Power steering fluid also comes in a variety of colors, which can make identifying power steering fluid leaks difficult. As with the other leaks, you need to put eyes on the source to know for sure. One option is to place a piece of clean cardboard under your vehicle when you park it overnight. This can give you a good indication of where your most prolific leaks are. There are really only four places you’ll find a power steering fluid leak: at the pump, the lines, an external cooler, or the actuator. The actuator can be a steering box or power steering rack. All three are common. With the power steering pump, leaks are often caused by over-tightening the drive belt. If you’re installing a drive belt on the power steering pump, be sure not to go too tight to avoid a leak on the front seal. As for the lines, a good inspection should prove those out. Be especially vigilant around the high-pressure hose where the rubber goes into the metal joint; I often find leaks in this area. If you have a power steering cooler, it’s usually located in the front of the vehicle near the radiator. Corrosion is a factor here, OR you might find leaks at the line connections going to it. So if you see a leak at the front of the vehicle, don’t rule out the power steering system as one of the possible suspects.
As for the power steering rack, pull back the dust boots and see if fluid comes out. If it does, the internal seals have failed and the rack should be replaced. People often ask me if they can recondition their power steering racks. The answer is yes, but it’s often unsuccessful. Therefore, I recommend replacement over reconditioning. Power steering rack replacement ranges from “easy as pie” to “shoot yourself in the head.” You might want to consult your service manual for the procedure on your vehicle before you dive in. In addition, power steering rack replacement often warrants an alignment when you’re finished with the work, so be prepared for that as well.
No matter what, when you’re finished with a power steering repair, you’re probably going to need to purge the system of air before it begins to work properly. By that I mean before it stops making noise. This procedure varies from model to model, so once again, consult your service manual for the procedure for your vehicle.