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All vehicles make noise, but some are more serious than others. If you’re hearing a noise when you turn the steering wheel, you either have an animal stuck in your wheel well—sorry, Thumper—, or there’s something going on with the power steering pump. For your sake and that rabbit’s, we hope it’s the latter situation.

When the power steering pump starts making noise, it’s usually related to low power steering fluid, but that may not be the only cause. It’s important not to ignore what you’re hearing because a failing power steering pump can be a bigger hassle than it seems. Turning the steering wheel will become harder, but you’ll also have to contend with leaks and damage to other parts of the system if you ignore the problem.

Let’s take a look at what makes power steering pumps tick, and how you can start diagnosing issues as they pop up. Buckle up as Car Bibles shows you the way.

How Does a Power Steering Pump Work?

The power steering system uses hydraulic pressure to multiply the steering effort that the driver puts into the steering wheel. As such, the power steering pump is driven by the vehicle’s engine and provides the pressure needed for the system to operate.

What’s the Difference Between Power Steering Pump and Power Steering Box?

Whereas the power steering pump provides the hydraulic pressure needed to help turn the steering wheel, the power steering box is the component that translates that wheel movement into lateral movement for the vehicle’s wheels.

Power Steering Pump Symptoms, Causes, Issues 

One of the most common causes of noises and power steering issues is a low fluid level. Since the system relies on hydraulic pressure to do its job, there has to be enough fluid circulating to get things moving properly. 

Power steering fluid can also “wear out” over time, and lose some of the chemical properties that help it move through the system. Another common problem is air in the lines. If there are bubbles trapped in the pump or lines, it can cause the pump to make noise as if it were failing.

Car Bible’s Glossary for Power Steering Pump

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  • Rack and Pinion

Rack and pinion steering systems are comprised of a circular gear that engages with a linear gear. The circular gear, or pinion, is turned, which moves the linear gear to turn the vehicle’s wheels.

  • Power Steering Fluid

Power steering systems use hydraulic pressure to move its components. The power steering fluid is the liquid that provides that pressure as it moves through the system.

  • Flow Restrictor

In some cases, there may be an option to slow the flow of power steering fluid, which increases the steering effort needed to turn the wheels. These devices are called flow restrictors and can be used when the system is too aggressive in its steering assistance.

Your Questions, Our Answers on Power Steering Pump

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!

Q: Can I Drive Without Power Steering?

A: You can, but you’ll have a harder time turning the steering wheel, especially at low speeds. Driving a vehicle with a damaged power steering pump can also cause further damage to the power steering system, such as leaks.

Q: Can I Just Add Power Steering Fluid?

A: Yes. If you notice that the fluid level is low, add enough power steering fluid to the reservoir to bring it up to the recommended fill line.

Q: Is It Normal For Power Steering Fluid To Run Low?

A: In a perfect world, the power steering system is a closed-loop, so no fluid can escape. Over time, the fluid can get dirty and thin out, so leaks can occur in even the best systems. If you’re noticing that you need to refill the reservoir frequently, it’s best to ask a mechanic to find the leak so that there is no unintentional damage done to the system.

Video on Power Steering Pump

Car Bible’s Favorite Power Steering Pump Related Products

Finding the right products for your vehicle’s power steering system can be hard. That’s why Car Bibles’ editors have selected a handful of products that are affordable, well-reviewed, and useful. Our favorites include Prestone Power Steering Fluid, Bar’s Leaks Power Steering Repair, and the Detroit Axle Complete Power Steering System.

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