper. The fluid cylinder is a small container that holds the power steering fluid. The stopper is a small piece of rubber that sits atop the fluid cylinder and prevents the fluid from leaking.
- You’ll need to use a hammer and a screwdriver to remove the fluid cylinder.
- First, use the hammer to tap the fluid cylinder’s top lightly.
- This will loosen the stopper and allow you to remove it.
- If you cannot remove the stopper with a gentle tap, use a hooked wire or 90-degree hooked pick to pull out the end stopper.
- Once the stopper is removed, you can unscrew the cylinder from its housing.
Remove Seals and O Rings:
Seals and O rings are present in the bushing of the power steering rack.
- You’ll need to use a seal removal tool to remove the seals and O rings.
- Please insert it into the bushing and then twist it in a clockwise motion.
- This will force the seals and O rings to come out.
Now next step is to clean the bushings and install the seals back.
- Once the bushings are clean, you can then begin the process of installing the seals.
- Before installing, coat the seals with a generous amount of power steering fluid.
- This will help to lubricate the seals and prevent them from drying out.
- You’ll need to use the press install technique to install the seals.
- To do this, place the seal onto the bushing and then use a small press to push it into place.
- You can also use a hammer to tap the seal into place gently.
Inspect and Clean Rack Housing:
Now it’s time to inspect the rack housing. The rack housing is the metal casing that houses the power steering rack.
- Inspect the rack housing for any cracks or damage.
- If there is no damage, you can proceed to the next step, cleaning the rack housing.
- You can use a rag soaked in degreaser or brake cleaner to clean the rack housing.
Install Bushings to Housing:
Once the rack housing is clean, you can then proceed to the next step of installing bushings to the housing.
- You’ll need to use a bushing installation tool to install the bushings.
- To use the bushing installation tool, insert it into the housing and twist it clockwise.
- This will force the bushing to expand and grip the housing inside.
Install Cylinder and Stopper:
Now it’s time to install the fluid cylinder and stopper.
- To do this, screw the cylinder into the housing until it is hand-tight.
- Next, take the stopper and place it on the top of the cylinder.
- Once the stopper is in place, use a hammer to tap it into place lightly.
Perform Vacuum Air Test:
Once the fluid cylinder and stopper are installed, you can proceed to the final step, performing a vacuum air test.
- To do this, you’ll need to attach a vacuum pump to the power steering rack.
- Once the vacuum pump is connected, turn it on and let it run for about 15 minutes.
- This will allow the pump to remove any air from the system.
- After the 15 minutes have elapsed, turn off the vacuum pump and check the power steering fluid level.
- If the fluid level is low, add more fluid until it reaches the full line.
Install the Power Rack:
Next, take the new power steering rack and place it into position.
- Once the rack is in position, you can then proceed to bolt it into place.
- Be sure to use new bolts when installing the power steering rack.
- Finally, once the rack is bolted, you can reconnect the hoses and lines.
- Start the engine and check for leaks. If there are no leaks, your power steering rack is installed correctly!
Power Steering Fluid Leak Fixing Cost
The average cost to fix a power steering fluid leak is between $200 and $400. The exact cost will depend on the severity of the leak, your vehicle’s make and model, and your mechanic’s labor costs.
If you have a small leak, you may be able to get it by topping off your power steering fluid once in a while. However, if you have a larger leak, getting it fixed as soon as possible is important to avoid damage to your power steering system.
As discussed earlier, power steering fluid may leak from boots, hoses, pumps, or racks. Now, if you only need to replace a pressure hose, it would cost you around $100 to $200.
And if you need to replace any of the other parts mentioned above, the cost could be much higher, depending on the car’s make and model. For example, a new power steering rack for a Honda Civic could cost more than $1,000.
So, if you’re experiencing a power steering fluid leak, it’s best to take your car to a mechanic and have them diagnose the problem. They can then give you an estimate for the repairs that need to be made.
A power steering fluid leak is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. If left unrepaired, a power steering fluid leak can cause extensive damage to your vehicle’s steering system. In some cases, a power steering fluid leak can even lead to a complete loss of steering control.
There are several symptoms of a power steering fluid leak, including low fluid levels, hard steering, and fluid puddles in your driveway.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a power steering fluid leak, take your car to a mechanic and have them diagnose the problem. They can then give you an estimate for the repairs that need to be made.
We hope this guide has been helpful in diagnosing and repairing your power steering fluid leak. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re always happy to help!
Frequently Asked Question
Is it safe to drive with a leaking power steering fluid?
It is not safe to drive with a leaking power steering fluid. Power steering fluid is a vital fluid for the power steering system to function properly.
If there is a leak in the system, it can lead to problems with the steering of your vehicle. This can be especially dangerous if you are driving at high speeds.
Some of the most common consequences of a power steering fluid leak include:
1. Erratic Steering Response – As your power steering system loses fluid, it will become less responsive. This can make driving your vehicle very difficult and can even lead to accidents.
2. Damage to Steering Components – The lack of lubrication caused by a power steering fluid leak can damage various components in your vehicle’s steering system. This damage can be expensive to repair.
3. Reduced Fuel Economy – A power steering fluid leak will cause your steering pump to work harder, using more fuel.
4. Environmental Concerns – Power steering fluid is an environmental hazard. If you have a power steering fluid leak, it is important to have it repaired immediately to prevent further damage to the environment.
What is a power steering stop leak? Is it any good?
A power steering stop leak is a product that is designed to seal leaks in your power steering system. There are many different brands and formulas of stop leaks on the market, so it is important to research before purchasing one.
Many believe that stop leaks can cause more harm than good. This is because they can clog up your power steering system and cause damage to the pump.
But, if you use a stop leak that is designed for your specific vehicle, it can be an effective way to seal small leaks. Be sure to follow the directions on the product carefully, and always check with your mechanic before using a stop leak product.
How long can you drive with a power steering system leak?
You might still be able to drive your vehicle with a power steering fluid leak for a few thousand miles. Since, for an extended period, you would only experience a loss of power assist, you would still be able to turn your wheel.
But remember that driving with a power steering fluid leak can cause damage to your vehicle’s steering system. It is best to have the leak fixed as soon as possible.
Can you fix a power steering fluid leak yourself?
In some cases, you might be able to fix a power steering fluid leak yourself. If the leak is small and you can identify where it is coming from, you might be able to replace the damaged part or seal the leak with a stop leak.
However, if the leak is large or you are unsure where it is coming from, it is best to take the car to a mechanic. They will be able to diagnose and fix the problem.
How often should you check the power steering fluid level?
You should check the power steering fluid level every time you get an oil change. This is because power steering fluid can break down over time and cause problems in your entire power steering system. If you notice that your power steering fluid level is low, add more fluid to the system.
How long does it take to fix a power steering fluid leak?
The time it takes to fix a power steering fluid leak will vary depending on the size of the leak and the location.
If the leak is small and you can identify where it is coming from, you might be able to replace the damaged part or seal the leak with a stop leak product.
However, if you are dealing with a more serious problem, it will take at least 3 to 5 hours to fix.