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Car Care Advice

4 Power Steering Pump Symptoms You Should Know (&What Causes Them)

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Your power steering pump is responsible for circulating power steering fluid to your steering wheel. This makes turning your steering wheel so much easier while you’re on the road. 

However, if you have a bad power steering pump and continue driving, you’re in for a serious workout!

In this article, we’ll go over what a power steering pump is, what are the bad power steering pump symptoms you should keep an eye out for, and the causes of power steering failure.

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Let’s begin.

What Is A Power Steering Pump?

The power steering pump circulates and pressurizes the power steering fluid. This pressurized hydraulic fluid goes through a hose to the steering gear, which helps turn your steering wheel.

As your steering wheel turns, another return hose sends the fluid back to the pump, so it’s used again. This process happens continuously while your engine runs, allowing you to expend less effort turning your steering wheel.

Before power-assisted steering, cars utilized an electrically powered steering rack. An electric steering rack slightly helped turn the steering wheel, but not nearly as much as power-assisted steering systems do today. 

There may come a day when your car has no steering wheel at all. But until that happens, let’s find out how you can tell that you have a damaged power steering pump.

4 Faulty Power Steering Pump Symptoms

Here are four common power steering pump symptoms that will help you know if you need a pump replacement:

1. Steering Problems

If turning your steering wheel becomes noticeably difficult while your engine is running, you may have a damaged power steering pump. This is one of the most obvious signs of power steering failure. 

You might notice your wheels having to “catch up” with your turning motion, and this could become dangerous as the car isn’t responding as quickly to you as it should. 

2. Power Steering Fluid Leak 

If you have a bad power steering pump, you may notice puddles of reddish brown fluid under your car, dripping from your power steering fluid reservoir. 

You can check for low power steering fluid levels and see if there’s been a drop. There should be a min and max marker, and the power steering fluid level should sit between them. 

3. Grayish Power Steering Fluid

While you’re checking the power steering fluid levels, take note of the fluid color. Power steering fluid is usually red or pink. However, a damaged power steering pump can allow excess air in and oxidize the fluid, turning it gray. Oxidized power steering fluid won’t work as it should.

Sometimes, there could also be metal flakes in the power steering fluid, from metal wear within a bad pump.

4. A Groaning Or Squealing Noise

Groaning, whining, or squealing noises when turning your wheel or increasing RPMs may indicate something caused your power steering pump to break. 

A groaning noise could be worse than a whining noise because it usually points to insufficient power steering fluid — which then may damage other power steering system parts. Telling your mechanic which sounds you hear can help them narrow down the power steering problem.

Now let’s go over the likely culprits behind a bad power steering pump. 

What Causes A Failing Power Steering Pump?

These are some common causes of a power steering pump failure:

Closing Thoughts

Your power steering pump is a vital part of your power steering system. It makes turning your steering wheel a breeze. Unfortunately, a bad power steering pump will make driving a challenge (the heavier your car is) and could end up doing more damage to other engine parts. 

So what’s the best thing to do?

Reach out to RepairSmith, of course!


We’re an auto repair and maintenance solution with competitive, upfront pricing for all your vehicle repair needs. And the best part is, we’ll come to you!

Contact us today to get a cost estimate, and our ASE-certified technicians will be over to perform a power steering pump replacement job in no time.