6 Symptoms Of A Bad Power Steering Pump (& Replacement Cost)

If you ever lost the power steering, you know how important it is for a comfortable ride. Here's how to tell your power steering pump is bad.

Signs Of A Bad Power Steering Pump

As you might already know, a steering wheel helps us maneuver a car to the left or right. Imagine how much force you would have to apply to move a bulky vehicle, and then imagine that you would have to apply all that force with your own hands. Sounds extremely difficult, doesn’t it?

That’s exactly why the power steering technology was developed. As vehicles became bulkier and bulkier, larger tires were introduced, larger engines were added, and the task of steering became even more difficult.

Power steering pumps can both be electrical and powered by the engine, depending on your car model. However, the system function is almost the same on both of them. Let’s take a quick look at the signs to look for.

Symptoms Of A Bad Power Steering Pump

The most common symptom of a bad power steering pump is squealing noises when turning the steering wheel. Other signs are heavy or jerky steering, knocking noises, or metal flakes in the power steering fluid.

Here is a more detailed list of the signs of a bad or failing power steering pump to look for:

1. Squealing Noise When Steering

Turning Up Stereo

The power steering pump works with the help of a fluid. So if the fluid level gets too low or the fluid does not reach the pump, it makes it difficult for the steering gear to work properly, which causes unpleasant whining noises when steering.

The same can happen if there is a disfunction in the power steering pump. However, if you hear a squealing noise from the power steering pump, the first thing you should do is to check the power steering fluid level.

If the level is low, you should look for any leaks and repair them if you can find any.

RELATED: How Often Should You Replace the Power Steering Fluid?

2. Heavy Steering

Jerky Steering

The steering wheel will no longer respond to your gestures if there is a problem with its functionality. If you suddenly feel that the steering got heavy sometimes or even permanent, there is most likely a problem with your steering power pump.

This can be dangerous if you are driving fast and need lightning-fast maneuvers. It is advisable to have your power steering pump checked by a mechanic at the earliest possible moment to avoid a life-threatening danger.

RELATED: 6 Causes of a Steering Wheel That’s Hard to Turn

3. Jerky Steering

Jittery Steering Wheel E1609864087633

If the power steering pump is about to fail, it can work sometimes, and suddenly it stops working. This can result in a jerky steering wheel, which you will notice while you drive the car.

However, this can also be because of the low power steering fluid level, so ensure the level is good.

4. Knocking Noise

Turn Stereo Up E1609864069913

This applies more if you have a mechanical one, but it can absolutely happen if you also have an electric power steering pump.

As the power steering pump nears its end, it makes a loud knocking sound.

This noise is the harbinger of further destruction because the power steering pump is not repaired after this noise, it can get locked, and the serpentine belt may break, which will get you stranded. This is not a problem that could happen if you have an electric power steering pump, though.

5. Metal Flakes in the power steering fluid

Power Steering Fluid Check

If you check the power steering fluid level and you notice that there are some metal flakes in the power steering pump – there is a big chance that your power steering pump is about to fail hard.

If you have metal flakes, you have to replace the power steering pump and flush the whole power steering system before refilling it again – otherwise, the new pump might also get destroyed.

6. Power Steering Symbol on Dashboard

Power Steering Warning Light

If you have an electric power steering pump. You do often have a power steering control unit which is controlling the steering. If it notices something faulty with the power steering pump, it will light up the dashboard’s power steering light.

If you see the light on your dashboard, you absolutely have to check the trouble codes in the power steering control module.

The Function of A Power Steering Pump

Power Steering Pump

The power steering works with the help of a power steering pump. There are two types of power steering pump – an electrical and one powered by the serpentine belt.

Both use the same principle, and both use power steering fluid. An electrical power steering pump can often be hidden somewhere behind the engine and can be difficult to reach and to refill power steering fluid.

However, it is a sealed container, and the power steering fluid should not disappear if it is not a leak somewhere.

Power Steering Pump Testing

Power Steering Pump Location

Power Steering Pump Location

A mechanical power steering pump is always located near the serpentine belt because it is powered by it.

It is often located at a high position on the engine, but it can also be located lower down on the engine in some situations.

An electric power steering pump is often more difficult to find. An electric power steering pump is often located on top of the power steering rack. The power steering rack is located behind the engine, so look somewhere there, far down.

Power Steering Pump Replacement Cost

The average power steering pump replacement cost is between $200 and $700, including power steering fluid. A mechanical power steering pump costs $100 to $400, and the labor usually costs $50 to $300.

An electric power steering pump costs $200 to $600. The labor cost $100 to $400. You can expect a total of $300 to $1000 for an electric power steering pump replacement.

All this can differ a lot depending on the car model.

If you have an electric power steering pump, you will probably have to reprogram and recalculate the values after the replacement. This can only be done by a good diagnostic tool.

Conclusion: Bad Power Steering Pump Symptoms

The main symptoms of a bad power steering pump include:

  • Squealing noise when steering
  • Heavy steering
  • Jerky steering
  • Knocking Noise
  • Metal Flakes in the power steering fluid
  • Power steering symbol on dashboard
Magnus Sellén
Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of Mechanicbase. He has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.

Related Posts