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Power Steering Hoses

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Power Steering Hoses

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What are the power steering hoses and where are they located? 

The power steering hoses carry the hydraulic power steering fluid from the power steering pump to the power steering gear and back again.  There is also a power steering suction hose that carries fluid from the power steering reservoir to the pump. 

When the engine is running, the crankshaft turns the power steering pump pulley via a belt.  That runs a pump that pulls hydraulic fluid from the steering fluid reservoir through the suction hose to the pump.  It pumps the fluid through a high pressure hose to the power steering  gear, whether it’s a rack and pinion gear or a recirculating ball gear.  The hydraulic pressure pushes the steering gear to assist the driver in turning the vehicle.  The fluid then circulates back up a low pressure return hose back to the pump. 

How do I know if my ­­­­ power steering hoses need to be replaced?           

Power steering hoses face both the high pressure and temperature of the fluid inside them – sometimes over 1500 pounds per square inch and 300 degrees Farenheit – as well as the heat from the engine.  All that pressure and heat can really wear a hose down.  The hose may become soft or brittle, and it may develop holes that cause leaks.  Similar problems will develop regardless of which hose has the leak.  You can determine which of your hoses need to be replaced by visually inspecting them for leaks or wear. 

If your power steering hoses are leaking, it will make your power steering less effective.  You may find it harder to steer at low speed, and you might hear a groaning noise as you turn the wheel.  The lack of fluid will also put strain on the pump, which you may notice as a whining sound.  Too much of this kind of overwork can wear out the pump, and leave you with a big repair on your hands. 

You may also find that, if you check your steering fluid reservoir, the fluid level is low.  Fluid leaks put you at risk by making it harder to steer.  They are also a fire hazard, because the steering fluid is oil which can ignite if exposed to the hot engine.   

Can I replace the power steering hoses myself?  

Replacing power steering hoses is a job that a determined do-it-yourselfer can do.  You will want to have a drain pan ready, since power steering fluid will flow out when you disconnect the hoses.  The suction hose is usually connected to the steering fluid reservoir by a hose clamp and to the pump by a brass fitting that can be removed with a wrench.  The high pressure hose is connected to the pump and to the steering gear by brass fittings.  The return hose is connected to the steering gear with a brass fitting and to the pump with a hose clamp.  The hoses are clipped to the wall of the engine bay to keep them in place.  Undo the hose fittings and unclip them and pull them out.  You can then connect the new hoses in their proper positions and clip them into place. 

You’ll want to refill the fluid reservoir to replace any fluid that was lost.  Add fluid until the level is between the “min” and “max” markers.  Run the engine and turn the steering wheel all the way from one side to the other several times to circulate the fluid.  Recheck the fluid level and add more if needed.  Then you will be ready to slowly and carefully road test your vehicle to check that your power steering still works.  

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