Have you ever tried to turn the steering wheel on your car when the engine is turned off? As you may know, it's very difficult due to the friction between the road surface and the tyre, with all the weight of the car bearing down. When the engine is turned on, however, it's all rather easy, until problems arise with the equipment. How can you tell if there is something wrong with your power steering, and what can you do?
Making Life Easier
In the old days and before the advent of PAS technology, you'd have to fight with the steering to try and move the vehicle in a tight space, and for many people, this would be difficult to do. Consequently, engineers designed a power-assisted steering component, which relies on hydraulic fluid to boost the input of the driver. It's relatively simple technology, where fluid is forced through channels by a central pump in order to magnify the work of the steering rack. Usually, any issues can be traced to that pump, and this is where you should focus your attention.
Sometimes, the hydraulic fluid will leak through faulty seals, and when its level is low, you will begin to hear some strange whining, groaning or squealing sounds that appear to emanate from below your feet. This is the steering pump, which is trying to perform its work without proper lubrication. As this happens, the steering will become a lot 'heavier', and you may have to turn the wheel more than you are used to in order to execute the manoeuvre.
As the situation deteriorates even further, you may even feel a strong vibration through the steering wheel. Within the steering pump is a central bearing, and as this starts to fail, the pump will gyrate. As it moves out of position and vibrates even further, this will travel all the way up the steering column and into the passenger compartment.
If you know where to look, check the consistency and colour of the power steering fluid. When it's in good condition, it should be an orange or red colour, but if it has deteriorated to a dark brown or grey hue and you can see tiny flakes of metal or chrome, you will have a definitive answer.
Taking Prompt Action
Take your vehicle in to get the pump replaced as soon as possible, as otherwise it may fail altogether, and you will have difficulty in steering the vehicle.