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How to Repair Power Steering Fluid Leaks

The power steering assembly in your car transfers the hydraulic power from the steering fluid to each of the wheels so your car will be more responsive and easier to direct when driving. After a few years of use, you may notice the steering is not as good as it was. This may be a result of fluid leaks, often in the hoses or as a result of a bad steering rack. When this happens, there is a lot you can do to fix the problem yourself.

Step 1 – Use Some Brake Fluid for a Temporary Fix

Many people who have had some leaks with the rack and pinion problems will put some brake fluid into the power steering reservoir. This will not replace the power steering fluid, but will add it into the mix. This has been successful as a short term fix in order to get you home or to a repair center.

Step 2 – Park Car on Ramp

To get at the rack and pinion, you will need to crawl under the vehicle. A pair of heavy duty car ramps are a good option for safely lifting your car enough to work under it. Place the ramps on a flat surface and carefully drive the front wheels of your vehicle onto them. When you reach the top, put the car in park and turn off the engine. Place wheel chocks behind the rear wheels and apply the emergency break so it does not accidentally roll while you’re working.

Step 3 – Clean Hoses

Take some time to clean the hose from the rack and pinion of any grease, dirt, and fluids. This will help you better determine where the leak is coming from. Also, look at the overall condition of the hoses while you are cleaning them. You may find that they are dry and brittle, in which case they will need to be replaced.

Step 4 – Locate the Leak

Fill your power steering reservoir only slightly with fluid, briefly turn your vehicle back on, and turn your steering wheel back and forth for a few minutes. Then, turn the car off again and carefully inspect your power steering hoses and rack. Since you just cleaned your hoses, any new fluid on them should tell you the source of the leak.

Step 5 – Drain Power Steering Fluid

Place a drip pan underneath the power steering unit, remove the bottom bolt, and drain out the fluid completely. You will always want fresh fluid in the system after a repair. Make sure you dispose of the old fluid properly as well.

Step 6 – Replace Hoses

The power steering hoses that are connected to the rack and pinion are high pressure hoses that will be bolted into place, so you will need to remove them with a line wrench or a socket wrench. Since they need to be on very tight, you might have trouble getting them off. In this case, you can use a lubricant to help. Loosen the top bolt on the hose first before removing the bolt down by the steering rack. Then, fit your new power steering hose in place starting at the bottom and moving to the top. Get the bolts nice and tight again so you don’t have to worry about problems later.

Step 7 – Replace Gaskets

There are a few gaskets on the rack and pinion assembly that may need to be replaced if they are dried out and worn. Simply remove the old ones and make sure you buy suitable replacements. Then, refit them in the same spot and secure them.

Step 8 – Replace Rack and Pinion

Some leaks are caused because the rack and pinion is failing. When this happens you can use some Leak Stop to seal up some of the cracked areas, but you will need to replace the rack and pinion to stop the leaks entirely.

Start by securing your steering wheel so it doesn’t move when the rack is removed. Then, take off both of your front wheels to give yourself easier access to the steering rack.

Unfasten and remove the tie rod from the vehicle; a new steering rack will not come with one, so you will have to attach it to the existing tie rods before you can finish the installation. Unscrew the rack assembly from the tie rod next, and then repeat the process on the other side of the car.

Next, remove the stabilizer bolts from the torsion bar and unbolt it from the frame. Slide this out of the way some so you can get to the bolts that actually hold the rack in place. You’ll need to remove the power steering lines from the rack as well before you finally unscrew the pinch bolt on the steering column shaft so the whole assembly slides off.

Slide the new rack into this groove and begin reversing the whole process to secure it in place. Make sure your tie rod is aligned identically on either side to what it was on the old assembly. You should still take your vehicle into a shop after this repair for a realignment, however, just to be sure you’re set.

Step 9 – Refill the Power Steering Fluid

Now that your leak has hopefully been fixed with new hoses, new gaskets, and a new steering rack, it’s time to refill your reservoir with fluid.

Steering Wheel Jerking Right and Left

If you notice your steering wheel jerking from one side to the other side, an inspection is in order. Here are some potential causes of this jerking to check for and address.

Road Conditions

Observe the condition of road you’re traveling and see if it has grooved pavement, which can cause the vehicle tires to follow the line of grooving. If these grooves are somewhat crooked, your vehicle will try to steer with the groove direction. Rutted roads will direct your steering to follow the ruts—this effect is most prominent in asphalt paved roads with heavy truck traffic. If grooved or rutted roads aren’t the problem, move on to checking the vehicle.

Inspect the Steering Components

Chock your rear wheels to prevent rolling, then jack up the front of your vehicle and support it with jack stands. Get a helper to either observe what happens when you shake the wheels and steering components or to do the shaking while you observe. With the front wheels clear of ground contact, shake them from side to side and up and down. Note what components, if any, have slack, and how much. If this test shows slack in both up and down and side to side movements, your wheel bearings are loose or worn. If only side to side slack is evident, the most likely problem will be worn tie rod ends or idler arm issues.

Rotate the tire and wheel assembly and check for bent/warped wheels, out of round tires, or bulges in tire indicating a slipped belt or impending blowout. The steering gear could have excessive play from being worn too much. Check the back and forth movement of steering wheel before your tires and wheels begin to move. Any movement greater than 2” at the outer rim of the steering wheel indicates excessive wear in steering gear box. Check the flexible joint in the steering shaft between the steering wheel and gear box. Any slack or wear in this component indicates a need to replace it.

Measure the Toe In and Toe Out of Front Wheels

Toe out can cause steering wander and make a vehicle drift from side to side. Too much toe in and the vehicle is hard to steer and will have a tendency to dart from side to side. Each vehicle has a specified distance for correct toe in.
The wheels need to toe in because as the vehicle reaches highway speed, forces on tires will tend to toe out the wheels. It needs enough toe in when stopped to compensate for the toe out that occurs at highway speed for the wheels to run straight.

Check Suspension Components

Check all rubber bushings in the suspension (A-frame and/or strut bushings). As they age, the rubber deteriorates and sometimes falls out of the metal housing, allowing suspension components to be out of alignment.

Repair and Replace

Make notes of what has excessive slack or wear and repair or replace as needed. Usually when one steering component is worn, it’s most likely the other steering parts are worn also. Tires with bulges (slipped belts) or knots need replaced along any bent wheels. Hard bumps with curbs and hitting too many potholes will do damage to tires, steering, and suspension components.

Alignment

Alignment of the wheels is important and critical to good steering.

Camber refers to the in/out tilt of wheel in the vertical plane. Caster refers to the front/back tilt of wheel in horizontal plane. Toe in/toe out refers to the relationship of the straight line tracking to each other of the wheels on same axle. If any of these adjustments are out of specifications due to worn parts, bent components, or loose or missing fasteners the vehicle needs a wheel alignment. This includes all wheels as misalignment of the front and rear wheel relationship will make the vehicle “dog track” or go down the road slightly sideways. This makes it hard to control the vehicle’s forward movement, especially in wet or icy conditions.

Car Radiator Problems And The First Signs

A car’s radiator helps keep your car’s internal machinery at an acceptable temperature. When the radiator is not functioning optimally, your car can suffer damage that requires repair.

The Job of the Car Radiator

The radiator is critical to your car’s cooling system—its main goal is preventing overheating. It does this by constantly pumping cold air, cycled coolant, and water to the engine.

Telltale Signs of Car Radiator Problems

There are a few signs to watch out for that will let you know the radiator is in need of attention.

Overheating

When the radiator is not functioning properly, this means the engine is not being cooled. That leads to the engine overheating, which affects car cabin temperature. An overheating engine therefore makes for an uncomfortable drive. If you notice your car is too hot, get it checked out right away. Overheating is dangerous to engine components and can lead to expensive damage.

Leaking Coolant

A simple check under the car will show signs of leaking coolant. Leaks can come from a variety of places on the radiator. If you see a pool of green or yellow liquid, you have a leak that needs immediate repair.

Coolant Light

When the “low coolant light” pops up on the dashboard, coolant needs to be added. It can also mean there’s a hidden leak, especially if you recently topped up your fluids. Either way, to be safe, have a mechanic check it out.

Gunk Buildup

When a radiator is not functioning properly, it can affect the coolant in a negative way, turning it into a brown goo. Sludgy coolant can’t make its way to the engine as efficiently, resulting a buildup of the substance on the radiator. This is another dangerous situation that can impact both the engine and the transmission.

Collapsed Radiator Hose

In the event the radiator breaks, it can also cause the hose to collapse or break (hoses can also break independent of their radiator).

Steam Emission

If you see steam seeping out around the hood or under the car, this means radiator trouble. Turn off the car and have it towed to the nearest reliable mechanic. Continuing to drive under these conditions can lead to additional damage.

Safety

When any of the above situations occur, the first thing you may want to do is pop the hood and inspect the radiator. Unless you notice the pool of coolant under the car or the “low coolant” light flashes on as soon as you start the car, do not attempt to check the radiator. If the car has been running, the components could be hot to the touch. Always let the car cool completely before doing any inspection that will require touching any of the car’s components.

If you don’t already have a roadside assistance membership, it’s a good idea to invest in one in case your radiator gives out while you’re out and about. To the extent possible, you should never drive a car when its radiator is experiencing issues.

Checklist

Maintain a checklist of things to take a look at on your car between maintenance visits. From colored fluid on the ground, to gunky coolant buildup, spotting the signs of trouble early will help keep your car costs to a minimum.

Transmission Troubleshooting


Any Mechanic will agree: your transmission is one of your vehicle’s most complex and essential systems. Beyond the choice between an automatic or manual transmission, it’s also something many drivers are unfamiliar with. Let’s take a look at what your transmission does, how to recognize when it isn’t functioning properly, and what to do about it.

What Does Your Transmission Do?

While most people assume the engine is responsible for making their car move, it’s only part of the equation. Your engine generates rotational power and must spin at a precise speed to perform efficiently and avoid damage. However, to get the car moving forward or backward, rotational power needs to be transferred to the wheels. While your drivetrain is responsible for delivering power from your engine to the wheels, your transmission operates like a switchboard by controlling the amount of power that is transferred.

In lower gears, like when you’re first accelerating or going uphill, your transmission multiplies this power to push the car forward. In higher gears, like when you’re cruising on the highway, breaking, or going downhill, this power is decreased.  

As the name suggests, an automatic transmission does all of this, without the driver shifting gears manually. While an automatic transmission can help your car drive more efficiently, and significantly lower the risk of damage caused by improper shifting, all transmissions do wear over time. Thankfully, with a bit of knowledge, you can recognize any problems early and avoid a full transmission repair.

Symptoms of a Damaged Transmission

You know your car best and how it should drive. Any odd sounds or smells should always be carefully evaluated since they could indicate a problem with your car’s transmission. Below we’ll look at the most common symptoms of a damaged or worn transmission and what to do about them.

A Slipping Transmission 

As you drive, your gears should switch seamlessly, and you shouldn’t notice much when they do. When you experience transmission slipping, you’ll notice that your car shifts gears unexpectedly, and your engine will likely be running at an excessively high rpm. This could also feel a lot like there’s a lack power when you press the gas.

First and foremost, if your transmission is slipping, your car is not safe nor reliable enough to drive. You should call your local Mechanic immediately to identify and fix the issue.

Transmission slipping can occur if your transmission fluid is too low or scheduled maintenance is ignored. Transmissions are complex systems that need to be checked and maintained regularly to avoid wear. When one part isn’t operating efficiently, it places excessive strain on the other components and will undoubtedly lead to extensive repairs.

Slow Gear Shifting

If it’s taking longer than usual to get into gear, you could have a transmission fluid leak on your hands. Your transmission fluid is crucial, and this should not be ignored. Transmission fluid functions as an oil and hydraulic fluid that helps simultaneously shift gears, cool the transmission, and lubricate moving parts. Needless to say, it’s very important.

With a lack of transmission fluid, the vehicle can overheat and quickly damage other parts of the system. It’s one of the easier things to fix when it comes to your transmission and will avoid more expensive repairs down the line.

Transmission Won’t Stay in Gear

If you put the car into drive (or gear), and it doesn’t move, you likely have an issue with your transmission. To ensure your transmission doesn’t get damaged, it’s important to maintain it on schedule. Doing so is the easiest way for your technician to check fluid levels and clean out the dirt that could damage the transmission.

Burning Smell

If you’re driving and you smell burning, it’s a cause for concern. If your engine is not running hot and nothing else is noticeably wrong, your transmission fluid may be overheating. If your transmission fluid is overheating, your car will behave similarly as if fluid levels were low. That’s because parts are not being lubricated adequately, which increases friction and heat.

Stop driving immediately and call your local Mechanic. If it’s not repaired, your transmission will continue to damage itself and eventually seize up. A seized transmission is one of the most severe vehicle repairs and something you want to avoid at all costs.

Leaking Fluid

Transmission fluid is easy to recognize. It’s red and will be located under your vehicle if it’s left in park overnight. It’s not as easy to know which part of your transmission the fluid is leaking from, though. It could be coming from a gasket, a cooler line, or a seal. In any case, this needs to be fixed immediately. As we stated above, low transmission fluid levels can be detrimental for the entire system. Leaking fluid can also directly drip onto hot pipes and damage them over time, leading to issues in initially unaffected areas.

Check Engine Light Is On

If your check engine light is on, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your engine. It does mean you should contact your local Mechanic to find out what the issue is immediately! You see, a check engine light is used alert you of any number of issues with your car, including transmission problems.

A Buzzing or Humming Noise

It’s normal for your car to make noises while you drive. Again, you know your car best! Any sound that’s out of the ordinary isn’t good and should be inspected.

If you hear a clicking, buzzing, or humming sound, it is likely coming from your transmission. This could be happening because of damaged gears, a bad bearing, or low transmission fluid.

Like your check engine light, this noise is alerting you that something is wrong. Stop driving and contact your local Mechanic to find the source of the issue and perform any necessary transmission repairs.

Things to Consider

If you do require a full transmission replacement, you’ll have to decide the best way to proceed, and we can help you consider all options. Since your transmission is a critical part of your car, it can cost a lot to repair. If your car is older, it might not be worth it to repair, and it might be more cost-effective to replace the vehicle altogether.

While there are many different factors that impact the cost of your transmission repair, one thing is certain: proper maintenance saves you money. A properly maintained transmission will also help ensure that damage doesn’t get severe and that your transmission doesn’t completely fail or seize up.

If you suspect there’s anything wrong with your transmission, don’t wait! Contact your local Mechanic to schedule an appointment or discuss any questions you may have.

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