Problems Caused by Low Power Steering Fluid
Low power steering fluid may not occur to you as an issue to check when looking at vehicles from used car dealers, or when diagnosing your own vehicle, but it can have a major effect on the safety and efficiency of a car.
Low power steering fluid may result in a stiff or unresponsive steering wheel, meaning that precise maneuvers such as parking will be more difficult. Even more worrying is that you won’t be able to respond quickly should you need to avoid an obstacle. Although there may be warning signs such as a whining or shrieking noise coming from the front of the car or violent vibrations in the steering wheel while idling, your power steering may fail without warning. If your power steering does fail while driving you should engage your hazard lights to warn other drivers, brake gently to avoid losing control of the vehicle, and work your way to the shoulder or another safe spot for your vehicle.
You can prevent failures and expensive repairs by checking your power steering fluid frequently. The fluid levels on many cars can only be checked accurately after the vehicle has been running, so be sure to start the car and turn the wheels several time in each direction. If the fluid reservoir is plastic you can simply look at the markings on the cylinder to see if your levels are low; if it is metal you will need to check the dipstick, which should be attached to the cap. Fresh steering fluid also has a bright red color and distinct odor, which should help to spot leaks or if the fluid has gone bad and turned a grayish color.
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