What is an inspection for leaking power steering fluid?

An inspection for leaking power steering fluid is pretty common. A mechanic will go through each component of the power steering system to determine where the leak is and why it’s happening.
By the end of the inspection, the mechanic will be able to provide a detailed inspection report outlining the scope of the problem and the estimated cost of repairs.

How to inspect a leaking power steering system

Finding the source of a leak in the power steering system can be difficult and time-consuming. Often the leak only occurs while driving or is so small it can take several hours to appear.
To ease the process, mechanics often focus on a few common leak sources first:
  • Power steering pump: Leaks in the pump are most typically found behind the pump pulley and caused by wearing in the seals.
  • Power steering line hoses: Anywhere the steering line connects to the rack or transitions to a hard line is susceptible to leaking.
  • Steering rack seals: Located on the bottom of the car, these components are exposed to a lot of road dirt and grime leading to wear over time. The most common spot for a leak is the seal on either side, which can be detected if fluid is coming out of the pinion below.
  • Power steering cooler: In some cars, leaking can also occur in the steering system’s cooling components, which are mounted in the front of the car.
If the leak is still not detected after going through these common areas—along with any connecting points or seals—some mechanics may run a small amount of UV dye through the system. This helps them locate the leak with a blacklight or UV-detecting glasses.

Signs your power steering fluid is leaking

Here are some of the signs you should look out for if you suspect your steering system is leaking.
  • Puddles under your vehicle—these may look like oil spills, but the smell is distinguishable from fuel. Many describe it as a burnt marshmallow scent.
  • Difficulty turning the wheel
  • A whining, siren-like sound as you turn—this is from the steering pump running low on fluids
In most vehicles, leaking steering fluid is either clear, amber, pink, or red. Dirty steering fluid can become dark brown or black. If you’re finding blue under your vehicle, this is likely coolant—you’ll need to have your cooling system inspected in this case.

Tips for preventing power steering fluid leaks

The best way to avoid leaks in your steering system is to regularly flush your steering fluid according to your vehicle’s guidelines. In general, steering fluid should be flushed every 50,000 miles, or any time it appears dark brown or black.
Dirty or old steering fluid collects sludge and particles from the line hoses over time. This can clog or damage other parts of the steering system, causing leaks.

How important is inspecting leaking power steering fluid?

A leak in your power steering system is a symptom of damage. If left too long, this damage leads to more costly repairs, and eventually a failure of the steering assist system as a whole. While you can still manipulate the wheels manually in this case, it will be significantly more difficult to do. Therefore, it’s safest to have your system inspected as soon as any leaks appear.

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