How to Diagnose a Bad Power Steering Pump - Bernardi Parts Honda
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How to Diagnose a Bad Power Steering Pump

Honda Steering Wheel

Anyone who has had their power steering pump fail, or who has driven what must be a souvenir—a car without power steering—will know instantly the difference in control the safety system provides. Without power steering, turning the wheel can be a real workout; with power steering, it’s nearly effortless to guide all 2 tons-plus of a brand new 2021 Honda Pilot.

A functioning power steering pump is key to being in full control of your vehicle. As with many other parts and systems of your vehicle, however, over time a power steering pump can start to fail. Left undiagnosed and uncorrected, that can leave you with a vehicle that is unsafe to drive.

Here are some tips to help you identify potential problems with your power steering pump before it fails, and a checklist of symptoms you can monitor and share with your trusted mechanic.

Honda Power Steering

How a Power Steering System Works

The power steering pump is part of your car’s hydraulic power steering system. The system allows you to easily turn your vehicle’s wheels.

It works by using hydraulic pressure to multiply the force you apply when you turn your steering wheel. That force is used to rotate the steering column and, ultimately, the steering rack. The steering rack connects to your vehicle’s wheels.

Within this system, the power steering pump sends pressurized fluid from the power steering fluid reservoir through a high pressure-rated hose to the steering rack. The pressurized fluid is pumped against a hydraulic piston, which helps move the vehicle’s wheels in the desired direction. The flow of pressurized fluid is controlled by a belt that’s powered by your vehicle’s engine—so, the rate of flow of pressurized fluid is dependent on the RPMs of your engine.

Symptoms of a Bad Power Steering Pump

That’s how your car’s power steering system works. Here’s how to identify a failing power steering pump.

  • Vehicle Squeals When Started. The most common symptom also is one of the easiest to check for. If you hear a high-pitched squeal after you start your car, it can mean that a failing power steering pump is causing the serpentine belt to slip.

  • Stiff Steering Wheel. A steering wheel that becomes stiff, heavy, and slow to respond is a sure sign of a failing power steering pump. It also can be a real source of danger to yourself and other drivers if not quickly addressed.

  • Whining Noise When Turning. In certain types of failure, a bad power steering pump will create a whining noise when you turn your car’s steering wheel. This typically occurs when the pressurized fluid is low (which probably means you should also read the next bullet); as with engine oil, brake fluid, or transmission fluid, leaving the reservoir low could cause additional damage to the power steering pump and related parts.

  • Fluid Leaks. The high-pressure hose running from the power steering pump can develop leaks, and a leak will cause the pressurized fluid level to drop. Identifying leaked fluid as power steering fluid, and not engine oil or any other fluid, can be tricky. Power steering fluid is similarly as slick as engine oil but somewhat thinner, and can be easily mistaken for brake fluid. If you notice a leak in combination with any of the other symptoms listed, that can help you and your mechanic identify the problem part.

  • Groaning Noise. As with knee and back pain, groaning noises are a sign that something’s gone truly wrong. Groaning will usually come after the squeals and whining noted above, and might mean that your power steering pump has passed the point of no return. If you have stiff or unresponsive steering and hear a groaning noise when you turn your steering wheel, we suggest you take your car to a mechanic before any additional damage occurs.

Replacing your Bad Power Steering Pump

Once you and your mechanic have identified a bad power steering pump as the cause of your car’s various squeals, whines, and leaks, the next step is replacing the faulty part before it can cause any cascading damage to other parts in your car’s power steering system.

When you shop with Bernardi Parts, you get genuine OEM parts at a great price, and with free shipping! To find the right parts for your Honda, click here to open a new tab and follow along with the video below to select your year, model, and trim package. Once you’ve selected your vehicle, you’ll can find power steering pumps and related parts in the Engine section.

For more information, please send us a message or give us a call at 800-924-1884.
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