Power Steering Basics

Power Steering Basics

Power Steering Basics

Power Steering


Power steering is specifically designed to help driver's steer more efficiently and with far less effort than they would have to use without it. What power steering basically does is use power (either thru the hydraulics system or thru electricity) to assist the driver when he steers the car.  


How Power Steering Works


Earlier models of the power steering system uses a hydraulic system that aids the driver when he steers his car. The typical power steering hydraulic setup includes:

 1.  A sensor that is placed at the steering wheel in order to detect the force or torque the driver use when steering the wheel. When the sensors feel this torque, the system provides assistance to the driver as he steers.


To describe this more technically, this is also called the rotary valve and the way that it senses the torque is thru the torsion valve. The top of the bar is connected to the steering wheel while the bottom is connected to the pinion; the more torque the driver exerts to turn the wheel, the more the torsion bar twists.


  2. A pump, which is activated by the car's engine, using a pulley and a belt. It has retractable vanes that manage the flow of hydraulic fluid and regulate the pressure of the incoming fluid, depending on how much force the driver is exerting on the steering wheel.  


Then you have a collection of valves that push the high-pressure fluid via hoses or metal tubes to either side of the steering mechanism, depending on how the steering wheel has been turned.


Cars today use an electronic power steering system that works pretty much the same way as the hydraulic system described above. The only difference is that electronic systems are placed either on the steering rack itself or closer to the steering wheel mechanism, and assist the driver once the electronic system senses the movement on the steering wheel.


Power Steering and Car Handling


Power steering provides an easy feel when driving or steering, so a driver may not always have what is commonly referred to as “road feel”.  


Related to this is a phenomenon that is called “dead spot.” When there is a slight turn of the steering wheel, you might not feel as if the car is actually turning or the turning feels sluggish. In high performance cars, the feedback is more accurate, but there is also a twitchiness that comes with it. On the other hand, luxury sedans have a more “sluggish” feeling but without the twitchiness that comes with less assisted steering.


Power Steering Failure


What if the power steering fails completely? Without the power steering system, the car becomes very difficult to control and steer. The entire system was designed in the overall steering mechanism, so a fluid loss, or a pump failure (if hydraulics), or loss of power due to engine failure or to the electronic system alone, could greatly impact how your power steering works and how hard it might become to steer the car if the power steering fails.


Signs Your Power Steering Might Be Failing


Here are some signs that your power steering mechanism might be failing.


  • Whining or Squealing Noise. Listen for noises when you try to turn the wheel. If there is a whining or squealing noise, that may indicate that your power steering fluid is low.


  • Possible Leaks. When your car is idle, check for leaks as this may possibly indicate that your car’s power steering rack may have a leak, thus, also causing the power steering liquid to be low. If you spot drips and the color of the liquid is red, amber, or pink, then this may indicate a leak in the power steering rack.


  • Wheels Difficult to Turn. If you feel that it’s taking too much effort to steer the wheel, this is also an indicator that your power steering may be failing. Possible causes could be low power steering fluid, or a leak in the power steering rack, or a damaged power steering belt.


  • Violent Vibrations while car is idling. If you feel violent vibrations in the steering wheel while the car is idle, this can be an indication that the power steering belt is damaged and may need immediate replacement.


What To Do If Your Power Steering Fails While You Are Driving


Even with a well-maintained car, power steering can fail suddenly with no apparent warning. If this happens, don't panic. It doesn't mean that you can no longer steer the car. You can steer it, but it will require more power from you. Slow down gently, and don't floor the brakes. The brakes will probably be just as hard to control, but they do still does work.


Warn other drivers that you’re having difficulty with steering by putting on your hazard lights. Then, ease your car slowly to the side of the road until you can completely stop.


If you think there is a problem with your power steering, bring your car in and we will look into it for you. We are the best car repair in Murrieta. Call us today at 951-461-2507 or schedule online. No matter what you bring your car in for, we always perform a free 30 point inspection.


Tags: hydraulic system, auto repair, power steering, torque, car repair, steering failure, best Murrieta car repair, car mechanic, Murrieta