Author Topic: Heavier steering issue  (Read 5119 times)

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Offline Engineer Andy

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Heavier steering issue
« on: October 11, 2016, 06:48:54 PM »
My mk1 1.6 petrol (manual) has, over the last few months had an issue where the steering is generally heavier than it originally was.  No nasty squealing noises/metallic when I turn, especially at full lock, though I used to hear a slight 'whirr' (presumably the pump?) when the power steering was working, more pronounced at full lock.  Now, all I hear is a pickup in engine noise, but no additional assistance as I did before.

It feels like the system has generally reduced the assistance available - the car's nowhere near undriveable (even at slower speeds) - yet, but I am concerned that it may get worse at some point in the not-too-distant future, as the car is now nearly 11 years old (even though its only done 58k miles).  No previous issues on that score.  I've checked the fluid level and content in the reservoir, and both appeared to be ok (fluid was a golden colour with a hint of red, no metal bits that I could see).  I have put some Winns power steering conditioner in, but it hasn't made any difference.  I even tried (after putting the Winns stuff in) doing the 'lock to lock' so-called fix that American guy did on YouTube (using their 'Transtune' fluid [hard to get/expensive in the UK] instead), but again, no difference.

Any thoughts as to what the problem might be/suitable fix?  My local dealership had a (likely brief) look at it when it was in for a clutch change in August and just said it was due to the car 'getting old' (I think they were trying to get me to buy a new car).

Other than this, the car is running fine, so I may hold out replacing it (possibly with a 2017-model Mazda3 2ltr SE-L Nav fastback) if the fix is relatively inexpensive and will last another few years at least.  I was quoted about £800 - £900 for a power steering pump change, which seemed ridiculously expensive for what it is.

Offline Willpower

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2016, 07:58:56 PM »
Hi Welcome to the forum.

In my opinion it sounds like the Steering Pump is on the way out.  11 years is pretty good these days, given the built in redundancy that cars are now made with.   Please let us know how you get on.
My car is now 12 years old but has not exhibited these symptoms yet. I would be interested in your progress towards a solution.   
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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2016, 09:14:19 AM »
Probably your pump getting worn, as Will says.  Broadly speaking they just keep slowly getting worse, but don't actually stop working.  If you want, you could probably source a used one from ebay etc on the cheap and have a local back street garage fit it, I'd guess a couple of hundred quid or so total.

If you intend to trade your old car in to a dealer who supplies new cars, then be aware that your old car will be too old for them to re-sell on their forecourt, therefore they will give you market price for your car, and they will send it to auction.  It won't make any difference to the price whether the steering performs impeccably or not - merely that it works.

FWIW... you mention the car is 11 years old but only done 58k miles, or around 5k per year.  Often cars with low mileage have done lots of short journeys around town, thus the power steering pump (and lots of other components) have worked harder than, say, a car which has spent most of it's life driving along a straight line on a motorway.  This could explain the (premature?) wear.

Hope this helps :)

Offline Engineer Andy

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2016, 07:26:06 PM »
Probably your pump getting worn, as Will says.  Broadly speaking they just keep slowly getting worse, but don't actually stop working.  If you want, you could probably source a used one from ebay etc on the cheap and have a local back street garage fit it, I'd guess a couple of hundred quid or so total.

If you intend to trade your old car in to a dealer who supplies new cars, then be aware that your old car will be too old for them to re-sell on their forecourt, therefore they will give you market price for your car, and they will send it to auction.  It won't make any difference to the price whether the steering performs impeccably or not - merely that it works.

FWIW... you mention the car is 11 years old but only done 58k miles, or around 5k per year.  Often cars with low mileage have done lots of short journeys around town, thus the power steering pump (and lots of other components) have worked harder than, say, a car which has spent most of it's life driving along a straight line on a motorway.  This could explain the (premature?) wear.

Hope this helps :)

Even though my car has done only a relatively low mileage, it been because I've had periods out-of-work or needing to commute to work by train.  95%+ of my journeys are longer than 15 miles (my current job is 17-18 miles away) and mostly driven on faster-moving roads, with some near home/work on local roads.  I've only rarely taken it out for short journeys, so the problem may just be down to bad luck.  To be fair, the car has been very reliable up until now - no breakdowns/faults and only normal 'wear-and-tear' items replaced over the years.

Hmm - I'm in three (!) minds at the moment, especially as I already spent £650+ replacing the clutch in August at my local dealership.  Up to £900 to replace the PS pump is a LOT of money for a car that, at best, as worth a couple of Grand, probably a lot less.  Not sure, given some recent bad publicity about the quality of ebay car parts, whether I would risk it (using an independent for fitting would be fine - I would've done for the clutch, but they were only about £30 cheaper than the main dealer).  Does the pump run straight as an electrically-driven motor or off a belt?  The belt in the engine bay has never been replaced - I wasn't sure if that drove the PS pump as well as other things (water pump maybe? - one did on my previous 90s Micra).  Even though there has been no 'squealing' indicating any slippage, I was, to be honest, hoping the belt was the cause of my car's problem, as it would probably cost a lot less to fix!

It might be better just to cross my fingers and hope it keeps going (its not that bad, at the moment, just taking more effort [manageable] than before) until I find a replacement car I'm happy with - the latest (especially 2017 model) Mazda3 is a fine car (I still prefer the fastback over the hatch), but I might look for something a bit smaller this time round, but wasn't happy that the CX-3 (overpriced IMO) and 2 seem not to be able to have at least the space-saver wheels under the boot mat as in the past (it depends upon who you ask - Mazda say all their cars can, other people say no).

Offline StevenRB45

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2016, 09:35:35 PM »
If it is the same setup as my Gen 2 1.6 you have no PAS drive belt. If you look down behind the drivers side headlamp there will be a plastic cylinder below the fluid reservoir which is the pump itself.

What fluid did you top up with? Forgive my ignorance of transtune but I'm hoping it's automatic transmission fluid not powersteering fluid.

If the system is the same as the Gen 2 you need ATF fluid in there not generic power steering fluid.
http://www.micksgarage.com/ProdDetails.aspx?pid=4813513&AffiliateID=32475&utm_campaign=google_base&utm_medium=shop_channel&utm_source=google_base&utm_content=&utm_term=&cnty=GB&gclid=Cj0KEQjwvve_BRDmg9Kt9ufO15EBEiQAKoc6qgWWQTS2EnlHwWr_PEHvNlBR_xjI6z4oQe2jjNK-f5YaArEL8P8HAQ

Offline Engineer Andy

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2016, 06:52:20 PM »
If it is the same setup as my Gen 2 1.6 you have no PAS drive belt. If you look down behind the drivers side headlamp there will be a plastic cylinder below the fluid reservoir which is the pump itself.

What fluid did you top up with? Forgive my ignorance of transtune but I'm hoping it's automatic transmission fluid not powersteering fluid.

If the system is the same as the Gen 2 you need ATF fluid in there not generic power steering fluid.
http://www.micksgarage.com/ProdDetails.aspx?pid=4813513&AffiliateID=32475&utm_campaign=google_base&utm_medium=shop_channel&utm_source=google_base&utm_content=&utm_term=&cnty=GB&gclid=Cj0KEQjwvve_BRDmg9Kt9ufO15EBEiQAKoc6qgWWQTS2EnlHwWr_PEHvNlBR_xjI6z4oQe2jjNK-f5YaArEL8P8HAQ

I checked my car's handbook and it takes Dexron II, which apparently can be used in both power steering and automatic transmissions.  Its a mineral-based substance rather than synthetic (Dexron III).  The 'Transtune stuff the US guy uses (temporarily) to fix a stiff steering car cannot be used under normal conditions he says (on the YouTube clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjId3bfMBUQ) - it has to be replaced with normal PS fluid as per the car's handbook after the fix is complete.  Its likely that my car's problem cannot be fixed by using this stuff, but it worked fine on the Toyota he used.  Maybe just flushing my car's system might work?

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2016, 08:50:32 PM »
My manual also specifies dexron ii but dexron iii is its' replacement as dex II is no longer produced but still available. Dex II and dex III are interchangeable but III is the most readily available.

If you replaced the fluid with the correct one after using the transtune then I wouldn't have thought changing it again would help. Though at 10 quid a bottle it's not exactly breaking the bank.

It depends what you have in it at the moment really if it's been replaced after each set of transtune/winns then I can't see it helping. If you have a mongrel mixture of all the above then I'd do it as a matter of course.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2016, 09:26:44 PM by StevenRB45 »

Offline Engineer Andy

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2016, 01:42:13 PM »
My manual also specifies dexron ii but dexron iii is its' replacement as dex II is no longer produced but still available. Dex II and dex III are interchangeable but III is the most readily available.

If you replaced the fluid with the correct one after using the transtune then I wouldn't have thought changing it again would help. Though at 10 quid a bottle it's not exactly breaking the bank.

It depends what you have in it at the moment really if it's been replaced after each set of transtune/winns then I can't see it helping. If you have a mongrel mixture of all the above then I'd do it as a matter of course.

I've managed to source some of the 'Trans Tune' stuff from a (hopefully) reputable UK supplier for £16.50 - being delivered next week, so I'll I'll give it a go next weekend and let you know how I get on.  I'd rather try this (the Winns stuff hasn't had much of an effect in loosening it up, probably more for stopping leaks, which mine didn't have) and see no improvement, than do nothing and either let the PS system fail (no PS = possible accident if it happens on the move) or shell out £800-£900 (perhaps a bit less at an independent) for the fitting of a new PS pump at the dealer which I find I didn't need.  In my view, £16 extra if it still needed major work is nothing - I will likely also get the system properly flushed and fluid replaced at service if the Trans Tune works, just to get rid of any residual gunk that the Trans Tune cleans off/loosens, but is trapped at the bottom of the system and can't be sucked out by the 'turkey baster' method (only what's in the reservoir).

I do have some Dexron II sourced from my local car parts shop, so I can refill it after the first (half bottle use) course of Trans Tune treatment.  Watch this space.

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2016, 01:14:09 PM »
Just to let you know how I got on with the 'TransTune':

I put half a bottle in, about 235ml (removing the same of the PS reservoir) and followed the instructions from the US chap on YouTube. The fluid taken out looked fine (clear red, not brown or smelled burnt). After doing all the stationary wheel turning and test drive, the steering was noticeably better, but not to the degree I'd hoped for.

I decided to leave the TT in (allowable according to the maker) rather than replace it after the initial 'exercise', and has been left in now for two weeks, resulting in a small, but noticeable improvement in ease of turning the steering wheel, even after filling up with fuel, which makes the steering a bit heavier due to the extra weight. I temporarily removed some of the fluid last weekend to see if the TT had dissolved any 'gunk' or residue off any moving parts in the system, but didn't see any.

It could be there isn't anything for it to clean up and the effect is a better 'conditioner' additive than the Wynns can I previously used (which also can stop leaks - TT isn't designed to do that - mine isn't leaking anyway). Anyway, I'll keep the TT in for now and hope things improve further (or at least don't get any worse), maybe getting the system flushed at the forthcoming service around the turn of the year.

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2016, 01:37:10 PM »
I still think you have a problem with the steering pump.  In my opinion, no amount of changing/enhancing/flushing the fluid will affect or alleviate  the root cause.
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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2016, 06:42:27 AM »
I'm with Will - your pump is the problem, especially since your old fluid was clean.  A full tank of fuel shouldn't really make any difference to the steering - the general car handling characteristics yes, but not really the steering.  How are your front tyres?  If they're worn that'll make a little difference.

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2016, 01:28:04 PM »
I'm with Will - your pump is the problem, especially since your old fluid was clean.  A full tank of fuel shouldn't really make any difference to the steering - the general car handling characteristics yes, but not really the steering.  How are your front tyres?  If they're worn that'll make a little difference.

I agree with both of you - I wanted to make sure before I considered parting with several £000s for a new pumped to be fitted that the cause wasn't something else, which could be remedied at a fraction of the cost.  As I said, there has been a marginal improvement, but probably more to do with the 'conditioning' properties of the TT fluid rather than its cleaning properties.  Only £16.50 spent (and perhaps up to £50 at service for a flush and refill) to know that - better than £900, only to find out it was gunk in the system that the TT could dissolve.  The car's tyres appear to be fine, with 5mm tread on the fronts and 6mm on the rears after just under 20k miles and 4 years usage.  I check the pressures once a fortnight and occasionally need to pump them back up the standard 32psi all around from around 29-30psi.  Not sure if the tyre age would come into the equation - they're far less noisy than the OEM Bridgestone ER30s, which when I changed them at ~40k miles did not produce similar steering results.

Hopefully, as the car is still reasonable to drive, I won't have to change out the PS pump (or steering rack - no noises when steering) before I get a new car, which, finances and job situation dependent, could be anywhere between 6 months and a few years.

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2018, 02:03:21 PM »
UPDATE

I had forgotten about this issue, and that I had put in (and not removed) the Trans Tune cleaner/conditioner to my PS reservoir.  I just thought I would check the contents, given the long time since I had done it.  My 'turkey baster' wasn't sucking up much (there was a crack in the [glass] tube), but what fluid I did manage to get into the old milk bottle wasn't exactly nice clear and red.  I then bought a much better hand pump with different sized hoses, including one small and flexible enough to go right down to such everything from both parts of the odd-shaped fluid reservoir.



Link only (if the thumnail gets deleted due to low site storage): https://ibb.co/joU7Mn

As you can see, the 'old cloudy beer' appearance of the fluid was indicating that either/both the fluid generally was past its use-by date and in need of replacement and/or the Trans Tune had done its work, but just taken a lot longer than normal.  Admitedly I haven't used the car much in the last year.  I've since refilled the reservoir with the recommended Dexron II and the small amount of Trans Tune left, as well as cleaning the outside of the reservoir so I could see more easily if the fluid changes colour again.  I've got the air out of the system and hopefully got the new fluid circulating with what remained of the old by the recommended stationary lock-to-lock steering and just driving about.

The steering is a bit better, but not appreciably, as before.  Perhaps there's still some more gunk/varnish in the system (say on the steering rack moving parts that come into contact with the hydraulic fluid) to be removed - I don't know - it may be, as we've discussed before, that the pump is just worn and only working at, say, 50-75% capacity, dying a slow death.  What I'm not sure if the car has or not (as other makes do) is a filter somewhere on the system.  If it does, this may be the reason why, in the first use of the Trans Tune, that it didn't clear up the system, because the gunk was blocking the filter (like limescale on a kettle filter) and thus fluid flow in the system was still impaired.  I have no idea (without taking the system apart) where any filter might be - the one on the YT video (for a LR Disco II) was in the reservoir itself.  I'm hoping that adding a decent amount of fresh fluid and maybe doing more TT treatments might clean the filter up (if it has one) and liquify any remaining gunk/varnish in the system.

What I also came across yesterday is a YouTube video or two of (US-based) Honda car owners with similar problems, but their problem was fixed (for the time being) by just spraying 'penetrating oil' (or WD-40 [not sure if a 'special' sub type or the standard stuff]) on the steering rack's external moving joints/parts - one had done this only after replacing the rack and the pump (and presumably the fluid) to no effect.  Not sure if our cars have any such moving parts that can be 'lubricated' externally (i.e. just spraying from the engine bay rather than removing the rack) in the rack assemby, but as this is cheap, it might be worth a punt, in conjunction with another round of Trans Tune cleaning before I part with £850+ for a dealership pump change and system flush.

Any thoughts?

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2018, 08:15:23 PM »
Random question

How is your battery?

I'm only bringing this up as I was having issues with inconsistent steering weight at low speed and topping up the battery levels sorted it. It had enough to start the car but when travelling slowly with lights/wipers on it something had to give and it appears it didn't have enough in reserve to run the PS pump properly.

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2018, 07:12:48 PM »
Random question

How is your battery?

I'm only bringing this up as I was having issues with inconsistent steering weight at low speed and topping up the battery levels sorted it. It had enough to start the car but when travelling slowly with lights/wipers on it something had to give and it appears it didn't have enough in reserve to run the PS pump properly.

My battery seems fine.  Whilst I'm on my third, this was because in years past (on previous batteries) I tended to leave the car between uses for longer periods of time, which meant the battery didn't keep its charge.  I now use it (decent run lengths, 20 mins / 13 miles x2) once a week in winter/when its cold, once a fortnight otherwise as a minimum.  No short trips.

My issue with the steering is the same whether its bright sunshine or at night.  I also normally don't turn on the climate control (using more electrical power) anyway until after I've got going (i.e. after I've turned out of my parking space, which requires full lock each way at slow speed.  I do also wait about 10-15 sec for the engine idle speed to drop/oil to circulate before moving off too.

I think my issue is still the pump itself, but want to do as much 'cheap' possible fixes and work (possibly using that penetrating oil, making sure there's no remaining gunk in the PS system) before taking the plunge and going for a new pump, just in case one of these actually does the job for peanuts in comparison.  The YT video (actually was a Hyundai/Kia, MPV, not a Honda) I referred to was a case in point of a simple 'fix' on the steering shaft costing about £5 that the owner rued spending a lot on a new pump, rack, etc.  I don't have any facility or tools to jack the car up to get underneath (if needed to do the lube spray work), but I'll check under the bonnet to see if I can reach anything which looks like its a steering shaft system with a visible moving part.

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Re: Heavier steering issue
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2018, 07:12:48 PM »