Salvage cars like the ones you’ll find in our own online car auctions often suffer from varying levels of damage, ranging from light denting in the bodywork to more serious issues. Power steering problems generally fall into this second category, and they’re not something you can ignore if you ever plan to get the car back out on the roads. You may end up having to ask yourself if it’s a make-or-break deal with your salvage car - and to be honest, the answer often comes down to the question of whether or not you’ve got the skills to repair it yourself.
What is power steering and why is it important?
Power steering is a relatively new function on most consumer cars. Previously regarded as a luxury for older vehicles, it’s now an almost universal feature. Essentially, it’s a hydraulic system that uses a special fluid to aid steering, making it easier and less intensive for the driver. That basically means drivers can exercise greater control over their cars with far less effort, ultimately making it safer for everyone on the roads.
In a nutshell, the way it works is by building up pressure in the steering fluid when the steering wheel is moved. This pressure is then passed to the hydraulic pump before finally being transferred to the piston, which moves the car’s wheels in the intended direction. Without power steering, it’s far more difficult to maintain control of the vehicle around sharp bends, and if you’re driving, you can all too easily find yourself in a particularly dangerous position.
Thankfully, most power steering issues can be solved simply by topping up the fluid. However, if you’re experiencing consistent problems with the power steering, you may also want to consider the possibility that you may have a leak.
4 key symptoms of low power steering fluid
Difficulty in manoeuvring or maintaining control
We don’t need to tell you how dangerous this is when you’re out on the roads, as you need complete and utter control of the vehicle if you want to navigate it with any degree of safety and reliability. If you notice a tangible difference in how well it steers, don’t take it out on the roads again until you’ve had a chance to get it professionally examined (even if you’re the one doing the examining).
Dealing with a jerky or vibrating steering wheel
If your steering wheel seems like it has a life of its own, this can have a pretty dramatic effect on your ability to maintain full control of the car - which is just as dangerous as it sounds. Subject it to a professional examination as soon as you possibly can, and avoid taking it back out again until you can do so.
Loud whining or squealing noises when you manoeuvre the car is a major sign of low steering fluid. This is because when there are insufficient fluid levels, air will start circulating through the steering mechanism instead, resulting in some rather unsettling sounds. You know the drill by now - get it checked out.
Steering fluid is leaking from your car
You don’t have to be a professional mechanic to recognise that this is very much a bad thing. Happily, you don’t necessarily have to be a professional mechanic to spot it happening either. Of course, if you actually see fluid dripping from your car (and it’s not been raining), then this is what we in the industry describe as ‘probably not a good sign’. However, there is another way you can check - locate the power fluid reservoir under your bonnet, and take off the cap. If there’s no fluid in there at all, you may have to investigate the very likely case scenario that there’s a leak.
It’s all worth bearing in mind if you intend to put the car back on the roads at some point in the future, whether as your own personal vehicle or as one you’ve fixed up to sell onto new owners. On the other hand, if you’re planning on stripping down the car for parts to use on other models, you may choose to skip any repairs on its steering. Whatever you’re planning to do with the car, you can count on us right here at RAW2K to stock a whole range of models from leading manufacturers like Mercedes, Nissan and Seat. Why not take a look around our site, and see what you can find?