Power Steering Fluid Leak: Causes, Symptoms, & How to Fix It

Power steering fluid is very important for the efficient performance of the steering system. It is used to make a hydraulic connection between the steering wheel and the front wheel of your vehicle. The power steering fluid may leak due to several reasons and is considered one of the more mysterious leaks in vehicles.

Typically, drivers do not pay much attention to the power steering system, so when a leak is discovered, they do not immediately inquire about the level of the power steering fluid. This article explains the power steering fluid leak causes, symptoms, and how to fix it.

Power Steering Fluid Leak

Causes of a Power Steering Fluid Leak

The following are the causes of the power steering fluid leak:

  • Damaged power steering hoses
  • Leaking power steering pump
  • Using the wrong power steering fluid
  • Worn power steering rack
  • Overfilled power steering fluid reservoir
  • Cracked reservoir
  • Loose or damaged connections
  • Extreme temperatures

1) Damaged Power Steering Hoses

power steering hose

When the steering fluid leaks, always check the power steering hose first. The vehicle usually contains two hoses: one is the pressure hose, and the other is the return hose. The steering box and steering pump are linked together by a pressure hose. The gearbox and the reservoir are linked together by a return hose.

These hoses can be damaged due to old parts and loose seals. These damaged hoses break the connection between the hose and the steering components, causing the fluid to leak from the hose. This leak can be fixed by using Teflon tape around the thread or tightening the loose seal.

If your hoses are damaged, you should replace them immediately.

2) Leaking Power Steering Pump

Power Steering Pump

One of the most important components of the steering wheel system is the power steering wheel. A damaged power steering pump is one of the major causes of the power steering fluid leak.

This pump transfers fluid into the rack and pinion of your suspension system.  The rack and pinions also assist in moving the car wheels and control the fluid pressure to ensure smooth movement of the steering wheel.

The power steering fluid starts leaking when the pump seal wears out. This seal is usually placed on the pump shaft. The casing of the power steering pump may also be damaged due to a loose or old gasket.  This damaged casing causes the fluid to leak.

Replace the steering wheel pump if the leakage happens as a result of the bad steering wheel pump.   

3) Using the Incorrect Power Steering Fluid

Each vehicle has its own power steering fluid, which is mentioned in the car’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. The wrong power steering fluid may lead to the failure of the entire power steering system.

Over time, the incorrect fluid can cause wear and tear on the components of the power steering system, resulting in leakage and some other damages. Therefore, you should always use the correct power steering fluid for your car according to its model and make.

If there is the wrong fluid, change it immediately by draining the system completely and refilling it with the proper fluid.  This change can prevent future damage to your steering system.

4) Worn Power Steering Rack

Symptoms of a Bad Steering Rack

The rack and pinion steering rack is another name for the power steering rack. It helps in turning the wheels of your vehicles properly. A leak in the power steering rack occurs when the shaft wears out or is damaged by road contamination.

In such cases, replacing the damaged power steering rack with a new one is the best solution.

Read More: Bad Steering Rack Symptoms and Causes

5) Overfilled Power Steering Fluid Reservoir

Power Steering Fluid Reservoir

The seal in the rack can be damaged due to overfilling of the power steering fluid reservoir. This overfilling creates high pressure in the reservoir that results in leaks.

If you have overfilled the reservoir, use a syringe or a turkey baster to remove the excess fluid.

6)   Cracked Reservoir

The power steering fluid is stored in a reservoir. The power steering pump takes power steering fluid from the fluid reservoir and supplies it to different parts of the steering system. This reservoir can be damaged or cracked, leading to the power steering fluid leak.

7) Loose or Damaged Connections

The power steering fluid leak can also be caused by faulty hoses and fittings.

8) Extreme Temperatures

The power steering components get expanded and contracted in extreme temperatures. This expansion and contraction may lead to damage and leakage.

Read More: How to Check Power Steering Fluid?

Symptoms of a Power Steering Fluid Leak

The power steering fluid leak produces one or more below given symptoms:

  • Low level of power steering fluid
  • Ignition noise
  • Fluid on the driveway
  • Stiffness of the steering wheel
  • Grinding noise

1)  Low level of Power Steering Fluid

fluid level mark in the power steering reservoir, symptoms of power steering fluid leak

Sometimes, the level of the power steering fluid in the fluid reservoir quickly reduces due to a leak. In such a case, properly inspect your steering system to find the leakage.

2) Ignition Noise

The ignition makes some noise when there is a leak in the power steering fluid. So, if you hear a squashing noise from the pump right after turning the car, it could indicate a leak in the power steering fluid.

3) Fluid On the Driveway

Leaking power steering fluid

The reddish drops or pinkish fluid on the garage floor right under the engine is one of the clear symptoms of the power steering fluid leak.  These droplets and leaks can be easily observed when the car is parked for some time or in the morning.

So, don’t forget to detect and repair the leak before it becomes a serious problem.

4)  Stiffness Of the Steering Wheel

Sometimes, the steering wheel gets stiff. The power steering fluid is what makes the steering smooth and free of stiffness. So, if there is a delay in turning the steering due to stiffness, then it is due to the fluid leak.

5) Grinding Noise

A zero-noise policy is followed while designing the cars for the comfort of the users. If you ever hear a noise coming from your car’s steering system, it’s a clear sign of the power steering fluid leak.

How to bleed the Power Steering?

  • Turn the engine off.
  • Locate the steering fluid reservoir. Remove the cap of the reservoir and check the fluid level. If the level is low, refill it until it reaches the proper level.
  • Raise the hood and support it through the stand to remove all the air trapped in the system.
  • Rotate the steering wheel completely to the left. Maintain that position for a few seconds. Turn the wheel all the way to the right and hold it there for a few seconds.
  • Repeat this left-right motion several times until all of the fluid has been drained from the system.
  • Inquire about the power fluid level and refill it to the appropriate level.
  • Lower your car and start the engine. Now, with the engine running, repeat the left-right steering wheel movement. Check the fluid level and add some fluid if needed.
  • Turn the engine off and search for the leaks.
  • Take your car for a test drive and see if the steering is working properly.

How to Fix Power Steering Fluid Leaks?

  • Find the source of the leak: Inquire about the drops of power steering fluid on the floor under the vehicle. Make use of the flashlight to locate the main source of the leak.
  • Replace damaged hoses: If the leak is from the power steering hose, then there is a need to replace the hose.
  • Replace the damaged reservoir cap: If the reservoir cap of your power steering fluid leaks, you need to replace it immediately.
  • Replace damaged seals: If the damaged seal is the source of the leak, it must be replaced. This procedure is a little complicated and necessitates professional assistance and advanced tools.
  • Tighten loose connections: Check the hoses, fittings, and clamps; if they are loose, tighten them immediately.

FAQ Section

Can I drive with a power steering fluid leak?

Yes, you can drive with the power steering fluid leak. However, it is not recommended for long drives. The reason for this is that a fluid leak might make the steering wheel rigid and damage it, which could lead to major problems if you drive for a long period. The leak can also permanently damage the steering pump, gear, and internal components of the steering system. This damage will be costly and dangerous.

What are the causes of the power steering fluid leak?

  • Damaged power steering hoses
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Leaking power steering pump
  • Using the wrong power steering fluid
  • Loose or damaged connections
  • Worn power steering rack
  • Overfilled power steering fluid reservoir
  • Cracked reservoir

Is it easy to fix a power steering leak?

Fixing a power steering fluid leak isn’t a complex task. It’s a straightforward, quick, and budget-friendly process. An expert may even discover it enjoyable.

How long does power steering fluid last?

Typically, power steering fluid tends to last for approximately two to three years or roughly 50,000 to 75,000 miles. However, merely replacing it isn’t the only consideration.

Can you mix old and new power steering fluid?

Combining various brands of fresh and old power steering fluid when refilling is generally acceptable, but it’s crucial to verify that it matches your vehicle’s recommended fluid type. Whether you have existing or newly purchased fluid isn’t the concern; the key is to ensure it aligns with the specifications outlined in the owner’s manual.

How long can I drive with a power steering system leak?

You can possibly continue driving your car with the power steering fluid leaks for a short time. Driving for an extended period, you’ll primarily notice reduced power assist, but you can still steer the steering wheel. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to be aware that driving with a power steering fluid leak may harm your steering system. It’s advisable to address the leak promptly.

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