Bad Power Steering Pump: Symptoms & Replacement Cost

Maintenance and upkeep are parts of owning a car which unfortunately cost time and money. Sticking to a regular maintenance schedule can help to reduce expenses because it ensures minor problems don't evolve. Many drivers worry about the power steering pump replacement cost because it sounds like an integral part of your automobile's engine, but that doesn’t mean it is going to be significantly more expensive than other repairs.

Power steering pumps are essential to the operation of the car cars with power steering. The job can be costly: between $100-$200 for new power steering pump if you DIY and around $500 to get it done by a mechanic. That said, it is not nearly as expensive as replacing your vehicle.

Before diving into the specifics of the power steering pump replacement, it is necessary to understand the equipment, symptoms, and safety concerns. As an integral steering component, it is unwise to drive with a failing pump, but how do you know when it is time to replace the part? Also, are you only going to need to replace this part once in the lifetime of your vehicle? The power steering pump is an intricate engine component, and while you may not be able to identify it now, by the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the purpose of this part and when to replace it. Also, you will understand how the cost of a replacement is broken down, and whether you can save money or not.

Understanding the Power Steering Pump

What is a power steering pump? Most classic cars did not have power steering, which meant they were harder to turn and control. As steering systems evolved, engineers found ways to ease the steering process using hydraulics. The power steering pump is a critical component of the hydraulic system. The pump circulates and pressurizes power steering fluid. When the pressurized fluid is transferred through a hose to the steering pump, it is used to help turn the wheel. As the wheel turns, another hose returns the fluid back through the pump, where it is pressurized again. The process is continuous while the engine is running, meaning that you are never left without steering assistance. Since most drivers own vehicles equipped with power steering, it quickly becomes obvious when the pump is failing because of power steering problems like a hard to turn wheel.

Symptoms of a Bad Power Steering Pump

1. Fluid Leaks

One of the most common signs of pump failure is a fluid leak. Power steering fluid is a red or reddish-brown color. Check for puddles after driving. While a leak is not a definitive sign of a bad pump, it does signal that there is something wrong with the system.

2. Noises

Next, you may hear the power steering pump making strange noises. If you hear groaning, whining or screeching noises when you turn the wheel or increase engine RPMs, then your power steering pump may be going bad. The pump is driven by a belt, which also can result in strange sounds, so check your belt as well.

3. Hard to Turn Steering Wheel

Finally, as the pump goes bad, you will notice an increased difficulty when turning your car. You will likely struggle the most when going slow or stopped.

Safety and Caution

If you hear a power steering pump noise or suspect an issue with the system, it is best to have your vehicle towed to a safe location, like your garage or a repair shop. While it is technically safe to drive a car with a leaking power steering pump, you must keep in mind the risk of doing so. If the leak is faster than you expect, then you risk damaging the power steering system. Permanent damage is a risk, which is why it is better to err on the side of caution. Do not drive a vehicle you think has a pump issue. Call for a tow. It is always better to be safe than sorry. While it is best to repair the problem quickly, you may be able to save a few bucks doing the repair yourself, but only if you have the skill set.

Cost of Replacement

It is difficult to specify an exact cost because the price of a replacement part varies based on vehicle make and model. The estimate for the entire pump replacement is $100 to $200 for parts. If you are handy, then you may be able to save around $300, which is a likely cost for labor. Again, these estimates are rough because even labor costs can vary from place to place. While it is tempting to save some money and do the job yourself, keep in mind that a pump repair is likely part of a larger project, requiring a more advanced skill set. You may be able to find a cheaper part and then pay someone to install it, but that depends on the shop.

Frequency of Replacement

Most vehicle components have an expected lifespan, and power steering pumps are no different. A pump typically lasts up to 100,000 miles or better before experiencing any significant issues. However, much of that longevity has to do with maintaining a proper maintenance schedule.

Because steering pumps last so long, any repair work is usually found in used vehicles, especially because of how many car owners lease. Although, that does not mean that a younger model won’t experience unexpected failure or problems. Always be mindful of the symptoms and signs of a failing pump, so you can avoid significant harm to your car’s steering system.

A bad power steering pump is not the most expensive auto repair, but it is not the cheapest either. You can try to save a some money by doing the job yourself, but if you are inexperienced with such repairs, then it is best to leave it to a professional, or maybe seek some help from a friend or family member with some solid wrenching experience under their belt. Pump failures are often a part of a larger issue, which means that the estimated prices in this article may not be equal to estimates you receive. However, to get a better understanding of what to expect, head over to your local AutoZone, and discuss the varying costs associated with your power steering system.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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