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Power Steering Fluid Noise: What Causes It and How to Fix

Technical  ·  April 21, 2023

Power Steering Fluid Noise: What Causes It and How to Fix

Loud and unusual noises are some of the first problem signs in your car’s many systems. That includes the power steering system and the hydraulic fluid it relies on to function. But what causes those noises, and how can you fix them?

Power steering fluid noises, like squealing, grinding, and others, generally have something to do with the fluid inside. It could be due to a lack of fluid or a contaminated one. Other causes are trapped air in the system and a failed pump.

This guide will explain each likely cause and solutions for each of those root causes.

Let’s get started.

How Does Power Steering Fluid Work?

The best way to troubleshoot any power steering fluid noises is first to understand what it does and how it works.

Power steering fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid that transfers power from one part of the power steering system.

More specifically, the fluid transfers the power you use to turn the steering wheel to your vehicle’s front wheels. 

The system also includes a power steering pump that pressurises the fluid even more, magnifying the power you use to turn the steering wheel.

In other words, it enables you to turn your car’s front wheels without exerting much force on the steering wheel. 

You’ll feel less tired from handling the steering wheel while driving, especially if you're going for extended periods over long distances.

Besides transferring power as described above, power steering fluid protects the steering system’s moving parts by lubricating and preventing corrosion and excessive heat.

The power steering system in your vehicle relies heavily on that fluid. Any issues with that fluid will cause problems for the power steering system and create loud/unusual noises.

Why Is My Car Making Power Steering Fluid Noises?

When your power steering system has enough clean fluid, there should be no noise at all. It’s when there’s something wrong with the fluid, the pump, or the whole system that noises like whining and squealing occur.

Possible Causes of Power Steering Fluid Noises and How to Fix Them

1. Low Fluid

The first and most common reason for noise from your power steering system is a lack of fluid. 

Remember that it’s a hydraulic fluid that transfers power by being compressed from one point to another. The system can’t function correctly when there’s insufficient power steering fluid to work with.

When there isn’t enough fluid, the remaining space will fill with air that doesn’t compress the same way. As a result, there will be squealing and other noises coming directly from the power steering pump.

The lack of fluid could be due to two reasons. Firstly, not enough fresh fluid was poured the last time it was topped up. Secondly, there could be a power steering fluid leak causing those levels to drop gradually regardless of how much you’ve poured in.

How to fix it: You can fix this problem by filling the system’s reservoir with enough fresh fluid. At the same time, you must also inspect the whole system to confirm no leaks anywhere.

If there is a leak, you must solve that issue first. Otherwise, any fresh fluid you pour into the reservoir will continue leaking out of the system.

2. Trapped Air

Even with sufficient fluid in your power steering system, air pockets can still get trapped inside. That will also cause noise as the pump struggles to compress the fluid correctly.

The first way air can get trapped in the system is due to cracks or leaks in the system’s hoses or the reservoir that stores the fluid.

Unfortunately, the same can also happen due to human error. For example, mistakes can occur when servicing the power steering system and its components, allowing air to get trapped inside.

How to fix it: The solution to this problem is to bleed the entire power steering system dry. That means you’ll have to drain all fluid from inside the system and turn the steering wheel side to side.

Doing so will help to work out any trapped air pockets inside the system. Once that’s done correctly, you can refill the system with fresh fluid, and it’ll work as it should.

3. Worn-Out Pump

The power steering pump is clearly the heart of the entire system. When turning the steering wheel, it pressurises the hydraulic fluid to magnify your power. Thanks to that, your arms won't get tired driving long periods and turning the wheel often.

Unfortunately, the pump and its internal components can wear out with time. A worn-out pump can then cause the loud noises you hear.

In this case, the noises aren’t from the power steering fluid per se. Instead, they come from the pump that works with that fluid.

How to fix it: You can do nothing with a worn-out power steering pump other than replace it with another working unit, whether brand new or used, like this Cherokee 2015 steering pump. Doing so will ensure the system can function correctly without creating any loud and unusual noises.

If you’re unsure about replacing it yourself, it’s best to let a qualified technician do it for you. 

That way, there’s less chance of mistakes like air getting trapped in the system during the repair.

4. Contaminated Fluid

Lastly, the power steering fluid noise you hear could result from the contaminated fluid. 

The fluid can become dirty for several reasons, especially if you haven’t changed it in a long time. On average, you should change it after every 5,000 kilometres of driving.

Besides that, the fluid can also become contaminated due to external moisture leaking in or the pump has damaged and failing internal components.

Deteriorating hoses can also contaminate the power steering fluid flowing through them.

How to fix it: The fix for contaminated power steering fluid is similar to the one for dealing with trapped air.

Firstly, you must drain the system of all fluid inside and flush it to remove any residue buildup.

Once you’re confident the system is clean, pour fresh fluid into the reservoir.

Final Thoughts

Overall, you've seen here that there are several reasons behind the power steering fluid noise you hear in your car. There could be a lack of fluid in the system, or what's inside has become contaminated.

Besides that, the noise can also be due to a failing power steering fluid pump or trapped air circulating inside the system.

Whatever solution you need, you can find it through CarpartAU. Use the Directory to find automotive workshops and technicians in your area who can resolve your power steering issues. 

Check out the Marketplace or submit a parts request to suppliers through the site for new and used replacement parts like power steering fluid pumps.


By Ray Hasbollah

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