Turning your steering wheel all the way in one direction (e.g. to the lock) until it stops is very unhealthy for your car. Ever notice a whine noise when you hold the steering wheel turned all the way? And if you back off just a little bit the whining stops? That’s because your power steering system is under a significant amount of pressure.
As you start turning your steering wheel, the pressure in the power steering system increases. That power steering pump is working much harder to pump fluid through to assist you in steering. You may remember the days when power steering didn’t exist—how hard was it to turn the wheel then? Imagine, the pump and power steering system is taking that burden off so that you can turn easily now. All that steering effort is now in the hydraulic system—imagine how much stress is there when you turn!
When you go lock to lock, the pressure easily rises 5 times the normal (at rest) pressure. Although most (if not all) power steering systems have a pressure relief valve, these valves usually kick in way too late and pressure is already too high in the system. Lastly, when pressure increases heat also rises and this causes the power steering fluid to degrade.
Most manufacturer’s owners manuals indicate that you shouldn’t hold the steering wheel in a full turn for long periods—in my car, 5 seconds is the max. 5 seconds! If held too long, you risk damaging the power steering pump.
Solution: If you turn your steering wheel fully, back off your wheel about a quarter turn. The whining noise will lessen—that’s when you’ve eased off the high pressure. Less whining, less pressure—everyone’s happy!
Check this list if your car’s making other noises!
*This blog post was previously published on the Yummy Mummy Club website.