We usually take our vehicle's easy steering for granted until something goes wrong. Power steering is what makes it almost effortless to turn the steering wheel, aiming your vehicle in the direction you want to go. Without the assistance of power from the engine, steering would be a laborious process, so you want to make sure the system is working well.
Power steering systems are usually one of two types, hydraulic and electric. The hydraulic type uses a pump that is driven by either a belt or an electric motor. This system uses hydraulic fluid to create pressure that gives your steering the power assist. Since that pump is always working, time and distance traveled eventually take their toll, and these systems need to be periodically inspected. Also, while that hydraulic fluid can last for years, it should be replaced periodically as it degrades over time. Your vehicle's owner's manual contains the manufacturer's recommendations.
A technician can check for leaks in the hoses, pump housing or reservoir. Also, the belts should be inspected and so should the pump, as these can fail. Signs of a failing pump are a groaning noise when you turn the steering wheel, stiff steering, squealing noises when you first start your car and puddles of a reddish-brown fluid under your vehicle.
The other type is called EPS, or electric power steering, which is becoming more commonly used in the latest vehicles. It only delivers power assist when you need it and has an electric motor that supplies that steering help. It's more efficient, accurate, compact and clean. And because it has a lot fewer components, it's easier to maintain.
If you have electric power steering, you may notice sometimes it's hard to turn the wheel or your Check Engine light comes on. Sometimes the power assist motor fails or there can be problems with electrical connections. Any time you have symptoms, it's important for your safety and that of drivers around you that you have a technician check them out.
Properly working brakes are essential for the safe operation of any vehicle. Stop! And make sure yours are working properly.
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