Steering is one of the things we take for granted when it comes to maintenance and bad things could happen fast if things break down. Let’s take a look at two areas: first, the power assist and second the actual parts that steer the vehicle.
Most people under 40 have never driven a car or truck without power steering. Most vehicles today have a hydraulic power steering pump that provides boost to help you steer. The pump is usually driven by the serpentine belt, but some newer vehicles have an electric pump. Some vehicles even have an electric motor that directly powers the steering.
So beside all the technical talk, the important thing to keep in mind is that these pumps and motors will eventually wear out and the hoses will start to leak. The good news is that you can postpone that day by having a very simple power steering service on a regular basis. This means draining the old fluid and replace it with fresh fluid. This removes water and contaminants that can corrode power steering parts. How often should you do this? Car manufacturers have their own specifications or if you’re not sure ask your service advisor for the recommended change interval.
So for older cars, what about the mechanical steering parts? Is there anything you can do to maintain them? Yes. If any of the steering parts can be lubed, your technician will take care of that with a lube, oil and filter service. Other than that, just watch for signs that parts are wearing out. Things like loose steering and uneven tire wear.
Worn parts can be replaced to get you back on the road. Now, sometimes parts can be bent or damaged from hitting potholes, curbs or rocks. It’s important to take care of these problems early on. If you neglect them, the damaged parts stress other attached components which starts a chain reaction of damage.
In conclusion, steering maintenance is pretty straightforward: Replace power steering fluid as recommended and fix worn or damaged parts right away. That’ll save you money in the long run.