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Car Power Steering Leak Dripping from Your Car, What do You Check?

by Eddie Carrara

If you think your car may have a power steering leak, the first thing you should do is check the power steering fluid reservoir. If the fluid level in the reservoir is low, you may have a leak in the power steering system.

Power steering fluid has a very distinctive smell; it smells like a burnt marshmallow. That is my opinion on the smell, and I'm sure you will not find that documented anywhere on the internet or any repair manual.

If you feel the steering in your vehicle binding or the power steering pump starting to make a whining noise, it's a good sign your power steering fluid level is getting low or it's empty.

Running the power steering pump with low or no fluid could damage the entire power steering system. Metal particles from the pump could enter the system and cause the steering rack to fail or damage its valve body or the steering gearbox.

The first sign of fluid leaking from the power steering is a pump whine. Because the fluid is low, the pump will start to make a whining noise, especially when turning the steering wheel.

The whine noise happens because of lack of lubrication to the pump, sometimes just adding fluid to the power steering reservoir will quite the pump whine temporarily, but the leak will still need to be fixed.

Common Areas You Will Find Fluid Leaking from the Power Steering

This is a steering rack boot, it's located on each end of the steering rack.

One of the most common places to find leaking power steering fluid is at each end of the steering rack. This is the location of the rack end seals, and they wear out and start leaking. If the rack end seals are leaking, it may take a while to notice because a rubber boot will trap the fluid on both ends of the steering rack. These boots protect the steering rack from road debris. Once these boots fill up with power steering fluid, the fluid will swell the boot and eventually permeate it. 

If the power steering fluid leak is coming from the rack end seals, most likely, you'll have to replace the entire steering rack, and that could cost you a few bucks. You could get lucky and find someone to replace just the seals, but that's very rare because you have to disassemble some of the steering rack to get to the seals, and sometimes it requires special tools. 

Another common area to find power steering fluid leaking is at a power steering line or pump seal. Again, if the pump seal is leaking, it's common practice to replace the entire pump instead of rebuilding it because of the unique tools required to disassemble it. If you have a line leaking, changing the line will be an easy fix and shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg like a steering rack.

Power Steering Fluid Line Leak

Power Steering Fluid Leak at the Rack End Seal

What Color is Power Steering Fluid?

Power steering fluid is generally light amber to clear in color when it's new, it doesn't take long for it to turn a dark brown, like engine oil, but the smell is different. 

On older vehicles, some mechanics would use transmission fluid in the power steering system. I recommend checking the owner's manual for information on what kind of power steering fluid is right for your car first; before adding any fluid to the power steering system, you don't want to cause a problem.

I Know You Have Questions!

I know you have questions about your car power steering leak, so use the comment box below to ask me anything about your car, and I will answer your question asap. Oh, and one more thing, "like" this article on Facebook, you never know if one of your followers may need some help. Thanks for sharing!

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