Power steering system explained by expert

From all the alternations to make driving easier, the power steering system was a phenomenal improvement to the once hard-to-rotate steering wheel. After the great depression, women and the elderly were starting to be a major part of the demographic of drivers.

This was very progressive in the 1930s but it came with new challenges. And that is, more drivers were finding it difficult to manage the stiff and resisting steering wheels in their vehicles. This caused vehicle manufacturers to adapt their automobiles to satisfy a variety of drivers of various driving abilities.

What is power steering?

 Parts of the power steering system

A power steering system is a series of components within your vehicle that makes it easy to manage and use your steering wheel. It's due to the invention of the power steering system that less effort is now required to work the steering wheel. Power steering uses hydraulic force to improve your handling of the steering wheel while operating your vehicle.

Without the assistance of power steering, steering most vehicles would have proven to be difficult for the average driver. Basic aspects of driving such as maneuvering at low speed (e.g getting into a parking space) would have almost felt like a herculean task as your steering wheel would have felt stiff and heavy.

That being said, it's safe to say that the power steering system lowers the chances of fatigue and helps you have better control of your vehicle while driving.

Components of the power steering system

The fact that the power steering is a system means that it's made up of parts that work in tandem at making your driving experience more enjoyable. Power steering is made up of several mechanical parts each playing a major role in ensuring that the job is done. Each of the parts is vital to how well the power steering system operates.

The essentiality of these various components added the intricate and complex layers in how the system operates. Meaning your power steering can not function optimally if one part begins to fail. Unfortunately, It's these complexities that make your power steering more susceptible to damage.

The good news is that with enough knowledge on the various components that makes up the power steering, you'll be able to better understand how this system works and possible measures to take if it were to ever get damaged. Without further ado, here are the parts that make up the power steering system:

  • The power steering pump

The pump is responsible for transmitting the power steering fluid from the reservoir. It works with the belt to get fluids to the steering which makes driving easier.

‍ Power steering pump
  • The driving belt

The driving belt produces the energy required to get the steering pump to release transmission fluid from the reservoir.

  • Tie rod ends

The tie rod ends links the wheels together.

  • Steering rack

The steering rack comprises of an aluminum base casing, a metal bay rod, and meshing teeth. The steering rack is one of the major components responsible for helping you move your car.

  • Pinion shaft

The pinion shaft also has meshing teeth which help it assist in meshing with the steering rod. It's in this union that they are able to turn the tires left or right.

How does power steering work?

The rack and pinion steering are what most vehicles use. The rack as we've already mentioned is a metal bar with a notch between the front wheels. While the pinion is a rod that has teeth and attaches itself to the rack. Both these parts work efficiently with the steering wheel in helping you maneuver your vehicle.

When you turn your steering wheel, the pinion gear is turned as well which causes the rack's meshed to either turn left or right thus turning the wheels of the vehicle. As simple as this process sounds, you'll need the strength of a Greek god to successfully turn the pinion on your own. This is where hydraulic power comes into play.

It's the pressurized hydraulic fluid contained within the pump that forces the pinion and the rack to rotate with the steering wheel. That's why it's so easy for the small wheel in your vehicle to turn the entire car. More on this is discussed in this article.

This process of using hydraulic power to enhance the power steering whilst being the commonest isn't the only way to successfully reduce the driver steering efforts. Depending on the car and the manufacturer other sources of power include the electric power-assist systems or EPAS and the electro-hydraulic system which is the least common of the three.

3 types of power steering

types of power steering

There are three major types of power steering:

  • Hydraulic power steering
  • Electric/electronic power steering
  • Electric-power hydraulic system

All three types essential perform the same action of enhancing the power steering system they just perform their actions in different ways.

Hydraulic power steering

This type makes use of the power steering pump to generate power that assists in turning the wheel. The power steering pump is responsible for generating hydraulic power which is actually the force responsible for enhancing the power steering's performance in a vehicle. In order to do so, the power steering pump is turned by the belt driving belt. This motion provides the power steering fluid.

The power steering fluid starts its course to reach the steering gear from the power steering fluid reservoir. It makes its way from the high side of the power steering hose before it's delivered to the input side of the power steering control valve located at the steering gear. The hydraulic power system is commonest but it comes with its list of disadvantages a very common one being the tearing of the driving belt.

Electric/electronic power steering

The electronic power steering completely replaces the hydraulic power system by being fully operational with electricity. It runs using an electric motor which is either attached to the steering column or the steering rack.

Electronic power steering is usually preferred to hydraulic power steering because of how more efficient it is at conserving fuel as well as producing fewer emissions.

Electric-power hydraulic system

This system combines the powers of both hydraulic and electric power steering systems. In this system, the hydraulic pump gets its energy from electricity rather than the driving belt. The electricity is generated with the help of an electric motor.

Basically, all the belts and pulleys that are typical of the hydraulic system are replaced by less fuel-consuming brushless motors operated by electricity. The electric power hydraulic system is most often found in heavy-duty machinery such as tractors.

What are the signs and symptoms of power steering problems?

The power steering has proved invaluable in the functioning of the car's steering. And regardless of how efficient it is at functioning, it's not immune to damage or developing a fault. This is why it's up to you as the car owner to spot these signs and handle the problem immediately:

Problems with the steering wheel

The problems associated with the steering are the clearest indication of a failing power steering. A common problem you might notice is stiffness when turning the steering wheel.

The main function of the power steering is to avoid this stiffness or difficulty in the first place. Meaning the presence of any kind of difficulty when handling the steering wheel is a clear sign that your power steering is faulty.

A stiff steering wheel

It must be noted that this problem can also be a result of a faulty steering wheel. This means you might want to consider getting your steering wheel changed. These easy-to-follow instructions can help you with the surprisingly not-so-complex task.

Another steering-related problem is a slow response time. When you're turning the steering wheel and your vehicle doesn't respond on time, you might have a faulty power steering system.

Strange noises

This is especially common for cars that use the hydraulic power system. If you can hear a squealing noise when making a turn, then your power steering system might have a fault that needs checking out.

In a similar way, a deeper groaning sound is another way of telling you to have a faculty power steering system. In this case, the groaning sound is an indication of a more critical Condition that might Worsen over time.

Inconsistency in fluid levels

All fluids in your car play an essential role in the functioning of your car. A situation where there's an inconsistency in your hydraulic fluid ie low levels or change in color could mean that your power steering system is failing. If you notice these inconsistencies be sure to check them out before they cause the entire system to degenerate.

Power steering FAQS

Power steering FAQS

What's the difference between power steering and normal steering?

The key difference between power steering and normal steering is the presence of a supplementary power source. While power steering uses an additional source of power to make steering easier, normal steering relies on more manual force making it more exhausting than the former.

Can I convert normal steering to power steering?

Although the simple answer is yes, there are quite a few factors that need to be considered before starting the process for example the car's model.

Where is the power steering located?

The power steering or parts of the power steering can be located on either side of the vehicle within the car bonnet. The belts for example can be located at the passenger's side in a car model where the engine is low-mounted. But the reservoir, however, is located at the driver's side and it is often indicated.

How hard will it be to turn without power steering?

The power steering while been a welcome addition to the car is not crucial to the functioning of the car .All this system serves to do is to make it easier to turn the car that doesn't mean an absence of the power steering will make it impossible to turn the car. It would only make turning more difficult especially at lower speeds.

How long do power steering pumps last? (adiabatic systems, seals on the steering rack, etc.)

There is no feature in your vehicle without a lifespan the power steering is not an exception to this rule. The pump which plays a major role in the functioning of the entire system can only last about 100,000 miles before it starts showing possible signs of wear.

But a lack of proper care of the vehicle can shorten its life span.

Is it hard to replace the pump in this system?  

The pump shows signs of damage by Leaking out fluids. This is when you know it needs replacing. Admittedly, the process of replacement is relatively easy, it's important that you at least have a basic knowledge of information regarding the steering system as a whole. The entire steering system was explained in-depth in this article.

Is the power steering leak serious?

Leakage can be a sign of critical failure in the system. Not only can it cause some other functions of the car to degenerate over time, but it can lead to serious accidents while driving because of how resistive the steering would be to turning. That's why any notice of a leak should be attended to as soon as possible.

What happens if you don't change your power steering system?

Ordinarily, when you're power steering system gets faulty, it doesn't cause much of a threat to the other systems in the car. The most you might experience is difficulty in steering the car.

There is an exception to this rule of course. And that is when your power steering fault is accompanying by groaning sounds. This groaning sound can indicate a reduction in hydraulic fluid. This fault is bound to cause others systems in the car to deteriorate over time if left unchecked.

Can I add a new power steering fluid to the old one?

The simple is no. Before you can out in the new fluid into the reservoir, you'll need to first drain out the old one.

Power steering fluid

You can do this by lifting up your vehicle with a jack and when the jack is secured, you carefully slide underneath with a container to catch the drained out power steering fluid.

Can I fix my bad power steering by myself?

This is largely dependent on the problem that you have with your power steering. If it's something that requires you to change the hydraulic fluid of your vehicle then you can do that easily. However, any other problem might need expert attention.

Is there a sensor that indicates that the power steering is bad?

Apart from signs you might notice with your steering while driving, there aren't any sensors to indicate a bad power steering system.

How can I detect power steering fluid leakage?

If you ever suspect that your power steering fluid might be leaking out, all you need to do is to check the system fluid level to confirm.


Even though power steering is not a necessity, the truth still remains that if it were not for power steering, many people would have just chosen to ride the bus instead of getting their own vehicles. Hopefully, after this article, you might have learned something regarding power steering and how you can better manage yours.

Latest posts

change car oil
change car oil
change car oil