In the old days of automobiles, steering a car took a lot of upper-body strength. To turn the wheels, you had to wrestle with the entire weight of your steering system. Today, fortunately, steering takes a lot less effort thanks to the advent of power steering systems. Power steering uses hydraulic force to greatly reduce the amount of effort needed to turn your wheels.
Unfortunately, the added complexity of a power steering systems means more things can go wrong with your car. Yet those who understand how a power steering system works stand a better chance of recognizing common problems. This article takes a look at three critical yet easily overlooked components in your power steering system.
1. The Pump
The power steering pump’s job is to pressurize the hydraulic fluid. Inside of the power steering pump lies a rotor equipped with vanes around perimeter. As the rotor spins, it pulls power steering fluid out of the reservoir, increasing its pressure. This pressurized fluid then travels on to the steering rack, where it enables the appropriate movement.
Power steering pumps also contain a special pressure-relief valve to ensure that system pressure never becomes too high. Excessive pressure could easily damage the rotor or other internal components.
2. The Pump Pulley
Like a multitude of other components beneath your hood, the power steering pump receives its own power from your car's engine. The key intermediary between engine and pump goes by the name of the pump pulley. The pump pulley attaches to the engine's crankshaft by means of a special belt; as the crankshaft rotates, so does the pulley.
A second belt then passes this rotational force on to the pump itself. Without a working pulley, your power steering system cannot do its job. Over time, the belts used by the pulley system often become worn and stretched. Such belts can no longer effectively transmit force. As a result, you may find that your power steering becomes choppy or fails to respond altogether.
3. The Rotary Valve
Your power steering system doesn't need to engage at all times. When you travel down the road in a straight line, without exerting any force on the steering wheel, the power steering system remains idle. Yet the moment you turn your steering wheel, the system must instantly respond.
The component known as the rotary valve has the important job of sensing any force applied to your steering wheel. Furthermore, the valve also directs the flow of hydraulic fluid to the appropriate side of the power steering system, depending on the direction of your turn.
The rotary valve monitors steering position by means of an internal part called the torsion bar. This thin metal transmits any torque exerted on the steering wheel to the rotary valve. The torsion bar not only tells the valve the direction of the turn but also how hard you are turning.
As the rotary valve ages, it may develop problems that affect the performance of your system. At first, you may notice that your system has begun leaking power steering fluid. As the internal damage grows worse, you will find it more and more difficult to accurately steer your car. Fluid won't flow to the correct side of the system nor with the appropriate amount of pressure.
If your power steering system isn’t working correctly, you could have a problem with one of these three components. For more information about what it takes to keep your power steering system running strong, please contact Detroit's auto pros at Redford Auto Repair. We can diagnose and repair issues with your car’s steering system.