Power steering is crucial to controlling your vehicle and keeping it on the road. Power steering fluid is vital to safely driving your car, as the liquid controls all of the power steering components, like the power steering pump, column, hose, rack, and pinion. If you have a power steering leak, you may not be able to turn the wheel with the desired force, leading to increased crash risk.
The main causes of the power steering leak deal with the breakdown of parts and lack of lubrication in your car’s internal systems. As your car ages, rings and seals succumb to excess wear and tear and high temperatures.
Drivers will notice the signs of a power steering leak by taking note of the common symptoms of a faulty steering system, like an uncentered steering wheel, difficulty turning, tight steering, and a failing gearbox.
Paying to fix the power steering leak can range from low prices, like $150 for a new power steering tank replacement, to upward of $1,000 for a new power steering rack and pinion cost.
Let’s find out the purpose of the steering system, the system’s components that work together to control your car, the main symptoms of a faulty system, and the average repair costs drivers need to fix the power steering leak.
What is the steering system?
The steering system in each car made in modern factories is mainly a rack and pinion steering system. This system is composed of various components containing universal joints, main shafts, intermediate shafts, and the steering rack.
This central unit is in charge of the steering direction and the signals from the driver. Without this steering box, the steering wheel would not move. The steering system receives inputs, using the steering wheel and the steering column to send a mechanical signal to the steering shafts to complete smooth, responsive, safe, and efficient turns in both directions.
If you notice a power steering leak in your car, the entire system will not operate correctly, leading to a lack of control of the car while driving.
Steering System Components
There are various components within your power steering system that makes it easier to turn the car and steer the vehicle accurately. The major power steering system components between the steering wheel and the gear generally include the wheel itself, steering column, steering coupler, power steering hoses, power steering pump, and steering gear.
The steering column is the main housing compartment that holds the steering wheel and the shaft in a secure and connected place. The steering coupler is located at the bottom of the shaft, allowing the steering wheel to rotate without getting bound up within the column.
The steering rack is the main focus of the steering system, showing the importance of a steering box in controlling your car. When the box wears out over time, shows damage, or completely breaks over a long time of use, the steering can be compromised and not work properly. If this happens during an inopportune time while you are driving, then this can be quite dangerous.
Power Steering Hose
The hydraulic power steering pressure system needs at least two power steering hoses, with one high-power steering pressure hose and one low-power steering pressure hose. These hoses each deliver fluid to and from the power steering pump and the proper gears, allowing the steering wheel to turn with ease and provide greater control when handling.
If the power steering pressure hose has failed, you will usually notice fluid leaking under the hood or on the ground under the car. If the problem has directly affected the power steering pump, it will make a loud noise and might be difficult to turn the wheel. For most cars, a damaged power steering pressure hose will usually need replacements around every 10,000 miles before any failures occur as long as you follow regular maintenance.
- The average cost for a power steering hose replacement is between $427 and $459, with the labor costs coming between $110 and $140, and the parts cost ranging between $317 and $319. If you notice a power steering leak, chances are you will have to pay for the power steering hose replacement price at your local mechanic.
Power Steering Pump
The power steering pump helps the driver steer and control the car without having to use excessive force.
A power steering pump works by following these steps in order:
- First, a slotted rotor is supported inside of a cylindrical cam. The rotor is sealed into the cam by two side plates. As the cam rotates and the fluid comes inside of the pump and creates hydraulic pressure.
- The housing and the cam then push the fluid into the pump chamber using holes in the cam. The rotor continues rotating, while the vanes are in charge of sweeping the fluid to the opposing side of the crescent.
- Here, the fluid goes through the small holes of the cam, and finally exits via the discharge ports.
Faulty Power Steering Symptoms
To get an idea of if you have a power steering leak, you need to know the signs of a faulty power steering system in your car.
A bad steering column and power steering system are not something you should leave alone. When you notice one of these signs since it can significantly impact your driving ability. Not to mention, this issue can put your passengers at risk and cause further problems in the future that can be much direr than a power steering leak.
Uncentered Steering Wheel
The first sign of a power steering leak is the steering wheel not being centered on your column and the car. When you turn the steering wheel, it is usually supposed to return to the center.
The power steering system recenters the steering wheel after each turn. The wheel’s ability to go back to the center is blocked if the steering column is damaged, indicating a power steering leak.
Sounds from the Steering Column
If you hear noises when you turn the steering wheel, this signifies a power steering leak. These could be sounds like clicking, thumping, or clunking when you turn the wheel. The reason for this is damage to the internal components within the steering column. In most cases, the sounds will get louder as time goes on if you do not find the culprit of the power steering leak.
Most vehicles containing power steering have a tilt function that lets the driver alter the steering wheel’s angle. If the steering tilt malfunction happens, then it is most likely due to a power steering leak.
If your steering wheel is becoming more difficult to turn or feels like it is getting stuck, it shows a potential power steering leak. Usually, turning the wheel is easy and smooth. However, if it is grinding or jumpy, this could mean faulty gears, gaskets, or a power steering leak.
Dirty Steering System
Just like routine maintenance, you need to have your steering system checked periodically according to your mechanic or manual. Since dirt and debris can build up within your system, it could negatively impact your steering column and cause a sticky wheel turn.
If you want to determine if a dirty or debris-filled system is the symptom of a power steering leak, you should have your steering column inspected to determine how much you will pay.
Tight Steering Wheel
If you find that it is harder to turn the steering wheel, this can be due to a buildup of heat, a loss of hydraulic pressure, or a power steering leak. Regardless, this is a problem that needs to be addressed and fixed as soon as possible.
Leaking Power Steering Fluid
Leaking power steering fluid can cause issues to your gearbox and cause tightness in the steering wheel. As noted, sometimes tight steering means low power steering fluid. However, since the steering box is hydraulically powered in most cases, the fluid levels will not get lower unless you have discovered power steering leak.
Once you start to leak power steering fluid from your steering box, this means that there is a larger issue at play. A power steering leak can be a sign of something worse, like a loose-fitting wheel or broken gasket.
A damaged or failing gearbox is generally the result of a lack of proper lubrication. If you do not regularly check the service of the steering box, a grinding noise can occur. The friction causes metal-on-metal contact, creating a loud grinding noise when you turn the steering wheel. Enhanced friction can result from a power steering leak that increases the breakdown of parts.
Burning Oil Smell
The last symptom from a power steering leak that can cause the faulty power steering symptoms is a burning oil smell. As we know, the oil that can leak from the steering wheel and the box is pink or red and has a very strong and distinctive aroma. If the steering fluid itself is leaking, you will smell a strong burnt oil aroma while the steering box is also very hot.
Rubbing Noise While Turning
Shocks and struts are constructed to last a long period of time – however, if there are other faulty parts in your car or you have extreme wear and tear, then you may notice that the shocks and struts have worn down prematurely. If you hear the steering wheel make a rubbing noise while turning, this is a sign that there is a power steering leak and the parts are excessively rubbing against each other.
Power Steering Repair Costs
Power Steering Column
The overall price of a power steering column replacement is going to average anywhere between $450 and $1400 for the mechanic to fix the issue.
Power Steering Pump Repair
The average cost to repair the power steering pump usually averages between $200 and $350, with the new parts costing between $400 and $800 for both the labor and the new power steering pump. Repairing the pump can prevent the power steering leak from harming other internal components of your steering system.
Power Steering Reservoir Tank Replacement
The power steering reservoir tank leak usually comes from the cap and the hose connector, and can also spur from a clog of the filter of the reservoir tank, causing a spill or noise when turning. The average cost to replace a power steering reservoir tank is usually between $150 and $250, depending on the type of vehicle and the accessibility to the reservoir.
Power Steering Pressure Hose Replacement
The power steering pressure hoses usually consist of rubber and are in charge of transporting the power steering fluid to the rack and pinion within the power steering system. The cost to replace with new power steering pressure hoses will be between $100 and $300 for parts, with the labor costs for the replacement being between $80 and $160.
Power Steering Rack and Pinion Repair Cost
The average cost to repair a leak on a steering rack and pinion assembly will usually run between $500 and $1000, which is much more expensive than other parts of the power steering system. However, paying for this repair cost can help you save a power steering leak from getting worse in your vehicle.
The Bottom Line
Paying to fix the power steering leak can range from low prices, like $150 for a new power steering tank replacement, to upward of $1,000 for a new power steering rack and pinion cost. Although drivers may not want to spend the extra money on these repairs, fixing the power steering leak ensures you can effortlessly control your car, reducing the crash risk and keeping you and your occupants safe at all times.