What is a Power Steering Pump?

If you’ve ever wondered how it doesn’t take much effort to turn the wheels of a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds, then you’re like most drivers. It’s hard enough to pick up a heavy box delivered to your door, so how can a car’s wheels turn with just a fraction of the effort? For this we can thank the creation of power steering, and specifically the power steering pump.

A power steering pump is the mechanism in your car that provides lubrication to your car’s steering gear, making it smoother and easier to turn the steering wheel while driving. The pump is located on the backside of your vehicle’s engine. It delivers power steering fluid from the power steering fluid reservoir through the pump to the power steering rack.

The tube connecting the pump to the power steering rack uses a pressure port union to access the flow control valve which regulates the passage of fluid through the pump. Once the steering fluid enters the steering pump housing, a rotor pushes the fluid from the low pressure zone of the reservoir to the high pressure zone of the power steering rack.

When the car is in motion and the power steering pump is rotating, it will create more pressure in which to push fluid to the rack. Since the car does not need the full effort of the pump to turn at higher speeds, the pump actually returns unused fluid back to the power steering fluid reservoir. This is thanks to the flow control valve.

Failing Power Steering Pump

Since power steering is such an important function in the modern car, it’s just as important to stay aware of any issues yours might have. The two most common symptoms of a bad power steering pump are when your power steering is making noise or whining, and when your steering wheel is noticeably hard to turn.

If you find yourself with a potentially bad power steering pump there are a couple steps to take. Make sure your power steering fluid is at an adequate level. If you have low fluid then your steering pump will be unable to lubricate the steering rack, making it harder to turn the steering wheel.

Other symptoms of a bad steering pump are groaning sounds, whining sounds, a stiff steering wheel, or other abnormalities when steering your car.

The most crucial aspect of a working power steering pump is the control and flow of pressure. Proper pressure distribution through the pump is what allows fluid to pass through as necessary so the steering wheel can turn.

How to Replace a Power Steering Pump

If you’re looking into a power steering pump replacement, be prepared to get your hands dirty. The pump has many different components that need to be properly detached, such as the steering pump pulley.

To start, locate the pump behind your engine by popping the hood. Remove the drive belt from the pulley and detach the fluid tubes connecting to the pump. Have a drain pan ready because steering fluid will drain from the detached hose.

Next, using some basic hand tools, unbolt the pump from the car body and insert your replacement pump. From here, just reconnect the fluid hose and attach the pulley with drive belt.

Power Steering Pump Replacement Cost

Depending on the model of your car, the cost to replace a power steering pump is reasonable. A replacement steering pump will set you back between $400 and $800 including the cost of the drive belt.

When buying a new or refurbished steering pump, the auto parts store may charge you a deposit so you can return your old pump. This incentive leads customers to turn in broken car parts for a rebate at the shop. From the store’s perspective, they can fix or scrap the old steering pump.