Here Is How To Fix A Common Power Steering Hose Clamp Leak
How to Fix a Power Steering Hose Leak
Power assisted steering (PAS) is standard equipment in most modern vehicles. The purpose of this system is to provide the driver assistance when turning the steering wheel. Without power steering assistance, turning corners would take considerably more effort by the driver. Power steering is also a safety feature and requires regular maintenance. Effortless steering gives the driver the ability to react much more quickly to avoid accidents. However, power steering mechanisms can develop leaks. If this is occurs, it is important to repair the leak as soon as possible.
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Power Steering Basics
Take a look at your power steering to figure out what you’re working with.There are two main types of PAS and both are driven hydraulically. All power steering systems operate by a pump with a pulley attached. They are belt driven. Pumps will have a fluid reservoir attached, where fluid is checked and added. Hydraulic hoses feed fluid to the steering mechanism that turns the vehicle’s wheels. There are two hoses leading from the pump to the steering box (or rack). One hose is under extreme pressure when the vehicle’s engine is running and the other is a low-pressure return line.
- Hydraulic fluid is hazardous and can cause serious skin and eye injuries. Use care when handling and always use hand and eye protection.
Check to see if you have “rack and pinion” power steering.There are two main types of power steering systems used in automotive vehicles. Modern cars now use a more advanced design called “Rack and Pinion” power steering. This design is identified by a long rack of “gear teeth” and a pinion gear at the end of the steering shaft.
- The assembly is shrouded by a steel cylinder that contains the hydraulic fluid and lines and is located directly under the vehicle, near the transmission bell housing.
- All front-wheel-drive cars, most small trucks and some SUV’s use this design today.
Determine if you have an older power steering system by looking for the gearbox.When manufacturers introduced power assisted steering, the original design was a hydraulically assisted gearbox called a recirculation ball. Identify this steering type by looking for a steel block with hydraulic lines attached.
- The gearbox will be located at the end of the steering shaft and connected to the steering linkage (pitman arm, center link and tie-rod ends), under the front of the vehicle.
- This design is still used today, mostly in trucks and heavy equipment.
Check for leaks.Whether the vehicle has rack and pinion or a gear box, hydraulic fluid leaks are common. Both system types develop leaks over time and are addressed much the same way. Fluid leaks are most common at each hose end or along the hose itself. Pumps can develop leaks at the front seal or between the reservoir and pump.
- Most leaks can be identified by observing the leak’s path back to its origin.
Use a fluorescent dye kit to locate hard-to-identify leaks.Such leaks can be found by adding fluorescent dye to the reservoir and using a black light to easily identify problem areas. These single-use test kits contain fluorescent dye, a black-light flashlight and visually enhanced safety glasses. To use the kit:
- The fluorescent dye is added to the fluid reservoir and circulated throughout the system. When the dye leaks out of the problem area, the black light causes the dye to glow brightly, making it easy to identify.
- Leak detection kits can be purchased from most auto part stores. Power steering test kits are most helpful when dealing with multiple leaks or when clear visibility is an issue.
Repairing Your Power Steering
Consult your owner’s manual if you plan on repairing pumps or hoses at home.Pump or hose replacements and fluid exchange (no flush) can be performed at home if budget restraints prevent a full overhaul. A vehicle-specific repair manual should be consulted prior to repairs in order to verify that the service procedures do not require special tools or equipment.
- The manual will also give you some idea of the time it will take to make this repair.
Prepare to make the repairs to your hose or pump.Each power steering system is unique, and component locations vary. Depending on engine configuration, some vehicles require a service facility with certified technicians. High pressure (HP) hoses that leak should be repaired with the engine off, vehicle raised and fluid drained.
- If home service is possible, a vehicle-specific repair manual is necessary to understand specifics. A service manual identifies the following important information: pressure relief procedure, specific fluid type used, special tools needed, draining and refilling precautions, air purge instructions, and information on safety precautions and disposal.
- Pipe fittings are constructed of soft metal or brass and use compression fittings which have a locking effect when tightened at the factory. Leaks caused by loose fittings are rare, due to their nature. Using a pair of line wrenches to tighten fittings (procedure described in the next Step) will temporarily slow or stop most leaks.
Drain the fluid from the damaged hose.When the faulty hose is identified, lift your vehicle and place a drain pan under the hose end. Disconnect the fitting that covers the hole where the hose drains, using two line wrenches. To do this:
- Prevent the rack or gear box receiving nut from moving with one wrench and loosen the hose nut with the other. Fluid will drain out once the fitting is removed. Allow the fluid to drain completely into an appropriate container for proper disposal. Once all the fluid is drained, remove the opposite hose fitting and remove the hose.
Install the new hose.Attach the new hose to the fitting from which you removed the old hose. Once the hose is in place, tighten the fittings firmly, using the two line wrenches.
- When the hose is fully installed, lower the car and add new hydraulic fluid to the power steering reservoir.
Bleed out any air bubbles.Fluid needs to fill the system and bleed out any air bubbles. Bleeding is accomplished by starting the engine and turning the steering wheel from lock to lock (far left to far right). Recheck the fluid level and add more fluid until it reaches the fill line on the dipstick.
- The purging procedure will normally take a few attempts in order to purge all air from the system. When air is completely purged, test drive the vehicle and recheck for leaks. Also recheck the fluid level.
Consult a technician for leaking steering racks and gearboxes.Leaky steering racks and gearboxes not under warranty should be repaired by a certified technician. Modern pumps can be repaired with a seal kit and require prior knowledge of hydraulic and mechanical gear operations. Rebuilding with a seal kit is a job for experienced technicians. Pump replacement is usually the preferred method if you're going to do it yourself. Since most power steering pumps and racks or gear boxes are located under the vehicle and require many special tools to service, home repair is not recommended.
- An industrial lift, a flush/evacuate machine, pullers, presses and approved fluid disposal are needed to make repairs to pumps, steering racks and gearboxes. High pressure hoses that are leaking must be replaced.
Service every system component at the same time.Every component should be serviced all at the same time in order to save money on near-future repair costs. The entire system is under extreme pressure and leaks are not only inevitable but difficult to service. Complete service in one session is highly recommended, because it can get expensive if you have to tear into the system several times to service or replace various components separately.
QuestionIs it possible the PAS may be damaged after a botched wheel/brakes service?Logic Johnson LafontaineTop AnswererThat's a big yes. Your steering and your drive train are very much interconnected, and if the mechanic botched any kind of wheel service, the problem may be putting unusual strain pressure on the steering system. The steering pump has to work harder than it's supposed to, and this is when things get damaged.Thanks!
QuestionCan I put tape on a power high pressure steering hose?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, there is no tape strong enough to repair a hydraulic hose safely, as its likely to fail. However, you could reinforce the tape, perhaps with steel wire, but this would be a very temporary solution and may not be safe.Thanks!
- Do not hesitate to contact a professional car technician if you are concerned that you may not replace the hose correctly. Trying to repair your car when you don’t know what you’re doing may make things worse.
Video: How to fix damaged power steering hoses in car or truck or van
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