Power steering fluid is very important to the function of your car and acts as a lubricant for the power steering system. When power steering fluid leaks from your car, it’s a cause for concern since it makes the car harder to turn.
Power steering fluid can leak from a faulty seal on the power steering pump, the reservoir, the rack and pinion, or loosely connected hoses and old O-rings on the hoses. Old pressure hoses can also cause leaks if they are worn out.
There are a lot of things that can cause you to have difficulty turning, but if you’re noticing a leak of power steering fluid, it’s time to get some repairs done right away before the problem gets any worse. The rest of this article will address where power steering fluid leaks from and what you should do about it.
What Is Power Steering?
Power steering, quite simply, enables you to turn the heavy, fast-moving mechanical machine that is your car more easily. It’s a hydraulic solution that links the steering and the front wheels, which means that the system relies on the steering fluid to pressurize.
In addition, the fluid ensures that various components in the system, including the valve, pump, hoses, and pistons are working properly. To achieve this, the fluid must be made to certain specifications, with particular viscosity, additives, and detergent standards that must be met.
That’s why it’s so important to flush your power steering fluid when it requires replacement, and if your steering fluid is leaking, you’ll notice a significant uptick in difficulty when it comes to turning your car. It is a lubricant, first and foremost, and as such, it reduces corrosion, prevents foaming, and keeps the moving components working optimally.
How to Identify Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid looks like a reddish, pink, or amber liquid. If you notice that your power steering fluid is dark brown and foaming, you should probably have it replaced since it does wear out over time. The reservoir for the power steering fluid can be found under the hood, usually on the passenger side.
You can find it thanks to the white or yellow container, black cap, and “steering fluid” or “power steering” label on top.
Where Does Power Steering Fluid Leak From?
There are two main tells that will let you know when you have a power steering leak. The first is a whining sound emitting from the vehicle every time you try to turn, a phenomenon caused by unlubricated components grating against one another.
Second, and perhaps more obviously, you’ll see a telltale smelly puddle under your vehicle when you park. Remember, this liquid will be a reddish-pink or amber color, and if you spot a power steering fluid leak, you should investigate the root cause immediately.
Time does not heal all wounds when it comes to your power steering, and over the course of a few years, you will likely need to fix a faulty O-ring, seal, pump, or hose within your power steering system. Here are some of the most common issues causing your power steering fluid to leak:
- Worn out O-rings or seals
- Collapsed seals and valves
- Worn out or rusted hoses
- Leaks in the power steering pump
And here are the most common location the leak could be coming from (also see graphic above for illustration of locations):
- Steering case hose connections
- Pump & reservoir hose connections
- Rack drain plug (on some models)
- Rack hose connections
When fluid leaks from any part of the system, the power steering isn’t able to pressurize properly, making it much more difficult to drive. If you drive for a long period of time with a power steering leak, you may wind up damaging the pump and causing a buildup of friction.
How to Fix a Faulty Power Steering Fluid Leak
If you’re not experienced with cars, then it’s still possible to at least inspect your reservoir and have a look under your vehicle for a leaky hose.
To get started, check the fluid level in your power steering fluid reservoir and look for air bubbles. If the fluid levels are really low and you notice air bubbles, then you can definitively confirm that there is a power steering fluid leak somewhere in your system.
Check around the reservoir for any leaks and follow through on the attached hoses to see if you can discern the source of the leak. If you’re able to see the power steering pump, check the exterior for a buildup of moisture. Problems with the pump are usually lengthier repairs and might require replacement parts from your local service shop.
If you have a reddish-pink puddle under your car, check the hoses on the underside of the vehicle to see if there are any that are noticeably leaky. This can be caused by a number of factors, but oftentimes, fluid will leak as the metal starts to corrode.
In the short term, you can use a stop leak product, but most power steering fluid leaks will require special tools for repair that you may not have on hand.
For most car owners, it’s probably best to take your car down to the shop after doing a quick inspection. Repairs will run you anywhere from $500 to $1000, and most issues can be resolved within 2 hours. Generally, problems with the power steering pump will take the longest to fix and might require more expensive replacement parts.
Another added benefit of letting a repair shop handle your power steering fluid leak issues is that they will also usually flush the system, replacing the old power steering fluid with fresh fluid, giving the whole system a fresh restart.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a car, but thankfully, issues in the power steering system are often quite easy to identify from the grinding noise while turning or the reddish-pink liquid leaking from the hoses that transfer power steering fluid through various parts of the system.
If you’re noticing issues with your power steering, open up the hood and check the reservoir to see where your levels are and if you can spot any foaming. Check the underside of the car where you notice the puddle to see if any of the hoses are damaged or loose to get an insight on where the problem lies.
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.