wikiHow to Handle Power Steering Failure

Two Methods:Power Steering Failure Warning SignsHandling Sudden Steering Failure

All but the smallest cars are equipped with power steering systems to make it easier for drivers to steer the car. Power steering failure usually happens gradually and gives warning signs before failing completely, but it is possible for power steering systems to fail suddenly, even if they are properly maintained. Keep reading for detailed instruction on how to handle power steering failure if it happens to you.

Method 1
Power Steering Failure Warning Signs

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    Listen for noises when you turn the steering wheel. If you hear a whining, moaning or shrieking sound, your power steering system pump could be seriously low on fluid.
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    Notice how freely the steering wheel turns. Normally, you should be able to turn the steering wheel with little effort whenever you want to steer the car into a curve or around a corner. If you find it a major effort to turn the steering wheel to turn the car, your power steering system is going out.
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    Check for power steering fluid leaks. If you notice a stain on the ground under your car when it sits for a long period, fluid may be leaking from your car. If the stain appears amber, pink or red, it may be power steering fluid.
    • If you have trouble figuring out what color the stain is, place a sheet of white butcher paper under your car when you leave it parked for several hours. The color will be easier to see against a white background.

Method 2
Handling Sudden Steering Failure

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    Warn other drivers. If your power steering fails while you are moving at high speed, your first instinct will be to panic. Instead, turn on your flashers and honk your horn to let other drivers know you are having sudden car problems. This will cause them to get out of your way.
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    Move toward the side of the road. Do this as carefully as you can; without power, it will be much harder to steer your car.
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    Bring the car to a gradual stop, slowing the car gradually. Slamming the brakes may throw the car into a skid that would be difficult to steer out of with power steering and almost impossible to steer out of without it.
    • If your car's power steering goes out because of the engine stalling, your brakes will feel stiffer if you have power brakes, forcing you to hit the pedal harder and depress it lower than normal. You may also have to downshift to a lower gear or use the friction of a guardrail, gravel shoulder or cement divider to slow the car enough for the brakes to do the rest.
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    Restart the engine if it stalled. Turn the steering wheel in either direction to see how well it turns. If it turns as freely as usual, pull back onto the roadway and continue driving as normal. If it doesn't, either drive slowly to the nearest mechanic or call for a tow truck.


  • The best way to avoid having to deal with power steering failure is to check your car's power steering fluid reservoir regularly and have the car serviced if the fluid is leaking or discolored. You should also check the condition of the belt that connects the power steering pump to the driveshaft. If it slips or breaks, your power steering system will stop working. (It is also possible for a coolant or oil leak to make the belt slippery.)


  • It is possible to drive a car with broken power steering as if nothing is wrong but the car will behave differently or in an unexpected way so it is definitely not recommended.
  • Do not attempt to shift into either park or reverse to stop your car if the engine stalls. The mechanism that keeps your car in place when it is stopped isn't designed for a moving car and will fail if you try to shift into park. Attempting to shift into reverse while moving will be blocked by the car's electronics system.

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Categories: Cars & Other Vehicles