Category: Steering

Steering You Right (Power Steering Signs of Problems)

Nearly every modern vehicle on the road today has power steering, a wonderful invention that makes steering take far less effort than it did in the “good old days.”  Today, we take our steering for granted: until something goes wrong, that is.

Most power steering these days is rack-and-pinion, the rack being a metal bar between the front wheels with notches in it and the pinion being a gear whose teeth fits into those notches.  Adding power assist makes it easy to turn. That assist comes in the form of hydraulic fluid that is pressurized by a pump powered by the engine, an electric motor that adds a power assist or a system that uses both an electric motor and hydraulic fluid.

Your vehicle usually gives you a heads up that something is going wrong with its steering. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • A humming, whirring, rubbing or grinding sound coming from you engine compartment when you turn.
  • Signs of hydraulic fluid leaking, such as wet spots under your vehicle.
  • The smell of burning oil while you’re driving.
  • Steering wheel hard to turn or vibrating.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s a good idea to have a trained technician check them out.  They may be signs of:

  • Power steering pump going bad
  • Steering rack or gear seals wearing out, causing them to lose hydraulic fluid
  • Broken fluid hose
  • Defective power steering cooler
  • Loss of pressure in the power steering gearbox
  • Worn out steering pump belt
  • Failing electric power steering motor

It’s important to have these checked out sooner rather than later. You need to be able to steer properly in order to drive safely. Plus, some of these problems can cause more serious—and expensive—damage if they’re not fixed.  Power steering is a wonderful feature of your vehicle.  Keep it well maintained and it will steer you right.

Autotronics of St. Peter
111 Jefferson Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082
507.934.9290
http://autotronicsstpeter.com

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT STEERING (Loose Steering)

Perhaps you’ve heard someone use the term “loose steering.” And it’s pretty much what it sounds like.  You turn the steering wheel and the vehicle’s wheels don’t seem to go exactly where you thought you were pointing them.  You have to constantly make steering adjustments. 

Loose steering is sloppy steering, and it can be a safety hazard.  You need to be able to control your vehicle with pretty much the same precision as the way it was when it came off the assembly line.  

If the steering in your vehicle is starting to feel loose and sloppy, there may be some significant suspension issues that need examining by a trained technician.

How do you know if your vehicle needs to be looked at? Try turning the steering wheel and see how much play is in it.  One rule of thumb: if you can turn it the distance of a quarter and a dime placed side by side without seeing the outside wheels move, it’s time to have it inspected by one of our technicians.

Our Autotronics of St. Peter technician will examine those components that are supposed to work together to make sure your steering is tight and precise.  They are linked together by things called (of course) linkages.

When these linkage components were new, they all fit together tightly and moved together to make sure your wheels responded quickly and precisely to your movements of the steering wheel.   

But hit a few potholes, travel over a couple of rough railroad tracks and those metal components can be damaged or bent.  Given enough time, they will simply wear out. Our trained Autotronics of St. Peter technician can inspect all of those parts and determine what needs to be repaired and/or replaced.  

Keep your steering tight.  Loose or sloppy steering can be dangerous.  Thank goodness it usually warns you in plenty of time before it fails completely. Just straight talk… about steering.

Autotronics of St. Peter
111 Jefferson Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082
507.934.9290
http://autotronicsstpeter.com

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint.

One of the interesting things is that it’s somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time.

Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly.

Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintenance; others require periodic lubrication.

Here are some signs that your ball joints are going bad:

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side
  • You can hear a clunking noise coming from a wheel area
  • Your tires are wearing unevenly, especially on the inside

The earlier a failing ball joint is discovered, the better. The best way is to have regular inspections by a technician.  Your service facility will periodically check ball joints at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. The cost to replace them can vary widely depending on whether you have a vehicle with a 2-ball or 4-ball configuration.  Also, sometimes just the joints can be replaced, but other times they are part of a larger control arm assembly that has to have all the parts replaced at the same time. 

Your vehicle’s proper steering, handling and tire wear all contribute to a better, safer driving experience.  Make sure your ball joints are up to the job.

Autotronics of St. Peter
111 Jefferson Avenue
St. Peter, MN 56082
507.934.9290
http://autotronicsstpeter.com