Driving your car at some speed makes it relatively easy to turn the steering wheel and get the desired result. After all, there is less resistance between the road surface and the driven wheels when everything is turning at a high revolution. Yet the situation is very different when you're trying to manoeuvre into a tight parking space, and you will need to rely on certain key components to do a lot of that hard work for you. So, what can happen if some of the connecting parts begin to fail, and if you suspect a potential issue, how urgently should you act?
Modern-Day Power Assistance
In the old days, the effort you put into turning the steering wheel would translate into an equal amount of mechanical action below. As you turned the steering wheel, this would rotate the steering column, moving a transverse rack back and forth.
How Things Work
Today, engineers have fitted a hydraulic pump to the end of the steering column, which will force fluid through specially designed pipes instead. This fluid will then move the steering rack as required, turning the driven wheels quite easily and helping you affect that manoeuvre.
For this to work as it should, the fluid has to be forced under significant pressure through all those flexible hoses. Certainly, the hoses are designed to put up with this type of stress and are made from synthetic rubber, reinforced with high tensile braids. Yet they can only deal with so much, and as time goes by, will begin to deteriorate from the inside out.
Looking at the Fluid
The best way to tell if you have a potential problem is to look at the fluid first. If it is a dull grey or black in colour, this indicates that some of the inner layer of the hose has worn away to contaminate the fluid. Microscopic particles of metal or rubber may now be suspended in the fluid, leading to a drop in performance.
Life can be quite hard inside a power steering hose. Temperatures can rise considerably during normal operation, and the fluid must be highly pressurised if it is to work at all. The fluid may "pulse" through each hose when the pump is activated, leading to deterioration. Sometimes the hose may start to bulge when the internal braiding begins to tear. It may also feel softer to the touch in certain areas if those layers are starting to break down.
Eventually, a worn hose may start to leak. It could even split open, and you may lose all of the lubricant in one go. So, if the steering feels a lot tighter or you hear some strange noises from within the engine bay when turning the wheel, it may be time to look at those hoses.
Reach out to a car service shop in your area for more information.