Have you been noticing something off with your car’s steering lately?
And now the “Service Power Steering” warning on your dashboard makes you wonder:
Is my power steering system going to fail?
What should I do next?
Read on as we answer these questions and decode the “Service Power Steering” message in detail.
This Article Contains:
- What Does the Service Power Steering Light Mean?
- 5 Causes Behind the Service Power Steering Light
- What Should You Do if the Service Power Steering Warning Comes Up?
- What Are the Symptoms of a Failing Power Steering?
- How Much Does a Power Steering Service Cost?
- 3 FAQs about Power Steering
Let’s buckle up and get going!
What Does the Service Power Steering Light Mean?
The “Service Power Steering” warning on your car’s dashboard indicates a problem with the power steering system. A yellow, orange, or red steering wheel symbol with an exclamation mark also means the same.
A variety of reasons can trigger this warning light.
5 Causes Behind the Service Power Steering Light
The causes behind a “Service Power Steering” warning depend on which system you have in your car —hydraulic or electric.
Here we’ll cover both:
1. Low Power Steering Fluid Level
In hydraulic power steering systems, the fluid is pressurized using a pump and helps move the power steering rack as the steering wheel turns. However, low fluid levels reduce the hydraulic pressure and the power steering effectiveness, triggering the “Service Power Steering” warning.
Additionally, old fluid contaminated with debris can clog the hydraulic pathways and damage a power steering component, such as the pump or the rotary valve. This can also cause the power steering warning light to come up.
2. Power Steering Belt Issues
The serpentine belt or a V belt transfers power from the engine crankshaft to the power steering pulley, running the hydraulic pump. If the belt gets worn or breaks, the power steering system of your vehicle will fail, indicated by a warning light.
3. Faulty Power Steering Pump
The hydraulic pump uses a rotor and a set of vanes to pressurize the power steering fluid. A faulty hydraulic pump leads to low hydraulic pressure inside the system, negatively impacting the power steering effectiveness and triggering the warning light.
4. Defective Electric Power Steering Motor
In the Electric Power Steering (EPS) system, an electric motor helps turn your car’s front wheels in response to the steering wheel’s rotation. A defective motor won’t provide the power steering assistance, leading to a “heavy” steering wheel and an EPS warning light.
5. Power Steering Sensor Problems
The EPS system uses a number of sensors, such as the steering angle sensor, steering torque sensor, etc. These sensors help determine the required amount of power steering assist from the electric motor. Malfunctioning sensors will send incorrect data to the EPS control module and can lead to a “Service Power Steering” warning.
Shifting up, let’s see how you can deal with a “Service Power Steering” warning!
What Should You Do if the Service Power Steering Warning Comes Up?
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow depending on the type of power steering system your car uses:
1. Switch off the engine and restart it to see if the warning returns. Sometimes, a minor electronic glitch can cause it to activate. If it returns, follow the next steps.
2. Consult the owner’s manual to determine if your car has a hydraulic or Electric Power Steering system.
3. Open the hood.
A. For Hydraulic Power Steering System
i. Locate the steering wheel fluid reservoir in the engine bay
ii. Check the power steering fluid level. If the level is low:
- Top up the power steering fluid as per the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Next, head to a mechanic for an inspection. A low steering fluid level generally indicates leaks in the system and should be addressed promptly to avoid expensive repairs.
iii. If the fluid level isn’t low, get your car inspected by a professional to diagnose the underlying cause.
B. For an Electric Power Steering (EPS) System
ii. If the connections are in place, get the EPS system checked by a mechanic.
Important: If the “Service Power Steering” warning appears while driving, you should safely pull over to the road’s side. Follow the steps listed above, and if you think that your car isn’t safe to drive, get it towed to a workshop.
That said, you shouldn’t wait for a “Service Power Steering” warning to get your car’s steering system inspected. There are other tell-tale signs that hint at a problem.
What Are the Symptoms of a Failing Power Steering?
Here are the five common signs that a power steering system needs to be serviced:
1. Heavy Steering Wheel
This is the most prominent symptom of a power steering problem. Your car will need more steering effort at sharp corners or low speeds if its assistive steering system won’t work properly.
2. Power Steering Fluid Leaks
If you notice red fluid under your parked car, it could be a power steering fluid leak caused by worn seals or hoses. It’ll lead to a low hydraulic fluid level and negatively affect the power steering assistance.
Sometimes, a hydraulic fluid leak can result from an overfilled steering wheel fluid reservoir. This leads to increased pressure and the failure of seals and hoses in the system.
3. Whining Sound when Turning
You may hear a squealing or whining sound when turning the steering wheel to one side, caused due to a failing power steering pump or electric motor.
4. Bubbles in the Power Steering Fluid
Bubbles result due to air getting into the hydraulic system because of a leak.
5. Car Veering to One Side
Malfunctioning sensors in an EPS system can cause the power steering control module to miscalculate the required power steering assist. This can cause the car to veer off to one side.
Now you know if your car has a power steering problem, let’s check how much you’ll have to spend on fixing it.
How Much Does a Power Steering Service Cost?
The power steering service cost depends on the parts to be repaired or replaced, your vehicle’s make and model, and the labor charges.
Here are the approximate costs for replacing parts of the power steering system, including the labor charges.
- Power steering fluid change: $90-$130
- Power steering belt replacement: $70-$250
- Power steering angle sensor replacement: $100-$550
- Hydraulic pump replacement: $150-$1000
Next, we’ll address some general questions about the power steering system.
3 FAQs about Power Steering
Here are the answers to three questions about automotive steering systems.
1. Can You Drive with a Service Power Steering Light?
Yes — you can still drive with a power steering warning light, but the steering wheel can become stiff, greatly increasing the required steering effort. This can also lead to unexpected steering responses at high speeds or at sharp turns, landing you in dangerous situations.
2. How Often Should You Change Your Power Steering Fluid?
You should generally replace the old fluid in your hydraulic power steering system every 30,000 miles to avoid debris building up in the fluid. That said, check the owner’s manual for the fluid change interval and the power steering regular maintenance schedule.
Along with the power steering service, you shouldn’t ignore the following regular maintenance activities:
- Battery service
- Engine cooling system service
- Transmission service
- Tire rotation
- Air conditioning service
3. How Does the Steering System Work?
Your car’s steering system has multiple components that work together to convey the driver’s input to the steered wheels.
Here’s how each of these components works:
- Steering shaft: It has the steering wheel mounted on one end and the steering gear on the other. The steering shaft also serves as a mounting platform for the steering lock, electric motor, etc.
- Steering gear: This power steering component converts the rotational motion of the steering wheel into the linear motion of the steering rack.
- Steering rack: It connects to and moves the tie rods in a rack and pinion steering system.
- Tie rods: They transfer power steering rack movement to the steering arms attached to the wheels.
A working power steering is crucial for a safe and easy driving experience. If you notice the “Service Power Steering” message or a related warning light on the dashboard, get your car inspected promptly by an expert like RepairSmith.
We’re a mobile auto repair company that caters to your automotive needs right in your driveway, making car maintenance a breeze!
Contact us for an easy online booking and get your power steering and other problems fixed by our experienced technicians.