How To Handle Power Steering Failure

August 26, 2021

Most vehicles come equipped with a power steering system in order for drivers to easily steer the vehicle. Failure of this mechanism can happen, but it is usually a gradual process. However, there is a chance that the power steering system can fail suddenly, even with proper maintenance. How can you tell if your power steering system is failing, and what do you do if the system fails while you are driving?

9. Listen

A first indication that your power steering system is starting to go bad is if you hear noises when you turn the wheel. It could sound like whining, moaning or shrieking. This can indicate that the power steering system pump is very low on fluid. It could also mean that the power system pump is failing, causing the belt to slip.

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8. Steering Wheel Becomes Stiff

If the power steering system is working properly, you should be able to turn the wheel with not much effort when you drive around a curve or corner. If it is taking substantial effort to turn the wheel in order to steer the vehicle and it feels very heavy, your power steering system is starting to fail.

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7. Steering Wheel Vibrates

Your drive belt holds the right amount of tension as one part of the power steering system. If the belt slips off the drive train or breaks, it causes the pulley not to work properly. Also, heat can play a role in the deterioration of the drive belt. One way to tell is if your steering jumps or is choppy. Another sign is the steering wheel vibrates violently when your vehicle is idling.


6. Check For Leaks

Fluids leak from vehicles often, but sometimes that is not a good thing. If you notice a stain on the ground under your vehicle, check what type of fluid it is. If it appears amber, pink or red, that could be the power steering fluid. If it is hard to tell the color, especially if your vehicle is sitting on asphalt, place a white sheet under the vehicle and secure it. Leave it under the parked vehicle for a few hours and check the color when you return.


5. Sudden Power Steering System Failure

Power steering systems began in the 1920s, in order to help drivers maneuver large, heavy automobiles using a hydraulic system. Without this system, it would be extremely difficult to move a vehicle in the direction you want it to move. It is a simple system with a few parts, but they play a key role in the movement of the vehicle, and it can be very scary when the system fails suddenly. What should a driver do?


4. Warn Others, Move Off To The Side

The first thing to do is not to panic. Turn on your flashers, which is the button, usually red, with two triangles. If there are vehicles in the way of your path, honk your horn to indicate they should get out of the way, especially if you are driving at a high rate of speed. Then, move off to the side of the road, and be aware it will be very difficult to turn the steering wheel, so give it all your effort.


3. Slow The Vehicle Gradually

Instinct will make you want to slam on the breaks in order to stop. Avoid doing that, as it could through the vehicle into a skid, and it would be nearly impossible to steer the vehicle out of that situation. Your brakes might feel much stiffer without power, if the steering system failed due to the engine stalling. Make sure to use force to push the pedal harder and lower than usual. You might also need to use the friction of a guardrail, gravel shoulder or cement divider to slow down your vehicle, or downshift into a lower gear.

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2. Restart Your Vehicle

If the power steering failed because of your engine stalling, turn your vehicle back on, if possible. Then turn the steering wheel in both directions to see how well it turns. If it luckily turns easily as before the failure, you can pull back on the road and drive normally. You might want to drive to a mechanic to get your vehicle checked. If the wheel is still stiff, call for a tow truck.

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1. Keep Up On Vehicle Maintenance

The best way to prevent power steering system failure, to the best of your abilities, is to take the vehicle in for regular and proper maintenance. Make sure the power steering fluid is changed and topped off in regular intervals and that there are no leaks. You can take it to your local mechanic to get it checked or you can use the above tips to make sure your vehicle is running smoothly.