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Power Steering Noise When Turning

Power steering diagram

Sometimes the noises made by our vehicles can tell us a lot about what might be happening. With steering, for example, noises when turning can mean several things, but usually narrow the issue down to the steering rack, power assist system, and the moving parts of the chassis involved with steering the vehicle. If the issue is not ball joints, CV joints, or something else near the wheels, then it's time to look at the power steering system itself.

Two common problems with power steering are usually to blame when grinding is being heard. A misaligned gear will cause the sound whenever the steering is turned in a certain way, usually when the wheel is turned at a specific angle. A bent pulley, on the other hand, will make noise whenever the power steering pump (and its pulley) are put under stress, such as during use.

With a misaligned gear, the actuator is either out of alignment with the power steering rack or one of its teeth is bent or ground down. In either case, steering will suffer and eventually fail. A misaligned actuator will result in a steady grind whenever the wheels are turned whereas a broken gear will usually only make noise when it's in use (i.e. when the wheel is turned to a certain point). The fix, of course, is to replace the rack and/or actuator gears.

In the case of a bent pulley, which is more common, the problem will be a bent power steering pump pulley which causes the serpentine belt to grind or whine when the pump adds load to the belt. Sometimes the pulley itself grinds as the bearings begin to fail. This will usually lead to a frozen/broken pump and often a lot of wear and eventual failure of the belt as well. Sometimes the pulley even shears off. whatever the case, replacement of the pulley and (likely) the power steering pump are required to fix this problem.

If you have grinding when you turn the wheel on your car and it's not in the suspension or chassis, then check the power steering system. Begin by checking the p/s pulley for damage or wobble when the vehicle is running. Then check the rack and power steering actuator for damage.