Has it ever bothered you when you are driving, and all of a sudden, you hear a whining or squeaking noise? If the sounds get louder as you turn, there might be a problem with your vehicle's power steering pump.
What causes a power steering pump to whine When Turning?
A fluid leakage, loose pulley, or air bubbles are among the common reasons why the power system pump is failing, and consequently, making whining or squeaking noise when turning steering wheel. If you don't refill the fluid reservoir, unclog the steering pump, or lubricate moving parts, continuous driving will eventually damage the system, causing the car to emit intolerable sounds.
The car's power steering pump is the most crucial component of the steering system, and any issue involving it will make it impossible for you to have quiet and smooth driving experience.
In this article, we're sharing all the reasons why and how the power steering pump emits noises, as well as simple ways on how to Fix Power Steering Pump Noise.
What Is the Sound Like?
The power steering system assists you in executing low-speed maneuvers and parking a car. When one or all of its components are malfunctioning, the system will emit a noise.
To determine how to fix your power steering pump noise, it's imperative you understand the parts and how their designs tend to make noises. The setup contains:
- Power Steering Pump – Produces pressure in the power steering hose side. It helps other parts bring fluid for the steering system to move your vehicle.
- Steering Rack and Pinion Gear – Once you turn the steering wheel, the pinion will rotate while pushing the rack in the necessary position, thereby letting you turn the front wheels.
- Power Steering Hoses – The low and high side hoses are linked to the threaded brass fittings to the pinion and rack. The high side brings fluid under pressure while the low side transports the low pressure fluid back to the pump.
As you can see, it's either the power steering pump or the other parts connected to it that will create noise when you are turning a car.
The sounds coming from the steering pump may include creaks, squeaks, whine, hiss, hum, or a combination of everything.
Main Causes of Steering Wheel Makes Noise When Turning
A power steering pump will let out noises due to a number of factors. Here are the leading causes of the sounds coming from a car's power steering pump:
1: Low-Level Power Steering Fluid
A low-level fluid is the most common cause of a noisy steering pump. Some owner's manuals do not include changing the power steering fluid in the maintenance schedule, which is why drivers tend to overlook this aspect.
If you don't replenish the fluid on time, it will be harder for the wheel to move and turn your car.
In addition, a low power steering fluid decreases the pump's capacity to produce the necessary amount of hydraulic fluid pressure.
As a result, the pump works much harder, making the steering pump wear out faster or overheat.
If you continue to drive with a low level of fluid, the pump will not function as it's supposed to be.
2: Leaking Power Steering Fluid
Degraded seals and damaged hoses are the reasons why your car's power steering pump is leaking.
If there's a leak in the system, there's a big chance that your vehicle's fluid level will get low.
In effect, the metal components in your car will overheat and wear out due to lack of lubrication, and consequently, increase friction.
When you make a turn, even at low speeds, the vehicle will make groaning noises because oil leaks make the steering wheel heavy and noisy.
Furthermore, constant rubbing and grinding will result in the steering pump parts welding themselves together.
If this happens, you may need to change the whole system, which can be incredibly expensive.
What you think as a dull whining noise will turn into continuous groaning, which means that the pump is on the verge of failing.
3: Worn Out Power Steering Pump
The aforementioned symptoms can push the pump to wear out. As you continuously drive your car, the pump's components age as well, eventually forcing you to increase the steering power and produce noise.
A low level of steering fluid, a leakage, or a combination of both, will most likely result in a worn-out power steering pump.
If you hear whining noises, there may be a leakage that results in a low level of steering fluid, and subsequently, damage the pump bearings.
4: Oil Contamination
Contamination of the fluid can happen when the pump fails from lack of fluid, deteriorating hoses, or moisture entering the fluid.
The most common contaminants include debris, water, dust, and metal fillings.
If these contaminants mix with the fluid, the power steering pump won't perform as it's supposed to be.
These factors can create small openings to plug up the steering system, increasing friction in the system and interfering with the fluid's hydraulic mechanisms.
Should this happen, your car may suffer from a failure of a power steering component.
More than that, contaminated oil reduces the pressure on the steering pump, making it heavy and harder for you to steer.
In your effort to maneuver the vehicle, the steering pump will make creaking or whining noises as a result of the force.
5: Trapped Air in the Power Steering Fluid or Pump
If you hear whining or squeaking noises in the power steering pump, it may be caused by air bubbles trapped in the steering fluid, causing vibrations as well.
Lack of power steering fluid is another possible reason for air being trapped in the pump.
A lack of fluid in the system causes the fluid reservoir to get low, resulting in the power steering pump to draw air in, making whining sounds in the process.
Similarly, a loose hose connection can trap air bubbles since the pump draws fluid into the rotor and vane. This mechanism can cause the fluid to foam and your pump to whine.
If the air remains trapped in the oil reservoir, the steering becomes heavy, and air bubbles will keep on moving and emitting popping sounds.
6: Defective Power Steering Pump
If you start to hear humming sounds, it may be because of a faulty power steering pump.
When the problem is severe, a change of pitch in your vehicle happens, and you might observe leaks around the shaft that holds the entire power steering system. When the shaft fails, the steering breaks down, too.
7: Clogs in Power Steering Hose
If you have no leakages, contaminated oil, or a defective pump, a clogged power steering hose is the next plausible reason for hearing whining sounds.
In the same way, a clogged gear or lead that is connected to the pump can potentially fail the power steering pump.
When you continue to drive with a clogged hose, it will be difficult for you to turn the car, forcing the vehicle to make noises at every turn.
8: Broken Belt
Your car's engine contains a belt that is linked to the crankshaft to energize the power steering pump.
When the belt wears out, it can snap or slip, reducing the vehicle's steering ability, while producing noise at the same time.
9: Wobbly Pulley or Leaked Pulley Seal
A loose pulley or leaks around the pulley's sealing will make it difficult for you to turn the wheel, prompting the power steering pump to produce whining noises.
Likewise, bad bearings can create an aftereffect, causing the steering pump to fail and become noisy.
How do you fix a noisy power steering pump?
As you have discovered, there are various reasons why a steering pump makes noise when turning. Each cause requires a particular solution.
Some of it you can do by yourself, while others require professional intervention.
Either way, what you need to learn is to discern the right solution to apply. Thus, here are ways how to fix power steering pump noise:
1: Identify and Examine the Noise
Whenever you hear noise while turning your power steering pump, the first step you need to do is check the system.
A vehicle has several moving parts, which is why you need to make sure that the sound really comes from the steering pump.
Once you can guarantee that the pump is the cause, it will be much easier for you to think of a solution.
Change or Refill Power Steering Pump Fluid
It's not merely all about refilling the fluid reservoir, but it's also about learning how to replenish the power steering pump fluid properly.
If the fluid is low or appears to be discolored and foamy, here's how you can refill pump fluid correctly:
- Unlatch the car's hood when the engine is completely cold.
- Open the tank's cap and use a dipstick to check the fluid level.
- Flush the oil fluid up to the last drop.
- Refill the reservoir to the required capacity using a brand new power steering fluid and a conditioner or additive.
- Close the cap and hood.
- Check for signs of oil leaks.
2: Unclog the Power Steering Pump
A clogged power steering pump can damage your car's entire steering system. In most cases, it's advisable to hire a qualified mechanic to fix the issue.
Should you prefer to solve this by yourself, you must replace the hose. Here's how you can do it:
- Put a drain pan below the hose on the steering rack.
- Disconnect the old hose.
- Place a new hose with a connection route.
- If the clog does not come from the hose, replace the lead or gears.
3: Flush the Power Steering Fluid
When you want to get rid of pesky air pockets trapped in your vehicle's power steering system, the only solution is to flush out the entire fluid.
To prevent air bubbles from going into the system again, check all the connections to the reservoir. Tighten all loose joints to ensure air bubbles won't mix with the fluid.
4: Check for Sealing or Internal Component Failure
The work doesn't end with refilling the fluid; you still have to check the level for the next couple of days to be sure that the system isn't losing fluid.
When there's a crack, hole, or damage, install new seals or put a leak-sealing additive into the fluid.
If all seals are fine, yet the noise continues whenever you turn, take the vehicle to a mechanic to see if there's some internal component failure.
5: Lubricate Moving Parts
Remember that a burned-out power steering pump will not function properly, not until you replace it or lubricate the moving parts.
However, there are cases when you don't have to replace the system's parts immediately.
Sometimes, all you need to do is to lubricate the moving components to keep them in top shape.
Make sure to use a lubricant that has stabilizing anti-oxidants and special metal deactivators to guarantee the hydraulic system's smooth performance.
With lubrication, you can lessen friction and heat, thereby quieting power steering noise where applicable.
6: Keep a Regular Maintenance of Your Car
A surefire way to prevent the power steering pump from producing noise is to schedule regular maintenance.
Doing so helps you identify all the causes of noise from your car, particularly if it's coming from the steering pump.
Even better, it can be more cost-effective to get ahead of the problem rather than spending bucks after the issue comes up.
Besides, regularly checking up your vehicle is a great way to stop car issues from escalating.
For example, maintenance can identify the air bubbles even before they begin to create popping sounds.
7: Seek a Professional Mechanic to Inspect and Fix the Noise Issues
As mentioned, there are various ways to fix power steering pump noise issues.
However, there are circumstances wherein the problems are beyond your fixing abilities, and it's wiser to let an expert mechanic intervene and do the job.
If you are unsure what to do from the beginning, let a mechanic figure out the problem and deal with it.
If you hear noise coming from the power steering pump whenever you turn your car, check the system and locate the cause of the sounds.
In this way, you can think of the right solution to do. Don't wait until the issue breaks down your vehicle.
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.