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I bought my -97 Civic two weeks ago. After a week of driving, the power steering started to screech whenever I turned the wheels while the engine was cold (with warm engine the eerie screeching sound was gone).

Naturally I checked the fluids, and steering fluid was below minimum. After adding steering fluid, I noticed that the fuild leaks somewhere below the right hydraulic cylinder. I also noted that the old fluid had burnt odor.

My question is, does an amateur have any chance of locating the leak without a car lift? Whether a lift is needed or not, what are the most common places in Civic where steering fluid leaks occur?

EDIT: the steering wheel turns well when the power steering screeches, so the mechanics seem to work, even with minimal amounts of fluid.

  • Do you want to know about diagnosing the screech or diagnosing the leak? Let's focus on the process for one of those problems and forget about the lift for now. – David Winslow Aug 5 '15 at 17:18
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The screech is from the tension on the belt being too low. Usually it's a worn belt or the pump slipping. On my 2002 civic I am pretty sure the power steering belt was separate from the serpentine and that the pump is also acting as a tensioner.

For the leak, check the connections to and from the pump. There should be an o-ring underneath the connector on the top of the pump.

power steering diagram

Worst case scenario you will be rebuilding or replacing the pump.

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    If that is a typical pressure side o-ring, it's made of nylon (I believe) and is the first place I look for leaks in the PS assembly. The o-ring allows there to be some movement of the high pressure hose at the pump which allows for movement when the pressure goes up and down from use. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Aug 5 '15 at 17:49
  • Thanks! The part graph is certainly useful, I'll start looking leaks from the connections. The screeching sound seems to originate from the opposite side of the belt, so I'm not sure if it's that or something else. – klaevv Aug 5 '15 at 19:19
  • That should be the harmonic balancer, probably because it is the pulley supplying the torque. – David Winslow Aug 5 '15 at 19:31

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