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Why You Need to Act If You Suspect Power-Steering Problems

If you drive an older car, you may be used to the odd, strange noise here or there and simply get on with driving. However, some of these unusual noises should warrant your attention, as they can lead to very significant problems. If you notice a "whining" noise when you turn the steering wheel, what could this be, and what should you do?

Identifying the Likely Cause

Usually, the whining noise coming from underneath the bonnet when you turn the steering wheel is an indication of problems with the power steering. Specifically, the issue can often be low fluid levels in the system causing the pump to work overtime and thus generate the noise.

Knowing What to Look For

The next thing that you should do is have a look underneath the car, starting on the driver's side at the front. Have a look where the steering rack meets the arm connected to the wheel. There is a rubber boot here, and you may notice evidence of fluid leaking from this location. Again on the driver's side, look for evidence of leakage from the pump, which is located between the area you were just checking and the passenger compartment itself. You will find that power-steering fluid is an orange to brown colour and has a distinctive "burnt" smell.

Whenever you notice a leakage, it's time to take action. If you see fluid leaking from the rubber boot on the end of the steering rack, this could indicate an internal failure, and you may have to replace the entire rack. If, on the other hand, the leakage appears to be coming from underneath the power-steering pump, then you may be able to get away with replacing the seals.

Preparing for Bigger Problems Ahead

It's never a good idea to ignore potential issues with your power steering, as if the fluid level goes low enough the issue could cause the entire system to lock up. This is a very dangerous situation if you happen to be driving around a corner at speed. Also, the issue could cause the belt that connects your alternator, water pump and other components to your engine to break. If this should happen, then there is potential for even more damage.

Take your vehicle into a mechanic as soon as possible once you suspect that there is an issue. Once the leak is sealed, you will need to have all the fluid replaced as a precaution.