Ah power steering. It really is one of the key features of modern cars, which makes driving so much easier. But when the power steering unit starts to fail, it can be a huge pain in the rear.
Finding out which part (or parts) of the system has failed you is a great step towards repairing the system and getting your car back on the road. In this article, we’re going to take a look at one of the most common suspects when it comes to a failing power steering unit: the power steering belt.
What is a power steering belt?
Well, if you’re going to know if it went wrong, then you probably need to know what it is, right? The power steering belt is one of the most important components within the power steering system. It literally transfers the power to the steering of the vehicle, which means that without the power steering belt, there is basically no power steering at all.
Fortunately, there are some easy-to-spot symptoms that can help you determine if you have a bad power steering belt.
Symptoms to look out for include:
Symptoms of a bad or failing power steering belt
- Intermittent power loss
Sometimes it is the driving situation where you notice the symptom that can be just as important as the symptom itself. That’s the case with this one, which you will likely see happen when the power steering unit is placed in high demand.
For example, when you park your car and make sudden movements on the steering wheel, or when driving on curvy roads or making sharp 90-degree turns at intersections. If during any driving maneuver like this, you notice that the power steering seems to cut off intermittently, it is a sign that the power steering band is slipping.
When the bands start to slip, it is a sign that it is worn. It will continue to slip, and the problem will get worse and worse until the band finally breaks and fails.
Noise can be another great indicator that a power steering belt is in trouble. When you turn the steering wheel, if you hear a screeching or grinding noise, it is bad news for you and your power steering belt.
This symptom can also be difficult to hear under normal driving conditions. With the usual vehicle noises like the engine and wheels on top of the road, you don’t want to spend every trip with your ears on the noise of the power steering belt!
What we would suggest is doing this test in a stationary car. With the engine running, have someone turn the steering wheel from side to side while you wait outside. Raising the hood can also help you hear a little better.
Last but not least, if you’re concerned about your power steering belt, then it might be time to get under the hood and see what’s going on there. This could be because you have noticed one of the symptoms we discussed above and want to confirm your diagnosis.
Or you could just make checking the power steering belt part of your ongoing maintenance routine for the engine and the car in general. Whatever the reason, there are a number of things to look for, such as:
A broken / damaged belt
There is probably no clearer indication of a bad or failing power steering belt, or even failing, than if you can see damage to the belt itself. This damage can show up as a stretch in the belt or it can be frayed edges, cracks, and tears. Naturally, a belt in this condition should be replaced as soon as possible.
The belt area should be clean and nice. If you can see something there, like oil, it is a clear indication that the belt is not working properly and needs to be replaced. The power steering belt area is also noticeable on certain car and truck models for sucking up gravel and other pieces of debris. If you see this, clean it gently with a soft bristle brush and then check that the dirt has not caused any damage to the strap.
Also check the rib areas where the belt connects. Look for uneven wear or rib damage or cracks. If you notice this, you will likely need to replace the ribs. It may also be a good idea to replace the power steering belt at this point. There is a possibility that the ribs have damaged it anyway. Replacing it also rules out that the belt is the cause of the rib damage, …