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Pinpointing A Power Steering Fluid Leak

power steering fluid leak

Ahh, yes, a power steering fluid leak. Nothing irritates a petrol head more than when your pride and joy develops minor incontinence. (Unless you are a fan of air-cooled VW’s from the mid last century that is.) The more pedantic among us will agonize over a tiny amount of oil that seeps from the rocker cover gasket. Perhaps you’ve made your new year’s resolution a zero-drip policy? Not all oil leaks originate from the engine. The gearbox, differential and power steering system can be worthy contributors to the soup underneath your vehicle. Older power steering systems will leak fluid here and there.

It is fair to warn you that your vehicle might not have a hydraulic power steering system at all. Yeap, after about 2005 manufacturers started switching to electrical power steering systems. The best way to tell if your car is one of these newer ilk – check if there is a power steering fluid reservoir under the hood. If not – you probably have electrical power steering, and this guide isn’t for you. So, you’ve ascertained that you have a hydraulic system. You suspect that it has a leak. How can you be sure?

Fluid Level in Reservoir

We’ve already discussed how to locate the ubiquitous fluid reservoir. The next step is to open that sucker up. If there is no visible fluid inside it, you have a surefire leak. Most of these puppies have a dipstick or some kind of way to gauge the fluid level in the tank. (French cars have two prongs that stick out of the fluid when the level is low). Take a reading of the level and check it every day for a week. You must use the vehicle, only when the motor is running does the pump circulate fluid through the whole system. If you see the level dropping; you’ve got a slow leak. Remember to cap off the reservoir tightly as the fluid expands when warm. It could overflow the reservoir if it isn’t closed.

Visible Leak Under Vehicle

So, it’s easy to see if your car is leaking oil, the problem is telling what oil it is leaking. The best way to check this at home is to stick a piece of cardboard underneath the car overnight. Then put on some gloves and take a look at the marks on the cardboard. Engine oil will usually be darker than transmission or power steering. Transmission oil is usually light colored and smells like roasted nuts or aniseed. Power steering fluid is often red and more viscous than the other two. A power steering leak will often occur on the ends of the power steering rack. This means it will be closer to the road wheels of the car than in the middle of the underside.

Of course, the ultimate way to check for leaks is to pop in to your favorite auto mechanic and let us put your pride and joy on the lift. It is much easier to pinpoint leaks with the vehicle in the air.

Power Steering Pump Fluid Leak

If you haven’t spotted a leak, one of the tell-tale signs that there is a problem with the power steering system is pump whine. With the motor ticking over, turn the steering wheel a couple of turns left and right. If you hear a loud pitchy mewling sound from the hood the pump could be low on fluid. The pump is easy to locate as it will be run of the fan belt. It will also most likely have a pipe out of it leading to the reservoir. Check the fittings and seals on the pump for leaking or sweating as well as the hoses leading out of it.

Get Your Power Steering Fluid Leak Fixed

Once you’ve pinpointed the leak, replacing the defective part or else having parts of the system rebuilt is quite easy. The best kind of problem is a non-existent one and prevention is always better than cure. The easiest way to get the most out of your power steering is to get it serviced. We recommend a minimum of once every two years to get the system checked and the fluid changed.

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