Down In The Pumps: Recognising, Repairing And Replacing A Faulty Power Steering Pump
In days of yore, power steering was a luxurious optional extra reserved for heavy goods vehicles and luxury cars; however, with the average car becoming heavier year on year, and the maneuverability required ot navigate increasingly crowded urban roads becoming ever more demanding, power steering is now fitted to all but the most lightweight vehicles. Without it, a modern vehicle laden down with heavy equipment and safety features can be a nightmare to turn properly, so keeping your power steering system in good working order is essential.
One of the most important components in a power steering system is its pump, which pumps the power steering's hydraulic fluid supply to where it is needed when you turn the steering wheel. A power steering system with a failed pump is next to useless, and there are a number of characteristic symptoms of a failing power steering pump that all motorists should be aware of.
What are the common symptoms of a faulty power steering pump?
Naturally, the most obvious symptom of a failing power steering pump is failure of the steering system as a whole, and if your vehicle's steering suddenly becomes much stiffer than usual your pump may be the culprit. However, this symptom can be caused by a host of other problems, from fluid leaks to slipped drive belts, so you should look for other symptoms of pump failure to corroborate your suspicions.
High pitched noises
A squealing or whining noise emitted when you turn your steering wheel can be another symptom of pump failure, especially if they are accompanied by similar squealing for a few seconds or minutes after you turn on your vehicle's engine. These noises can also be caused by worn drive belts or fluid leaks within your system, so be sure to rule these out before deciding to work on your pump.
Grinding noises from the steering column
A low, grinding noises emitted from inside or near your steering column is a more definite sign of pump failure. This is caused by the pump's impeller (which is responsible for pressuring the pump's fluid supply) becoming worn and grinding against the edges of its housing, or by the impeller's bearings becoming similarly worn out. In these cases, the pump ma well be beond repair and will have to be replaced.
Erratic power steering performance
If your pump has failed due to a a problem with bad electrical contacts or damaged wiring, it may function intermittently as you drive, causing your power steering system to activate and deactivate suddenly and unpredictably. As you can imagine, this can be a very dangerous problem (especially at high speeds), and you should take your vehicle in for inspection and repairs as soon as this occurs.
How can I repair or replace my faulty power steering pump?
As you can see, the symptoms of a faulty power steering pump can be somewhat ambiguous, and it can be hard to tell if they are caused by a bad pump or a simpler, more easily solved problem such as a slipping drive belt or leaking hose.
If you have the right experience and diagnosis tools you can attempt to repair your power steering system yourself, but the safer option is taking your vehicle to a power steering repair and service specialist. They will be able to determine the root cause of your power steering problems quickly and accurately; if the pump is truly to blame, they will be able to repair it, or replace it entirely with stock or aftermarket parts if your pump has become damaged beyond repair.