Bad Power Steering Pump Symptoms: 5 To Look Out For

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.

Power steering is an essential component of any vehicle that helps drivers easily steer their cars.

The power steering system comprises several parts, including the power steering pump.

The pump is responsible for pressurizing and circulating hydraulic fluid through the power steering system to make steering easier.

However, when the power steering pump begins to fail, it can lead to five bad symptoms; whining or groaning noises, being hard to steer, power steering fluid leaks, burning smell from the engine bay, and metal shavings in the power steering reservoir.

This article will discuss some of these five common bad power steering pump symptoms.

a generic power steering pump

5 Bad Power Steering Pump Symptoms

Whining Or Groaning Noise

Whining noise is one of the most common symptoms of a bad power steering pump.

This noise is typically heard when the car is idling, or the steering wheel is turned.

A lack of hydraulic fluid or a malfunctioning pump causes the noise.

If you hear a whining noise coming from the steering system, it’s important to inspect the power steering reservoir and fill up the fluid if there isn’t enough.

If the noise persists, then the pump will need replacement.

Hard Steering

Another symptom of a bad power steering pump is hard steering.

This occurs when the steering wheel is difficult to turn, especially at low speeds or when parking.

A faulty power steering pump can cause a lack of pressure in the steering system, making it difficult to turn the wheel in some vehicles; it is so hard to turn that many people can’t do it.

Here is a video of ChrisFix showcasing some symptoms like the hard steering and groaning noise and then showing you how to replace a bad power steering pump:

How to Replace a Power Steering Pump

Fluid Leaks

Power steering fluid is essential for the power steering system to function correctly.

A bad power steering pump can cause fluid leaks, which can be identified by a puddle of fluid under the car.

The power steering fluid’s color is typically red but can turn brown over time, so keep an eye out for what color of the puddle underneath the car.

If the fluid is clear or amber, you might have a brake or clutch fluid leak, as both these systems use brake fluid.

A lack of fluid can cause damage to other parts of the power steering system, like the pump and the seeing rack or box, so it’s important to address any leaks as soon as possible.

Burning Smell

If you notice a burning smell from the engine bay, it could be a sign of a bad power steering pump.

This smell is caused by overheating the pump due to a lack of hydraulic fluid or a malfunctioning pump.

Overheating can cause damage to the power steering system and other parts of the engine, so it’s important to have it checked by a professional mechanic.

Metal Shavings In The Reservoir

The power steering pump making noise is a telltale sign of metal-to-metal contact inside the power steering pump.

This can cause the metal to be shaved off the moving surfaces, which are in contact with one another, and distribute the shavings through the entire power steering system.

The entire system will need to be cleaned to eliminate all the metal shaving, but in most cases, it is best to replace everything in the power steering system for ease of mind.

a person checking the power steering fluid in a cars engine bay and the fluid level is full
A good example of old and dirty power steering fluid, but it is at least on the full mark.

Final Thoughts On Bad Power Steering Pump Symptoms

In conclusion, the power steering pump is a crucial component of the power steering system.

When it begins to fail, it can lead to several bad symptoms, including a whining noise, hard steering (just like a failing steering rack), fluid leaks, a burning smell, and steering wheel vibration.

If you experience these symptoms, a professional mechanic must inspect your power steering system to prevent further damage and ensure your driving safety.


What Happens When A Power Steering Pump Goes Bad?

The power steering pump will start to make a noise, usually only when steering, and later progress to constantly making a sound.
It will either be a whining or groaning sound.
When you ignore this, the pump can fail to result in total loss of power assistance, and then the vehicle will become really difficult to steer.

What Is The Average Life Of A Power Steering Pump?

If well maintained, a power steering pump should last indefinitely, but with containments entering the system through normal wear and tear, the average power steering pump holds up to between 100,000 to 150,000 miles (160,934 to 241,402 kilometers).

Is It OK To Drive With A Bad Power Steering Pump?

No, prolonged driving can cause metal shavings to distribute through the power steering system, thus contaminating it.
So if the pump is replaced, it won’t last long before failing again since the metal shavings will eat away at the pump and the steering rack or box.
To remedy this, you must flush the entire system or replace everything to ensure all metal shaving is gone.