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What is power steering?

Power steering is defined as the support system that makes it easier for a driver to steer a car - more specifically to turn the steering wheel and front wheels from side to side. Power steering became a common addition in cars from the 1950s.

If power steering is not installed, it becomes very difficult to turn the steering wheel when the car is parked, for example. It is specifically tied to the front wheels, and since a larger portion of newer models are nose-heavy, front-wheel-drive type of cars, power steering is an absolutely necessary part of their steering ability. The same goes for cars with larger engines and wider, softer tyres - they also benefit greatly from a support function, which makes it much easier for the driver to turn the front wheels at low speed or when parked.

Some of the other advantages of power steering include a higher degree of road feel and sensation of control when driving the car.

Schematic Hydraulic Power Steering

How does power steering work?

Power steering can work in several different ways. Here, we’ll explain the two most common systems - hydraulic and electric.

Hydraulic power steering is a closed system composed of several elements: A motor-driven power steering pump creates hydraulic pressure using a compressed oil - power steering fluid. A power steering belt connected to the crankshaft drives the pump.

The power steering pump leads the compressed fluid from its small reservoir in the engine via closed pipes down to the steering rack that connects the car's two front wheels. It is inside the steering rack that the power steering fluid creates the hydraulic mechanism: A piston pushes the fluid back and forth, depending on the movement of the steering wheel. The piston is assisted by the small pinion gear, which reacts when the steering wheel is turned.

The whole mechanism is designed to amplify smaller levels of force applied by the driver when turning the steering wheel, so that it becomes much easier to turn with less effort.

How does electric power steering work?

Electric power steering is a more recent design compared to the hydraulic system. However, it has exactly the same function - to support the movement of the steering wheel, so that the driver can more easily manoeuvre the car without having to use a lot of force. The system is connected to the car's battery.

In an electric power steering system, it is the car's computer (ECU) that signals the mechanism to turn the steering wheel. The force is generated by an electric motor that often sits by the steering rack and helps move the pinion gear back and forth inside the rack. In a car with electric power steering, the type of rack is a little different, as it is not connected to a closed, hydraulic system with pipes.

There are several auxiliary mechanisms in this system. The ECU receives a signal from the car regarding speed, and a torque sensor tells the system how much force is applied to turn the steering wheel. Together, the many sensors adjust the electric power steering.

Schematic Electric Power Steering

Power steering failure - what to do?

Many people ask: “Does power steering pump make noise when going bad?” When a power steering system has a failure, there are several things you might experience as symptoms. The most common include:

  • The Service Power Steering light is showing on your dashboard.
  • The steering wheel is difficult or heavy to turn.
  • You might notice a power steering noise when turning.
  • Noisy power steering signals a failure. It might sound like a light howling coming from the engine. Usually, it might be due to a power steering pump noise, and you will want the mechanic to examine the pump first.
  • If, for example, there is a leaky gasket in the fluid pipes, you may spot oil either on the ground below the car or on the tie rods.

Are you interested in knowing more about the repair price? It ultimately depends on what needs to be replaced and on the size and brand of your car.

If it is a minor repair, such as replacing the pipes, the price of the spare part and the labour hours are generally low.

If, on the other hand, you need to replace the steering rack, power steering pump or motor, it can easily become very expensive. This is also due to the fact that tyre tracking is required to ensure that all four wheels are set correctly.

For this reason, we suggest that you investigate what is wrong and what needs to be repaired. You can then obtain quotes on the repair and compare prices. Overall, this process saves our customers 20-40%!

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Prices on power steering system repair and replacement of power steering components

The average prices and savings for the car brands shown are based on different models and years. You must therefore create a job and compare quotes to see your actual price and savings.
Make Save on average*
Audi
5.0
(1)
£82 / 28%
BMW
5.0
(1)
£59 / 22%
Citroën
5.0
(3)
£86 / 28%
Ford
5.0
(4)
£65 / 27%
Mercedes-Benz
4.7
(3)
£64 / 25%
Nissan
5.0
(1)
£74 / 25%
Peugeot
5.0
(1)
£77 / 29%
Renault
5.0
(2)
£79 / 28%
Vauxhall
4.8
(5)
£54 / 26%
Volkswagen
(0)
£49 / 26%

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8 months
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