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Power Steering Problems: How To Eliminate Them

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Power Steering Problems: How To Eliminate Them

JD Durham (SubmitYOURArticle.com)
May 14, 2011


Copyright (c) 2011 JD Durham

Most everything we do centers around maintenance of some kind. When we discuss health the discussion usually centers on eating right, exercising, and controlling our intake of alcohol, etc. When we discuss home maintenance we think cut the grass, rake the leaves, painting or that ever annoying "honey do list". Your automobile is no different, it needs maintenance too.

When it comes to the power steering you can choose whether to believe those that advocate zero maintenance because their 1978 Olds Cutlass did not require it or some other reason. Or you can choose to think about facts like automobiles have changed and how to eliminate or at the very least mitigate the costs of repair.

In the automotive industry we have always had one enemy that is constant. That enemy is heat. Let's compare that 1978 Olds Cutlass to today's automobiles in the terms of heat and its effects on power steering.

The 1978 Olds Cutlass has a worm gear design steering gearbox made of cast iron and mounted out front on the chassis (frame) away from the engine in the cool airflow for maximum cooling of the fluid and the box.

Today's automobiles are smaller and have less air flow thus more heat in a smaller space. The steering is a rack and pinion design made of aluminum or sheet steel is usually mounted near the firewall, just above the exhaust where the heat from the engine and the exhaust both thermally conduct into the rack and pinion and the fluid.

The fluid rarely gets enough cooling because of this and tends to break down. Yes it still performs the service of a hydraulic fluid, but it does not retain its protective, cleaning and lubricating qualities. This break down of the fluid starts damaging components like the seals and the aluminum of the rack and pinion.

When the breakdown becomes severe enough the aluminum particles start flaking away from the rack and pinion and turn the fluid almost black. The fluid becomes abrasive enough to physically destroy the components, and retain heat which makes the nylon seals in the rack so hard that they start cutting grooves into the aluminum components.

If you choose to believe the zero maintenance philosophy and are lucky enough what happens is a pressure line fails and leaks slowly, you loose power assist. Then you have the automobile repaired. The fluid gets replaced with the new hose. If you are unlucky, you also loose the power steering pump, the accessory belt, and maybe damage the rack and pinion. This is quite costly and time consuming to repair.

If you choose the philosophy of maintenance you can lessen the possibilities of this happening by inspecting the accessory belt and tensioner, replace as necessary and change or flush the power steering fluid. If you are uncomfortable with performing the maintenance then take the automobile to your professional for service. There is a machine that was built to flush the fluid, but you really do not have to have one.

JD Durham is a World Class Technician, an Automotive Hall of Fame honoree with 45 years experience in the automotive service and repair industry. He is a staff writer at http://straighttalkautomotive.com where you can find other articles tools and information to help you with maintaining your vehicle.

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