A loss of power steering could be a life-threatening situation. Without it, turning and parking your car will require much more effort than you are accustomed to. Not to mention that driving without power steering for an extended period of time can damage your pump, which is much more expensive to repair. You may ask what to do if you lose power steering. If you are on the road, be prepared to use all of your strength to turn the wheel and come to a complete stop as soon as possible. All these while taking all of the necessary precautions.
If the power steering came as a result of the engine cutting out, you will need to apply more force to the brakes to bring the vehicle to a stop. Also, don't try to drive the car to the service garage if you notice the steering becoming heavier; instead, have it towed to a service garage or have the mechanic come to you. Stop as soon as possible, pull onto the hard shoulder on a highway or to the side of the road on other roads.
The most important thing is not to panic. Honk your horn and flash your headlights to alert other drivers that you're having a problem, then slowly maneuver your vehicle to the road's shoulder. Remember that turning will require much more effort than you are accustomed to, and also remember to apply brakes gradually.
If you slam the brakes you may send your vehicle spinning, without a way to straighten it out because you no longer have power steering. Follow all standard safety precautions, such as using hazard lights and keeping an eye out for traffic, especially if you are on a fast road or stopped in an awkward position.
What To Do If You Lose Power Steering: What is Power Steering?
Chrysler introduced the first power steering system in the early 1950s originally intended for high-end vehicles, but are now found in nearly all modern vehicles. It uses a combination of hydraulic and electrical assistance to reduce the effort required to steer a car's front wheels.
Cars were difficult to turn without power steering. Turning the steering wheel on a heavier car took a lot of strength. Power steering, like most modern innovations, makes steering lighter and easier to use for the driver. Driving can be dangerous, so it's critical that you can react quickly if something serious happens. Power steering makes it a LOT easier to spin the wheel to avoid danger.
When you make a turn in most modern vehicles, the steering wheel returns to a straight position. A power-steering vehicle has a much faster steering wheel return speed. Power steering provides more resistance to bump steer, resulting in greater vehicle stability at high speeds.
Hydraulic power steering is now used in the majority of power steering systems. This system works in a closed loop with pressurized hydraulic fluids that change the angle of the front wheels based on the steering angle. It has a serpentine belt-driven hydraulic pump, valves, a cylinder, a reservoir, and a rack and pinion system. The belt and pulley system redirects fluid from the reservoir to the pump when you turn the steering wheel.
The hydraulic pump will then pressurize the fluid before releasing it to the steering rack. The steering rack is equipped with a piston and cylinder with two openings on either side. When the fluid is released through either of the openings, the piston and steering rack will move in the opposite direction. As a result, the front wheels move smoothly and seamlessly.
Electric Assisted Power Steering
The most recent steering technological advancement is electric assisted power steering (EPS). The concept is to replace the hydraulic assist with a computer-controlled electric motor, which improves fuel efficiency and provides more refined steering and handling.
The electric power steering system is entirely electronic, with four major components: an electric control unit (ECU), an electric motor, a torque sensor, and a reduction gear. The ECU constantly monitors the steering wheel input. Along with the vehicle speed, the ECU monitors the speed, torque, and direction of the steering wheel. This information is processed by the ECU and sent to the electric motor, which moves the steering rack and turns the wheels.
What happens if you lose power steering?
Power steering being an amazing invention became the answer to easy driving. Its hydraulics and electrics are engineered to help whoever is manning the wheels, preventing fatigue and making your drive an altogether more enjoyable experience. You may know what to do if you lose power steering, but you need to know first if you have really lost your power steering.
Steering becomes stiff
If you lose your power steering or have a problem with your hydraulic system, you will definitely notice it because turning your vehicle will suddenly require all of your effort, leaving your muscles sore. If your arms become tired after longer journeys, it is possible that your hydraulic assist is losing power. This is usually caused by fluid issues, such as a loss of pressure or low fluid levels in the vehicle.
What to do if you lose power steering this way? You must check your power steering fluid reservoir before anything else. It is always best to run the car for a few minutes first, as this will allow you to make the most accurate assessment of the actual amount of fluid present in the power steering system. If there is a significant lack of fluid in the system, you should go to the service center because there is a good chance you have a leak.
You can always top up the fluid if you have low fluid levels, but keep in mind that this is only a temporary solution and will not help if you have a leak in the long run. If the fluid levels are satisfactory, the next most likely cause is a loss of hydraulic fluid pressure. Again, this could be due to a leak, but other technical issues such as cracks and small fissures in the hydraulic lines or defective components within your power steering pump wearing out could also exacerbate the situation.
Power Steering Loss Because of Leak
Another item on your list on what to do if you lose power steering is look into a leaking system. This issue is more often observed together with a stiff response of your steering wheel making it harder than usual for you to turn the wheels.
Your vehicle's power steering fluid is not supposed to leak. That is, if you discover a leak, it is the beginning of a potentially much larger problem. A minor power steering leak isn't the end of the world, but once it begins, the leak usually worsens over time. For example, if a leak is caused by a small crack in your hose, if the crack grows larger, you will quickly lose all of your power steering fluid.
When you turn the wheel, you may hear some nasty grinding noises if there is a serious leak and you've lost the majority of the fluid. If you run out of liquid, the pump will burn out completely. And if you hear squealing noises, hurry down to the garage.
So what to do if you lose power steering because of leaks? You must respond quickly and not wait for the problem to get even more serious. Check the power steering fluid levels and monitor for a few days at the first sign of steering stiffness. Look under the car for the telltale sign of a problem, which is red or brown fluid dripping from the system, and it's time to dig deeper.
A fractured or worn out hose causes leaks. But if this is not the problem then look at the connections for loose or damaged clamps. If neither is the issue then it’s time to focus on the power steering pump seal as it could be where the leak can be found.
Lastly, make sure to thoroughly inspect your entire power steering rack, as the leak could be coming from anywhere on this system. Typically, the rack will have problems with the center main seal, causing fluid to leak from the gators on either end, or leaks in the top pinion seal.
Squealing because of drive belt issues
Is there a loud squealing sound coming from underneath your car? If you've checked for leaks, this could be the belt, especially if it happens when you first start the car or when you take sharp turns and bends. The squealing is frequently caused by the drive belt, which may need to be adjusted or, in the worst-case scenario, replaced entirely.
The power steering pump pulley should be checked first. Examine the belt for visible flaws such as cracks or missing pieces. Any signs of wear and tear should be taken seriously because they can quickly become fatal. Replace immediately or risk further complications.
If the belt is only loose and undamaged, you may need to enlist the assistance of a friend. Safely jack up the car and have them turn the wheel while you inspect the belt position. If you hear a whining sound, turn off the car, get out the tools, and tighten or adjust the belt to get it firmly back in place.
Electrical Steering Is Unresponsive
If you have a part hydraulic and part electric system, such as the one found in the popular Mini Cooper's steering pump, problems with the electrical steering could be due to faults in the electrical wiring and circuits in the system. However, if you've ruled out problems with the fluid and hydraulic cables, the electric power steering should be your next suspect if your steering isn't responding properly.
If you have a code reader, it will help you identify the problem; however, if you do not have access to onboard diagnostics or a device scan, check the connections and wires in your fuse box, followed by the battery voltage.
If everything is ok with the wires, connection and battery voltage, reset the system by turning your car on and off again, clearing the buffers and memory in your computer. That could be the jolt to get the system up and running once again. However, if this fault is occurring regularly then resetting will only work for so long before you’ll need to get it checked out professionally.
Is it OK to drive without power steering?
You can drive without power steering but it’s not ok. You may notice that your steering still works, but you will soon regret not going to the service center on a regular basis because the steering wheel will be extremely difficult to turn.
While a power steering fluid leak will not leave you stranded on the side of the road, it will cause your power steering pump to run dry. Because of the increased friction and heat, this can quickly lead to an expensive repair.
Parking and quick steering also become extremely difficult when driving without the power steering. Needless to say that is extremely dangerous so it’s illegal. Not only are you severely limiting the performance of your vehicle, but there is also the issue of liability. Assume you were in an accident while suffering from a power steering leak. If this is discovered, you will almost certainly be sued for negligence. Furthermore, your insurance company will not cover any damages.
So what to do if you lose power steering while driving? As mentioned, the first thing to do is stop driving. Trying to drive without power steering is dangerous to you, other people, and your bank account. It is critical to have your power steering repaired before the damage becomes irreparable.
Early fault diagnosis, as with all of your car's systems, is the best way to prevent problems with individual parts from affecting other associated workings, and the power steering is no exception. Keep an eye out for the following signs to avoid costly repairs and keep your arms from becoming fatigued.