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My power steering became very creaky, all of a sudden one cold, foggy night. The next morning, my power steering fluid was half the maximum level. By night, it was all empty. Clearly I have a leak. The wheel was harder to turn at night than in the morning.

Now, I know to look for leaks, and how to figure out where the actual leak is theoretically (they appear at gaskets and seal locations). But in my Hyundai Sonata 2000, I don't know specifically where the power steering assembly locations or potential leaks would be. The manual obviously doesn't quite have everything in detail, although it would give me some ideas where to look.

1) How can I tell if it's my pump or just a part in the pipes?

2) Would a cold day make gaskets more susceptible to failure for the same amount of pressure (steering wheel turning)?

3) The manual recommends PSF-3 power steering fluid, but can I use something like "Presterone AS-269Y for asian vehicles"?

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    It would help to know the engine displacement. It came with a 2.0L, 2.4L and a 2.7. The 4 Cylinder versions have a different setup than the 2.7L V6. I'm pretty familiar with that car, I can answer if you provide me with that. – cloudnyn3 Dec 11 '15 at 11:57
  • @cloudnyn3 I'm pretty sure it's the 2.5L V6. My manual has a 2.4L version and a 2.5L version, and my component layout under the hood matches the 2.5L version one. – ahnbizcad Dec 12 '15 at 7:40
  • I ran around 40 miles with low fluid, and it started smelling burning, probably due to the heat and friction, and there was some clear colored vapor started from the rear of the engine. I am wondering if I damaged my steering pump, serpentine belt, or engine... (I only figured out it would damage them after doing so) – ahnbizcad Dec 12 '15 at 7:43
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    The power steering hoses/ fittings constantly have problems. The pumps don't seal well either. Generally on the V6 Setups, they route it from your passenger side and down to the drivers side of your Rack. They MOST commonly leak at the first flexible crimped piece near the pump on the high pressure line. This is easily fixable if you have the right tools. – cloudnyn3 Dec 12 '15 at 14:51
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    It could be vapor from the line or rack leaking. The exhaust runs RIGHT under the rack. As far as damaging the rack or pump, there are special gauges and tools that allow you to test the pressure your system is applying. If you can't get your hands on one for whatever reason, there should be a somewhat medium pitched grinding sound that increases and decreases as you turn your steering wheel. Running low on fluid can cause the pump to fail, but it will become difficult to steer and will make alot of noise as I described above. The racks on these can be a bit stiffer than most, so be observant – cloudnyn3 Dec 13 '15 at 19:37
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1) How can I tell if it's my pump or just a part in the pipes?

You have to figure out exactly where it's leaking from. To do this takes a little sleuthing, but it shouldn't be too difficult. The easiest way to do this is to refill the reservoir, run the engine, then work the power steering while sitting still. You then get on the ground and see where the fluid is dripping. This may take several iterations to tell exactly, but it should be self evident. You shouldn't have to work the steering too much to get it to leak, as all it needs is pressure. Assuming you didn't see any spots on the driveway already, it indicates the leak is going to be on the pressure side and probably not the pump or return hose.

2) Would a cold day make gaskets more susceptible to failure for the same amount of pressure (steering wheel turning)?

Depending on how cold, but yes. Most vehicles are designed to work just fine in cold down below freezing, but when you get to the -40 and below area, things tend to start breaking much quicker. (This really depends on what you mean by cold.)

3) The manual recommends PSF-3 power steering fluid, but can I use something like "Presterone AS-269Y for asian vehicles"?

For the most part, I see that PSF-3 is an extinct breed and Hyundai recommends using PSF-4 in its place. However, it appears a lot of people have used this in place of the PSF-3 without detriment (IOW - Use at your own risk, but it should probably be just fine.)

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