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What to Do If Your Power Steering Goes Out: A Driver’s Guide

Published Sat October 13, 2018


Isn’t it great how effortlessly we can maneuver our cars around corners, thanks to the magic of power steering? But imagine you’re driving, and suddenly, the steering wheel feels as stubborn as a mule. Soon after, you realize your power steering went out. Now what?


Before we delve into what to do if the power steering goes out, it’s worth examining the background of this modern navigation technology. What we think of as an innovative turning system actually goes back to the 1920s when the wheel was linked to a hydraulic system to ease the physical burden of maneuvering a large, heavy automobile. Without this steering system in place, turning a vehicle would be exceedingly difficult—and the larger the vehicle, the harder it is to turn the steering wheel without some sort of hydraulic aid.


However, the technology that allows you to steer your car is relatively simple, coming down to a few simple components. A pump maintains pressure in the hydraulic system, using fluid to control the motion of the valves and pistons—in turn, making the wheel turn with less effort. Essentially, these hydraulics take the pressure off of your gears and internal mechanisms. So when you turn the steering wheel, the hydraulics do most of the work for you.


Your Power Steering Went Out! Now What? 


While no one wants to face such a situation, being informed about the signs of an impending power steering failure can help:


  • Whining or Squealing Noise: A common sign of a power steering problem is a whining or squealing noise when turning the wheel. This sound often indicates that the pump may be wearing out.
  • Vibrations While Steering: If the wheel vibrates or feels rough as you turn, especially at low speeds, it might be a warning of issues with the power steering pump.
  • Stiff Wheel: A noticeable increase in the effort required to turn the steering wheel directly indicates potential power steering trouble.
  • Red Fluid Underneath the Car: If your vehicle has been sitting for a long time and you see a puddle of pink or amber liquid beneath it, that’s probably the steering fluid. This warning sign also means you have a leak that needs fixing.

Knowing what to look out for and what happens when the power steering pump goes out can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a significant issue.


What Causes the Power Steering to Go Out


If a problem exists with this hydraulic system, you’ll know it. Simply turning the steering wheel will take a lot more physical exertion than you’re used to, and driving the car may actually leave you sore. 


The question is, what causes the power steering to go out? And what can you do about it?


The simplest solution is that the vehicle has run out of fluid, possibly due to a leak or failure to replace the liquid properly. A more serious problem is that the pump itself is failing—although this is not necessarily a common issue, it can happen in older vehicles. What happens when the power steering pump goes out is similar to the effects of running out of fluid, making it very hard to steer.


Additionally, the fluid can become contaminated as parts of the hydraulic system start to corrode due to simple wear and tear. The best way to prevent these issues is to take good care of your system, which includes checking the fluid regularly and flushing it every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you take your car in for regular servicing, maintenance shouldn’t be an issue. 


Bring Your Car to Meineke for Reliable Power Steering Service 


Caught wondering what to do if your power steering goes out? Stay ahead of car troubles by entrusting your vehicle to the experts. We recommend bringing your vehicle to your local Meineke Car Care Center. Our skilled professionals know the ins and outs of power steering and chassis issues and will ensure your car steers smoothly once again. 


Don’t compromise your safety on the road—choose Meineke for top-notch power steering service!