The Power of Power Steering
Most of us have probably never driven a car or truck without power steering. To get an idea of the difference, compare cutting a board with a hand saw versus using a power saw. It’s a real workout.
Without power steering, your arms have to do all the work to steer the wheels—and that’s no easy task. That’s why older cars used to have such oversized steering wheels: it gave drivers enough leverage to steer.
Recently, you may have heard about technological advances in power steering, specifically electric power steering. Some very high-end cars, as well as full-electric and hybrid electric vehicles, have featured electric power steering for a few years now. In this system, an electric motor provides the power assist to make steering easier.
However, the vast majority of cars and trucks serviced at Kennedy Transmission use a hydraulic power boost system. With hydraulics, a special fluid is pressurized by a pump which actuates a hydraulic cylinder to reduce steering effort. Some of these pumps are powered by an electric motor, but most are powered by the serpentine belt driven by the engine.
The Power of Power Steering Fluid
This special power steering fluid has certain necessary hydraulic properties, as well as the ability to lubricate internal steering parts. Power steering fluid also protects car or truck components from rust and corrosion.
In addition to the pump and hydraulic system, there are key mechanical parts in the steering system. The rods, arms, joints, and knuckles that actually turn the wheels can become worn or damaged over time. A standard alignment service includes an inspection of steering components to spot and correct these issues.
All vehicle owners should be aware that car manufacturers recommend the power steering fluid be replaced on schedule. A good rule of thumb is every 25,000 miles (40,000 km) or two years between services. During a power steering system service, the old fluid is drained and the system is cleaned thoroughly with a special detergent. Fresh fluid is then added.
The Importance of Regular Inspections and Servicing
Most motorists don’t realize how important it is to service their power steering – some may not even know it’s necessary in the first place. Power steering fluid breaks down over time, losing its effectiveness. It also gradually collects moisture, which can lead to corrosion in the steering system. A neglected power steering system can develop leaks, shortening the life of the pump.
Car owners should be aware of a few warning signs which could indicate possible power steering system problems:
- Constantly adding power steering fluid
- Loud whining from the power steering pump
- Erratic power assist or high steering effort
- Off-centered steering wheel
- Noise coming from your front wheels, especially when turning
Steer Yourself to Kennedy Transmission for Your Next Power Steering Inspection
If you notice any of these signs, contact your local Kennedy Transmission Brake & Auto Service technician for an inspection to correct the problem. Waiting too long could cause uneven tire wear and may even lead to steering failure, putting you and your loved ones at unnecessary risk.