Power steering pump pulley noise is a common problem on many older cars, including Chevrolet malibus, Oldsmobile Achieva 442, and Buicks from the late ’90s.
It’s also a problem for new car models.
If you inspect your pulley for this issue, frequently times, it will appear that the factory installed two pieces of rubber sandwiched together.
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In fact, they are multiple thin layers which, upon repetitive flexing over time, cause them to separate or delaminate like an accordion being squeezed repeatedly – hence why you hear the squeaking sound at all RPMs/speeds.
How Do I Know If My Power Steering Pump Pulley Is Bad?
If your steering pump pulley is faulty, you will notice a loud rattling sound that goes a few notches higher when you turn.
If not rectified, the bad steering pump pulley could cause more damage starting with accelerated wear on the engine belt.
With a broken engine belt, you will incur more damages, including overheating, low voltage in the care system, and no air conditioning.
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Please note that a rattling noise could also be a sign of low steering fluid, loose rack, loose serpentine belt, or a failing pump.
Aside from the rattling noises, here are a few other signs of a failing steering pump pulley.
You will notice a burning smell from your engine if the pulley has seized or the belt isn’t well tightened. The smell gets stronger the longer you drive.
Get a professional mechanic to determine which of these two parts is the problem and rectify the situation.
If the steering is jumpy when you are driving, the steering pump pulley may be faulty.
The choppiness arises when the belt slips, heating the pulley system to extremely high levels.
This heat will damage other parts in the power steering pump, such as the bearings and seals, making them steering less responsive.
It’s also not as comfortable driving with choppy steering.
A fault pump pulley may also cause the steering to fail.
The steering system will also fail if the tensioner, belt, idlers, or pump pulley problem.
A professional is better suited to diagnose a steering failure problem and take care of all the parts that need replacement.
Since the steering directly impacts your safety while driving, you want all issues to be handled professionally.
What Kind Of Noise Does A Bad Power Steering Pump Make?
A power steering pump, otherwise known as a vane pump, produces a distinct whining sound when it malfunctions.
You may not know what the whine means if you have not dealt with a broken steering pump before.
While faulty transmissions make a similar sound, it is easy to tell if it’s a problem since it is located on the opposite side of your engine.
The power steering pump is responsible for supplying oil to your vehicle’s power steering system.
Oil goes into the system through a series of pipes.
A belt, pulley, and the crankshaft’s movement power the steering pump.
Another noise that may indicate a problem with the power steering pump is a squealing or hissing noise followed by humming.
The humming noises are produced as fluid is pushed through the valve and lines at high pressure.
Just like the whine, the hum from a steering pump that is about to fail is unique.
An experienced mechanic can identify it even before examining the pump.
How To Fix Power Steering Pump Pulley Noise
Tighten The Pump Pulley
The pump pulley will often make noise when it is loose.
Resolving the problem is as easy as tightening the pulley.
You may also want to check the pulley seal and ensure that it isn’t leaking.
If it is, get it replaced. Let a mechanic tighten the pulley for you and replace any worn-out seals.
Every time your car is being served, tell the mechanic to check the pump pulley, tighten any loose parts, and replace all worn-out ones.
Fix The Bearing
Bearing failure is common in steering pump pulleys. If the bearing is damaged, replace it.
A faulty bearing is easy to identify since it will not be as smooth as a new one.
Get a new steering pump pulley
Getting the broken bearing replaced may not make much sense if you factor in the installation costs.
You would instead buy an entire steering pump pulley and enjoy the benefits of a more efficient piece.
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Even if the steering pump power pulley is intact, other issues may lead to unbearably loud noises. These include:
Air In The System
The air may enter the system through the pump fluid leading to a whining noise when the vehicle is running.
To check whether there is air in the system, open the pump fluid reservoir cap and check if the fluid is foaming when the engine is on.
If the liquid is frothy, it means that there is a loose connection along the low-pressure line. Tighten all connections and if this doesn’t deliver the results you are looking for, get a new low-pressure line.
Low Fluid Levels
If the power steering fluid levels get too low, the pump will begin to whine.
You may also notice frothing in the liquid.
If the fluid levels are too low, check if there are any leaks in the system.
Replace a leaky hose and use a power steering stop leak solution if the leaking happens in the steering gear, rack, or pump.
Once the leak is fixed, top the reservoir with power steering fluid to quiet the pump.
Ensure that you top up the fluid every time you change your engine oil.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Power Steering Pulley?
The cost of replacing a power steering pulley will depend on several factors. These include:
The Make Of Your Car
The cost of a steering pulley for a Ford F150 is much lower than that of a BMW. Some varieties will cost just a few dollars, while others cost more than $100.
Type Of Pulley
An OEM part will mostly cost more than an aftermarket or genuine part.
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You can choose whichever option is available and is friendly to your pocket.
Whichever option you go for, it’s unlikely that it will void your warranty.
However, you may want some input from a mechanic on the type that is best suited for your vehicle.
Installation charges will depend on your car, the mechanic, and more damage to be repaired.
Labor costs may range between $120 and $200 if no other parts are fixed and slightly more for associated fixes.
If the steering has failed and the mechanic has come to you, the cost may also go slightly higher because of the transport charges.
Sometimes it pays to go with an experienced mechanic who may charge higher but save you a lot in the long run.
You should also get all parts attached to the pump pulley checked, especially if the noise has persisted for some time.
The pump could be failing, or the belt may be broken, and you are better off replacing all the parts at once.
We hope that you now understand what power steering pump pulley noise sounds like.
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The above information also highlights steps that you can take to prevent further damage and rectify the problem.
With steering problems, you want to rectify them as soon as they arise. (Source)
Losing control in the middle of a busy highway could cause untold damage and put your life in danger.
It is also better to let a professional handle any repairs.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.