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3-Part Question:

My car is squealing lately when I turn it on/am idling at stoplights/am making slow turns i.e. parking lots. I go to an engineering school, and some friends of mine who build racecars looked at it and said it sounds like the power steering pump is having difficulties. In a former question on this forum, the diagnosis was ubiquitously in agreement.

A. Can a psp be repaired, or does it have to be replaced?

B. The dealer told me a new one would be ~$600 (97 Subaru Legacy, fyi), but when I looked at some parts online they ranged from $60-$140, mostly refurbished. Is the dealer overcharging me, or are used parts really that much cheaper?

C. What is the likelihood that parts bought online are going to be reliable, assuming they come from an established parts dealer, e.g. partstrain.com?

Thanks!

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"In a former question on this forum, the diagnosis was ubiquitously in agreement." - you might want to add that link to your question. That will leave an extra trail of breadcrumbs for the next person with a similar problem. –  Bob Cross Mar 31 '12 at 11:51
    

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A - You can replace the seals in the pump if your pump is leaking. I've never done this on a Subaru, but this link should help: http://www.ultimatesubaru.org/forum/showthread.php?t=123004

B - I checked at my local Subaru dealer and their price for parts only would be $370 plus tax. Maybe your dealer was including installation?

C - As far as the reliability of parts is concerned, you can always search for reviews and check for a good warranty.

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If I took it to a mechanic, would they be able to tell whether it was broken/whether it was repairable just by checking it out? Maybe this is a stupid question, but is there a non-complicated way for them to tell whether it's functioning properly? –  Aerovistae Mar 28 '12 at 0:28
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@Aerovistae the short answer is yes, a good mechanic has ways of troubleshooting power steering problems. These are a few signs that they would probably look for: http://www.ehow.com/list_7175964_signs-bad-power-steering-pump.html This isn't an all inclusive list, but it gives you an idea. –  Tim Mar 28 '12 at 16:10

For A, the only option is really a bottle of fluid with an anti-leak agent. I don't know of anybody that fixes power steering pumps apart from aftermarket suppliers that refurbish them. But the way that works is you buy a new refurbished pump, and when you give them your old one, they give you the core charge back. Have you checked the fluid level? Maybe it's just got a leak and it's low? I'm not sure I've ever heard of a power steering pump that is quiet when forced to work hard.

As for B, maybe. You really need to compare apples to apples. The dealer will probably quote you list price for a new part (which is not what they're paying for it, just what they want to charge you for it), something pretty close to what came from the factory if it's available. It sounds like you're pricing refurbished aftermarket parts. You also need to clarify whether the dealer price is parts only or parts and labor. Repairpal says $431-$568 parts+labor, $120-$160 labor, $306-$408 parts for my locale. You can get the best prices buying your own parts, but trying to find somebody to install your parts for you while still warrantying the work is tough, though it can be done. I guarantee you'll pay more on labor, depending on the markup sometimes you're better of just paying it. It's always good to know what you could get it for yourself (Though again, apples to apples). Just walk up to the parts department and ask them for a price. It should be pretty close to what the service department quoted you for parts. If it's not, something is rotten somewhere.

As for C, expect the part to fail as soon as the warranty expires. Always go for the long / lifetime warranty when you're paying for a lot of labor.

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