Power Steering Pump Maintenance for Cold Weather: Make This Winter Easy on Your Car

Date Posted: 25 July 2023 

Power Steering Pump Maintenance for Cold Weather: Make This Winter Easy on Your Car main image Power Steering Pump Maintenance for Cold Weather: Make This Winter Easy on Your Car image

There’s one thing standing between you and powerful steering this winter, and chances are it’s your power steering pump. How does cold weather affect your power steering pump? We’ll break that down in a minute, but let’s first examine the signs that your power steering is flagging in the colder temperatures.

Signs That the Cold Has Got to Your Power Steering

If your car is exhibiting either of the following symptoms, your power steering is likely powering down:

  1. Whining or squealing noises, which sound like metal grinding against metal, that coincide with your attempt to steer
  2. Not-so-powerful power steering that is difficult to shift or manoeuvre.

Upon reviewing these two simple tells, it’s possible you’re scratching your head, wondering, ‘why does my power steering pump squeal when it’s cold?’. Although the pump is a likely suspect, there are a few other power steering culprits to consider. Let’s give them each a hearing.

What Could Be Compromising Your Power Steering This Winter?

The Serpentine Belt

If your car squeals as it starts up and turns, the serpentine belt is probably the problem. Because it’s rubber, it stiffens and loses its flexibility in the cold, which means it can’t get as good a grip on the pulleys. The squealing noise occurs when it slips over the pulley.

Luckily, fixing a squealing serpentine belt is a simple case of replacing it. Though exacerbated in cold conditions, cracks or stiffness in a serpentine belt are also inevitable with the passing of time.

The Power Steering Fluid

If it ain’t a squeal you’re hearing so much as a whine—which only gets worse as you turn—you’re likely dealing with compromised power steering fluid. This viscous material thickens in the cold, removing the literal fluidity your power steering pump needs to move.

Not all whining is bad. In fact, you can permit a little whining when your car is either just starting up or braving colder conditions. It’s when the whining persists that you’ll need to check your power steering fluid and, if it’s either dirty, gummed-up, or thick, replace it.

The O-Ring

If the offending noise dies down once you start up, the O-ring is likely the issue. The O-ring is part of the pump and you’ll find it on the hose joint’s inlet. While an effective O-ring will usher air into the system, a defective one will let in too much. Excess air in the system is a sign that you’ll need to replace your O-ring.

Troubleshooting Power Steering Problems in Colder Conditions

While it’s all well and good to recommend replacing a part, it’s important to know what ‘replacing’ entails. Let’s go beyond the quick and dirty and delve into the ins and outs of troubleshooting with these DIY tips.

Flush the Power Steering Fluid

As established, power steering fluid can thicken or freeze in cold temperatures. So, when this vital fluid turns solid, it becomes less like the lifeblood of your steering system and more like an arterial blockage. Before you replace your power steering fluid, ensure you flush the offending fluid first. Once you’ve hit the Refresh button, you should be good to go—with full power ahead.

Replace the O-Ring in These Simple Steps

There’s more to replacing an O-ring than meets the eye. Follow these six simple steps to ensure you’re completing the process thoroughly:

  1. Put a bucket beneath the power steering pump to a) store bolts and screws and b) catch any fluid spills
  2. Loosen the inlet hose joint by removing its bolts
  3. Remove the hose fitting from the power steering pump and drain the fluid into your bucket
  4. Lubricate your new O-ring with steering pump fluid before connecting it to the fitting slot
  5. Fit your O-ring into the steering pump and use a wrench to tighten it in place
  6. You’re good to go, provided you’ve replenished your pump tank with new power steering fluid. You should also bleed your system to eliminate any trapped air.

Replace the Entire Power Steering Pump

So, you’ve flushed your poor-quality power steering fluid and replaced your serpentine belt or O-ring to no avail. If you’re still having problems at this point, chances are the power steering pump is the problem. At a last resort, it may be worth replacing your power steering pump altogether. Although this is a drastic step, it may just be the course of action necessary to reclaim the upper hand in your power steering power struggle.

Need a New Power Steering Pump?

If you need a shiny new steering pump, you’re in luck. Machter has a range of steering pumps to help you combat the cold weather and reclaim your power steering game. Browse our range of power steering pumps and find your favourite for your car. And, as always, you can call on one of our auto-enthusiast team members at any time for an expert recommendation!