Four Signs Your Power Steering Is Failing

Power Steering Basics

Without the assistance of your power steering system, it would be nearly impossible to turn your wheels while driving. Most modern vehicles, including cars, SUVs, and trucks, weigh between 2,500 to 6,000 pounds. Maneuvering that without help would take some serious muscle, which means if your power steering system goes out, you might be stuck on the side of the road, or worse, lose control of your vehicle.
Power Steering Basics​
Your vehicle will have one of three types of power steering systems: hydraulic, electro-hydraulic, or electric.
Hydraulic power steering systems (HPS) run on hydraulic fluid. HPS still holds popularity because of the unique steering feel it provides and the 50 years of refinement; it runs smooth and is familiar. Hydraulic fluid (a.k.a. power steering fluid) provides lubrication and heat protection.
Electro-hydraulic power steering (EHPS) was introduced to bridge the gap between hydraulic and electric; it has electric components but still relies on hydraulic fluid.
Electric power steering (EPS) is the newest and has become increasingly popular in the last 20 years. It is the only one of the three that does not use hydraulic fluid and therefore requires less maintenance.
The way you approach preventive maintenance is dependent on which system you have, but first, let’s look at some signs that may point to power steering system neglect.

Signs of Failure

Power steering warning light

If an orange symbol of a steering wheel and an exclamation mark shows up on your dashboard, it’s signaling that something is wrong with your power steering system. This could be a component failure warning or an indication that your brake fluid is contaminated or leaking.
If you have an electric power steering system, you might see the acronym “EPS,” which stands for electric power steering. Both symbols mean the same thing: check your power steering system for issues.

Fluid underneath your car

Red or light brown (or if your vehicle is European, green) fluid underneath your engine indicates a leak. Leaks are one of the most common issues vehicle owners encounter with power steering systems.

Constant pressure in excessive heat over the lifetime of the vehicle can damage the hoses, pump, and rubber seal or gasket of your system enough to cause a leak. This leads to the failure of your power steering system once lubrication is lost.

A whining, squeaking, or grinding noise

Any sound that might suggest scraping or rubbing together is a sign that your steering fluids’ lubricative properties are wearing off. This could be because of a leak, but also because of contamination. When fluid becomes corrosive, it contains abrasive metal that wreaks havoc on the other components.
Insufficient lubrication causes friction, overheating the power steering system, and leading to total failure when one of the parts breaks down.
If you have electric power steering, whining, squeaking or grinding noises could be a sign that your power steering belt is worn out, which would likely result in a full replacement the EPS system.

Steering wheel issues

The steering wheel is too responsive and jerky. This might be one of the first warning signs that your steering fluid is low or contaminated if you have a hydraulic or electro-hydraulic system.
If your steering wheel is heavy and too hard to turn, your steering fluid reservoir might be empty. There is no lubrication left, and your power steering system has shut down.
When you lose power steering in an EPS system, steering will become harder and a warning light will come on.

Preventive Maintenance

The potential to lose control of your vehicle is serious and may result in harm to you or others. If you are experiencing any of the problems listed above, we highly advise you to discontinue driving and take your car to a professional to get it repaired or serviced as soon as possible.

Power steering service

The BG Power Steering Service clears existing contaminants out of the power steering rack and pinion system, including power steering pumps, lines, and valves. After your system is clean, we put in new power steering fluid with antioxidants and seal conditioners to protect your system.

technician performing power steering service
If you have a hydraulic or electro-hydraulic system we recommend getting a power steering service if:
  • You experience any of the issues listed
  • You have never had the service done and have no knowledge of your car’s history
  • If you have driven more than 30,000 miles

If you are interested in the BG Power Steering Service, use our shop locator to find a BG Products distributor near you.

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