Technology has made it much easier for the average motorist to drive their car, especially when it comes to steering operation. After all, it's possible to turn the steering wheel with just one finger in some circumstances, making the stern challenge of a parallel park so much easier. Yet, the power steering system relies on a number of crucial parts, and none more important than the pump. What can happen if this part starts to malfunction, and how will you know that problems are ahead?
Understanding How Things Work
The power steering pump is connected to the engine's drive belt and contains a simple impeller designed to run at high speed. As it does so, it will force hydraulic fluid through a network of pipes and toward a piston that is mounted within the steering rack. As the driver turns the wheel to the left or right, this will force the fluid through a pipe on either one side of the piston or the other. Consequently, this will allow pressure to build up and cause the piston to move, turning the steering rack in the direction of intended travel.
Pointing To Problems
When problems arise with power steering, they can almost always be traced to the pipes that connect the pump to the rack or the pump itself. The pipes have to be flexible so they can be connected at both ends while avoiding the hardware in between. They are made from reinforced materials, but as they are in vulnerable areas, they could be prone to external damage.
Dealing With Degradation
The pump should also last a long time, but it is a mechanical device and may begin to degrade. Some of the seals or o-rings that keep the fluid in place could start to fail, allowing the lubricant to escape. Without any lubricant in place, the pump can overheat very quickly. The motor will burn out when temperatures reach a certain point, and you would then find it very hard to turn the wheel in any circumstances.
Listening For Issues
Before you get to that point, you should hear strange sounds from underneath the bonnet. The impeller within the pump may start to whine, especially when you attempt to turn the steering wheel. It's a very specific sound, and if you hear it when trying to manoeuvre, you will immediately know what's going on.
Getting A Suitable Replacement
It's impossible to repair the power steering pump, so you will need to replace it. Always ensure that you get the highest quality component, and you should avoid any significant problems for some time.