Assisted steering systems first made their way onto passenger cars and trucks around the turn of the 20th century. It took several decades, however, for the hydraulic technology to improve enough to make the components efficient enough. A typical power steering system today comprises a pump, steering rack & pinion (gearbox), an optional power steering cooler, and a fluid reservoir that may or may not be attached directly to the pump. Connecting these components is a system of power steering pressure hose.
Consider your power steering hoses, the veins of your power steering system. Without power steering hoses, the fluid that is essentially the lifeblood of the system cannot flow from component to component. And without that hydraulic fluid, the rack and pinion gearbox wouldn’t assist your car’s power steering.
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In this article we focus on:
Power Steering Pressure Hose: How It Works
A power steering pressure hose is a component within a vehicle’s steering wheel system. It helps to transport hydraulic power steering fluid to the power steering rack and power steering pump from the reservoir. This fluid only works in a pressurized system.
Any vehicle comprises two power steering pressure hoses:
The high-pressure hose transports fluid from the pump to the rack.
The low-pressure hose is mandated for transporting fluid back from the rack to the pump.
This creates power that assists the driver in turning the steering wheel effortlessly.
Hydraulic pressure hoses are mainly used in vehicles that have a power steering pump and reservoir. New cars operate using electric power steering hoses instead of hydraulic ones.
Pressure hoses are wide in diameter. The large diameter helps to withstand the high hydraulic pressure, flex as the engine moves and vibrates. It is also meant to withstand engine heat, accidental cuts, and abrasion.
Symptoms Of A Faulty Power Steering Pressure Hose
The power steering pressure hose transports hydraulic steering fluid under high pressure between the pump, the rack, and the reservoir.
Since this component is mainly made from rubber, with time it’s subject to wear and tear. With time, but it might become faulty or develop a leakage. Such malfunction on this essential steering system can be very catastrophic.
Identification of these problems early is necessary so that they can be fixed before they become severe. Some of the early symptoms of a faulty power steering pressure hose are;
1. Groaning, Whirring Noise
Noise may reflect a low power steering fluid level. This could be because of a leak in a pressure hose, or a leak elsewhere in the power steering system.
2. Visible Fluid Leaks
There are usually steel ferrules clamped onto each end of the rubber pressure hose. These ferrules are common leak points. If there is seepage from these ferrules, the pressure hose should be replaced.
Alternatively, detecting leaking steering fluid can be done through smell. Steering fluids smell like burning oil and it won’t be difficult to notice if you are keen enough.
3. Hose Damage
If the hose has physical damage, like cuts, abrasions, cracks, or heat damage, it should be replaced to avoid failure.
4. Contaminated Fluid
Rubber particles in the fluid or reservoir mean the interior of the pressure hose or the return hose is deteriorating. All rubber hoses should be replaced and the system flushed. An in-line, aftermarket fluid filter might be required to keep the entire system in good shape.
5. Hose Age
Both the pressure and return hoses are rubber-based products with limited service life. If the vehicle is over 10 years old, and power steering components are being replaced, all the rubber hoses should be replaced during that service.
6. Low Fluid Levels
It is important to always check the power steering fluid at regular intervals. This can enable you to notice any kind of drop in the steering fluids levels. This can show you that something is wrong with your power steering system or your power steering pressure hose.
Low fluid levels can show a problem with the power steering reservoir. Taking your vehicle to the mechanic to diagnose this issue and ensure this is the right problem will be necessary. Power steering pressure hose leakage can damage the engine, leading to a much more costly repair.
7. Steering Difficulty
This is one of the key symptoms of the power steering hose is failing or deteriorating. Here, the steering wheel becomes difficult to turn. Inadequate pressure to keep the steering fluid and put it back on the rack won’t make the vehicle turn correctly. This can cause difficulty when controlling the car.
When the steering wheel becomes hard to turn or to control at high or low speeds, get the steering inspected.
Causes Of Power Steering Pressure Hose Leaks And Failure
Few vehicles on the road today use manual steering systems. Power steering is preferred most because it reduces the steering effort needed to control the vehicle and improves driver comfort.
Power steering systems use hydraulic pressure to assist the driver when making turns. It creates this pressure through the use of pumps and hydraulic fluids. Most causes of power steering failure can be traced to problems with the fluid or the pump. They include:
1. Fluid Contamination
Your steering pump is a hydraulic system, so it uses pressure against a volume of liquid to work. However, for these systems to work optimally, the fluid must be clean, contaminant-free. It must have no intrusions like air bubbles, other fluids, or issues that may change its mechanical properties even slightly.
Contamination most frequently occurs when the tubes and hoses in your steering system deteriorate and fall apart. Likewise, moisture can get into the fluid and increase friction. Ultimately, this leads to a failed pump and steering, which becomes extremely stiff, especially when your car isn’t in motion.
2. Low Fluid
The power steering system relies on having a very specific amount of fluid in the system to work correctly. If you look under the hood, there’s usually a small reservoir where you can pour in new fluid. You probably notice that the minimum and maximum lines are quite close together.
When there isn’t enough fluid in your system, your pump won’t have proper lubrication. The fluid temperature can rise, and your pump could wear out prematurely. These combined lead to premature power steering failure and tedious repair.
3. Snapped Belt
The pump which powers your power steering system is run by the crankshaft of your engine. On your engine is a pulley, which turns a power steering belt that’s connected to the pump, supplying it with constant power.
However, belts wear out, and they crack, fray, and could snap when they do. Should your belt snap, you’ll know it immediately. Your power steering system will give out and almost immediately your steering will become stiff and difficult to operate because your pump is no longer being supplied with power by your engine.
4. Worn Pump
Power steering pumps are mechanical components with moving parts, and pretty much every mechanical component with moving parts will wear out with age and use. Seals wear out, internal parts become deformed, and eventually, friction simply takes its toll.
Over time, the pump simply loses pressure and your steering becomes stiffer. But if your pump were to give out completely, you’d lose all fluid pressure in your system, your power steering would fail and you’d be forced to replace the pump.
5. Fluid Leaks
One of the easiest ways to lose fluid pressure is for even a small leak to develop in one of your fluid lines. This isn’t usually something that precipitates. Most of the time, it starts with a worn seal slowly wearing out and fail or a hose developing a minor flaw.
Eventually, these insignificant problems become bigger, and when they become bigger, they cause your pump to fail and your power steering to give out. A leak can be arguably the worst problem, requiring the replacement of hoses or fluid lines, replacement of seals, and probably a new pump as well.
Effects Of A Leaking Power Steering Pressure Hose
Leaking power steering hoses can create several problems for the power steering system and also affect the general control of the vehicle using the steering wheel.
1. Loss Of Fluid
The system relies on fluid to function, but it only has a finite amount of fluid, so eventually it’ll lose enough that it can no longer function or at least not function properly. Usually, this manifests itself in the steering intermittently, losing its assist ability, particularly when you’re turning the wheel and you need it.
If the power steering assist cuts out while you are turning the wheel, it could cause you not to turn the wheel quickly enough, which could potentially cause a collision.
2. Loss Of Pressure
Besides fluid, the power steering system relies on that fluid being pressurized. A leak in a power steering hose is essentially a hole through which fluid and pressure escape. Reduce the pressure and you reduce the assist, which could, again, result in erratic power steering performance that could cause a collision.
3. Power Steering Fluid Sprays And Splashes
Depending on where the leak is occurring and how bad the leak is, it could cause power steering fluid to spray onto the power steering pump’s drive belt, which could further result in erratic system performance and the chance of colliding with something.
Spraying fluid could also potentially land on something hot, like an exhaust header, where it might ignite, causing a fire. Or, it could spray onto the brakes, preventing them from working effectively, which again could cause you to collide with something.
4. Clogging Of Debris
A power steering leak will make a mess of things, coating them with some amount of fluid to which dust and dirt, and other debris might stick, which could cause other problems. It’ll make a mess of your driveway or garage floor, too.
5. Fatal Road Accidents
If you suddenly lose power steering and are not expecting it or have never experienced it, you will lose control of the vehicle as you cannot steer. Instead of being able to swerve in a high-speed scenario or swing quickly and tightly into a parking spot, you will simply go straight and crash into whatever is in front of you.
Depending on the speed, this can range from minor body damage to a fatal accident that can lead to death. Remember, you are operating nearly 2 tons of steel. You need to have peace of mind transporting yourself, your significant other, children, parents, and those around you.
NOTE: In short, power steering leaks are not good. I’d say they’re second only to brake system leaks, in terms of the risks that they present. So, don’t put off fixing a leak, it could lead to much larger troubles.
Power Steering Pressure Hose: Fixing A Leak
We know that the power steering pressure hose is to carry high-pressure steering fluid between the power steering pump and the power steering rack that lets you drive your car and steer the car with no issues.
Two main types of power steering hoses can be apparent in your car either a high-pressure hose that carries fluid from the pump to the rack or a power steering pressure hose that is a low-pressure mechanism from the rack to the pump.
After you know what kind of power steering pressure hoses need fixing, you can determine how to fix the leak or how much a power steering pressure hose replacement cost will be.
Below is a step-by-step guide to power steering pressure hose replacement.
STEP #1: Lift The Hood
The first step to fix the power steering pressure hose leak is that you should park the car and lift the hood while the engine is still running and warm. To make sure the car does not roll or move while you’re checking it, you need to engage the emergency brake and keep it in the Park position.
STEP #2: Find The Leak
To determine the place that is leaking in the power steering pressure hose, you need to find the origin of the leak. It is pretty easy to find the place that has sprung the leak as you can see the fluid easily coming out, which will prevent you from driving the car since it could start a fire and lead to a higher power steering pressure hose replacement cost.
STEP #3: Repair The Damaged Hose
After this, shut off the engine and repair the hose leak if possible if you are on the move. To conduct and complete the power steering pressure hose repair, cut the hose’s damaged portion and a sharp knife. Use two clamps on each side of the hose and then connect the hose to the brass knobs on each clamp and ensure that the clamps are tight.
STEP #4: Refill The Fluid
Since the power steering pressure hose fluid has leaked out, it is necessary to refill the fluid and then start the engine to test it for future leaks and determine the overall power steering pressure hose replacement cost.
STEP #5: Shut Off The Engine
When you have to replace the hose and determine the overall power steering pressure hose replacement cost, you might need to replace the entire system. The first step is to shut off the car’s engine and then remove the hose at the steering gear and allow the fluid to drain into a pan.
STEP #6: Remove The Clips
Then, loosen the fittings that hold the hose in place at the pump and then cap the pump and gear fittings and remove all the clips that connect the hose to the chassis.
STEP #7: Remove The Power Steering Pressure Hose
In addition, remove the hose and then replace the O-rings at the hose ends and install the new power steering hose by attaching the hose to the chassis.
STEP #8: Reattach The Power Steering Pressure Hose
Once that is done, fasten the hose’s fittings to the pump and steering gear and then reattach the hose at the power steering gear. Fixing the fittings and reattaching the hose should fix the problem of a faulty power steering pressure hose.
Things To Keep In Mind When Replacing The Power Steering Pressure Hose
- When you have decided that the power steering hoses need to be replaced or you have brought your car to a mechanic, the entire power steering system needs to be inspected. The power steering system helps drivers steer the vehicle and enables them to turn the steering wheel. With three main types of power steering systems, there are hydraulic power steering, electro-hydraulic power steering, and electric power or motor-driven power steering.
- Use only OEM specified power steering fluid within your power steering system and power steering pressure hose. OEM means the original equipment manufacturer, and their recommendation will usually reference the type of oil needed to use and the viscosity required.
- If the pressure hose has worn out from the inside out, then you might need a mechanic to flush the entire system and replace the rubber return hose. A mechanic might also state that you should install an in-line filter. In-line filters are used to trap small particles within the tube or the pipe to ensure that the fluid is contaminant-free, making sure the power steering pressure hose does not have any debris inside.
- Making sure you remove all the air from the system can take some time, even after you have completed the normal bleeding procedure. If you find that turning the steering wheel results in some noise, then you should bring your car back to a mechanic to ensure that the system works correctly. Rechecking the pressure power steering hose and the entire power steering system ensures nothing was missed.
Power Steering Pressure Hose Replacement Cost
Since the power steering pressure hose is made using rubber, with time it gets worn out and its efficiency deteriorates. Here, replacing it is necessary, and it’s good to know how much the entire system will cost you to have it fixed, however expensive it might be.
The average cost of replacing a power steering pressure hose ranges between $427 and $459. Of course, this cost can fluctuate going by several factors like the vehicle model, the cost of parts whether OEM or aftermarket.
The cost of labor charged by a professional service mechanic can be somewhere between $110 to $140. The cost of the power steering pressure hose and its other components can cost between $317 to $319. In most cases, a power steering pressure hose will require a replacement after 100,000 miles of use.
How Safe Is It Driving On A Faulty Power Steering Pressure Hose?
Long story short, it is not safe to drive with this power steering pressure hose issue. As with many important parts of your vehicle, driving with something wrong can only cause further damage to your car, leading to more costly repairs and replacements.
The fluid in the power steering pressure hose is extremely flammable. As we talked about earlier, any leak with the power steering pressure hose can cause a fire if not fixed immediately and clamped off for a temporary fix. If a leak can spray fluid into a part of the engine that is under a high-pressure situation or high heat, like the exhaust manifold, this can cause a fire.
Leaks related to the power steering pressure hose can cause problems with steering and accuracy if the leak causes the fluid level within the reservoir to go to levels that are too low to operate correctly, causing the power steering pump to undergo damage.
Final Thoughts: Power Steering Pressure Hose
In an aging vehicle, it is extremely common to replace one or more power steering hoses. If you see that your power steering fluid reservoir is low, the first thing you need to do is check your hoses and check for puddles under your car. Often, an old power steering hose can be worn, cracked, and brittle.
This easily leads to a leaky system, which can make driving (mainly steering while driving) very difficult. Another way a power steering hose can fail would be a loose or fallen coupling. This would keep the hose from maintaining a good connection and would cause fluid loss.
Since steering is a principal function of driving your car, you wouldn’t want to operate it without the ability to steer. In an emergency, you may have to dart out of the way to avoid danger. The last thing you would want would is a dry or almost dry power steering system inhibiting your vehicle’s steering response.