As a sensible car owner, you know how important it is to take the vehicle in for a regular service to ensure that it lasts as long as possible and does not break down. You know that you need to change the engine and gearbox oil, swap out the filters and check the brakes, but did you know that you should also service the power steering system from time to time? Many car owners overlook this, but is it easy to do, and what are the signs of a problem?
Making Your Life Easier
Decades ago, a vehicle owner would need to be quite strong if they wanted to park their car in a tight space. They'd need to manhandle the steering wheel to turn those tyres and overcome the friction between the wheels and the road surface. Today, a power steering system makes such a job very easy, but the system will need some tender, loving care from time to time, as with many other components.
How It All Works
Usually, a power-assisted steering system features a belt, a pump and an overflow tank. These parts are fitted to the bottom of the steering column, next to the rack and pinion drive. Once you turn the steering wheel in the cab, the pump will activate, and the hydraulic fluid will run through the system, building the pressure and making it a lot easier to turn those wheels.
Passage of Time
Hydraulic fluid is most efficient when it is new, but it will lose its capability as time goes by. It may become contaminated and will not be able to perform as it should, and when this happens, you may notice that it is more difficult to turn the steering wheel. You may also hear a low pitched, humming noise as you apply the turning pressure.
If you do a lot of driving and rack up those kilometres, you should aim to service the power steering system at every major service point. However, this is not so easy to do yourself, so you should seek help from a professional mechanic.
Replacing the Fluid
To replace the hydraulic fluid, you will need to access the expansion tank, which can be challenging to reach. You will also need a special suction device to pull all the fluid out of the system, which can be messy.
Get somebody else to help you to make sure that all of the old fluid is flushed out. To do this, your helper will need to add new fluid to the system while running the engine for short periods. You will need to look at the colour of the fluid as it pumps out into your waste container and then stop the operation when you can see that the new fluid has found its way through.
Scheduling the Work
As you can see, this is a job that is better left to the experts. Talk with your mechanic about a power steering service if it's been some time since you last did so.