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2002 Ford Escape 3.0 XLT, 87,000 miles.

Just started getting hot here so I've started using the AC, and consequently noticed the steering gets creaky like a rusty door. Off and on though, comes and goes. Sometimes barely noticeable other times quite loud, but steering always works fine.

Since I noticed the correlation with AC on I've suffered many sweaty drives, and cannot reproduce it with AC off. Also it drips quite a bit out of the front right quadrant of the engine bay, 99% it's water and had suspected condensation.

Am I crazy to suspect correlation helps causation? Or perhaps a serpentine belt/power steering pump issue?

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If I'm understanding the question correctly, I don't think you have any major problems.

The AC is going to drip water which has condensed on the evaporator core during use. This is completely normal.

Since you can only cause this to happen with the AC on, I'd suggest you have one or two issues. This is directly related to the serpentine belt. Either the belt is worn out (very hard to tell without a gauge on serpentine belts), the tensioner pulley is not doing it's job, or both. As the belt becomes more worn out, it will tend to slip more and cause accessories to start making noises when used. When you have the AC on and use the power steering as well, this puts it over the top and it starts making noise.

I'd start by changing out the serpentine belt. More than likely this will solve the issue. Next would be the tensioner pulley.

Like I said, I don't think anything major is going on. Just typical maintenance items.

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