Last time I drove my car, it was making an odd whirring/quacking sound, mainly in lower gears and when I turned. The power steering was cutting out for a fraction of a second at a time, while making the noise louder. I checked the oil and coolant levels, coolant was fine but the oil looked more or less empty. I filled it back up, and then checked underneath the car the next day, and there is a small patch of what I assume is oil underneath the rear-right side of the engine.

What is likely wrong, and what should I check?

Here is a video of the noise: https://my.mixtape.moe/lnmqrq.mp4

  • You say your power steering is cutting out, what are the actual symptoms?
    – GdD
    May 10, 2017 at 12:59
  • @GdD It briefly gets harder to turn the wheel, i.e. more force required
    – veiph
    May 10, 2017 at 14:04
  • That could be a problem with your cv joint, not your power steering
    – GdD
    May 10, 2017 at 14:06

1 Answer 1


Assuming that the oil under the car is engine oil - it should be somewhere between honey colored and black (in which case you really need an oil change). If it is more red or pink, then it is most likely PS fluid.

If it's engine oil that's leaking - as evidenced by the low oil level - you have two separate issues as engine oil level won't cause a steering noise. Clean the engine bay, drive it for a day or two and check for leaks at the oil pan and around the engine, once your steering issue is fixed.

Your steering issue is due to one of:

  1. Dying power steering pump. This isn't all that surprising with 150k on the odometer.
  2. Low on power steering fluid, which can also lead to (1). It could leak from the reservoir, pump, rack or hoses connecting those.
  3. Faulty steering rack, though I've never heard a bad rack make that noise.
  4. Obstructed hose on the steering rack. This is very rare.

I would:

  1. Check your PS fluid level, make sure that the belt is tight (though you would probably get a squealing noise if the belt is the issue). If it is not tight, check the belt tensioner.

  2. Replace the pump. These can be had used on ebay for $40, or at your local parts chain store for around $90 US.

If the level is good, you can try flushing the PS fluid, but given the cost of having that done, you may be better off just replacing the pump. If by "power steering is cutting out" you mean that the assist goes away, I'd suspect the pump. I've changed a number of those in my day - it's usually not difficult - but have only had one steering rack go bad on my cars.

Good luck!

  • Thanks for the detailed answer! I checked the power steering fluid and it appears to be completely empty, do I need to run the engine for a bit before checking? I did it cold. I also checked the oil again, and it's still full (actually a bit over the full mark) so maybe it's not the oil that's leaking.
    – veiph
    May 10, 2017 at 14:27
  • @ollieh Top of the fluid first. There will be a fill line in the reservoir, or on the dipstick if that car has one. Don't over-fill it. Afterwards, it'll take some wiggling back and forth of the steering wheel, lock to lock for 10 minutes or so. Depending on how long this has been going on, that may be all it takes to fix it. (Ignoring the question of where the fluid went). The oil under the car could be PS fluid - when driving, that stuff can get to interesting and unexpected places.
    – 3Dave
    May 10, 2017 at 14:32
  • That seems to have solved it! Do you have any advice on how to track down the possible leak?
    – veiph
    May 10, 2017 at 15:13
  • @ollieh Glad to hear that. As far as tracking down the leak: clean the engine bay to get rid of the existing mess. Drive it, then start looking around with a really bright flashlight. A shop may be able to put some die in the system and use a UV light to locate it easier, but I have no idea what they would charge for that, or if it works on PS fluid. (I know it does for engine oil, though.)
    – 3Dave
    May 10, 2017 at 15:15
  • 1
    Gravity pulls fluid downwards, usually the highest point the fluid is seen is the source of the leak, unless pressure is squirting it. Start with the fluid reservoir and work your way down.
    – GdD
    May 10, 2017 at 16:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .