power steering fluid leak - Maintenance and Repair Forum

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power steering fluid leak
Thursday, September 07, 2017 11:03 AM

2001 cavalier 220K 5-speed manual 2.2L:

Had the water pump replaced about 5 weeks ago and from that moment on, have been leaking power steering fluid. This is why I have stopped taking the car in for any service - I always get one problem fixed and drive out with a new one. I figured that the guy must have broke something loose or used too much force on the s-belt and that started the leak since it wasn't there prior to the water pump repair. Anyway, for a while I didn't know if it was engine oil or power steering but now I know for sure it is power steering fluid. Pump has started to make that awful whining, grinding noise especially when turning the wheels. Anyway, I had just been adding more fluid but this isn't going to work out too much longer. So I have a few questions for anyone with knowledge or experience.

I can't see anything from the top nor from the bottom, but everything on the passenger side all around the axle and front right wheel and pretty much anything in that quadrant of the bottom of the car is dripping with the fluid. Is there anything that I can get to myself under there that might just be a hose or fitting or O-ring - or is it pretty much for sure that it is the pump itself that is leaking? Is the reservoir a possible source? Can you / should you replace either / or the reservoir or the pump without the other one or do they come together? Is this a do-it-yourself thing or is it better to take it to a shop? Finally - I have been using Prestone in the yellow bottle. Would it pay to try a different (I'm thinking Walmart since its cheaper at the rate I am going through it now) brand and/or does anything with "stop leak" work on the power steering? (I know not to use it in coolant).

Thanks for the help.

Re: power steering fluid leak
Thursday, September 07, 2017 10:10 PM
Those additives usually cause more problems then anything. Its only a temp fix anyways. It could be leaking from where the inner tie rods connect to the rack. There is some sort of seal there. Either way im sure its a pain to fix and usually ur best bet would be to buy a whole rack as the rebuild kits are getting harder to find and pricy i heard

ReD RaiN
Re: power steering fluid leak
Friday, November 03, 2017 8:28 AM

Over the past 2 months, my leak stayed pretty much the same and I had to add about a quart of a quart a week to keep up, and I sure would know when I had to do that with the outrageously loud howling, screaming pump noise - usually first thing in the morning. But two days ago, I parked at a spot for a few minutes - came out and had a huge - HUGE - puddle under the center of the front axle in addition to the usual drops under the right side. Added the quart of a quart yesterday then first thing this morning had exactly the same huge puddle again so I am in a state of panic since I have absolutely no money at all.

So now I have more questions for anyone who has actually had this problem on a Cavalier or similar car. How much to would the worst case scenario be? I am assuming that would be to replace the whole power steering rack. I have so many things broken on the car that I have gone an entire year and 16K miles without an oil change because literally every time I take it anywhere, they break something else. That is how this started if you read my first post. Is it possible to drive without any fluid in the power steering system? I've heard that this will "burn out the pump". It there any other different kind of fluid or additive that is thicker and would not leak out as fast that would still allow steering? I am trying to make it another 2 months. If I honestly provided you the actual dire financial situation details I am in, you literally would not believe me so no matter how bad you think my situation might be, I can pretty much guarantee it is worse.

Thanks for anyone who has some useful tips on this subject.
Re: power steering fluid leak
Saturday, November 04, 2017 12:38 PM
Stop leak junk is not going to fix that. Find where the leak is coming from and repair/replace that component to stop the leak. I'd guess it is the rack, based on your description of how it has progressed. If you are lucky, it is only a line. But whatever it is, you need to find it and replace it. Replacing a rack is around $200.00 for a remanufactured one and new fluid. Lines are probably around $20.00 or so each.
Here is a video on how to change the rack on a car like yours.

You need to change the engine oil. It is around $20.00 for a 5 quart jug and a new filter. A new engine is around $1,500.00 to $2,000.00.
Re: power steering fluid leak
Tuesday, December 05, 2017 9:22 AM

I have been adding fluid several times a week but the leak has become so bad now that nothing stays inn and it comes right out within a couple of hours of adding it - no matter how much. So I've had to drive around with no power steering for the last week or so which is no fun.

I guess I am going to have to try and buy some jack stands and figure out how to jack up the car using the scissors jack and then hope there is enough room next to it for the jack stands. That is assuming I can find a place to do it somewhere in an empty parking lot - in freezing cold, rainy wet miserable weather. Assuming I can see from the bottom looking up - since I can't tell much from looking down from the top - where might this leak be coming from? When I shine a flashlight down looking directly from above the pump, it is obvious that everything is covered with the fluid. and the puddles on the ground all seem to be where that passenger-side/power-steering-pump-side fluid would finally drip down and off of the crap next to the wheel. What I am hoping is that it is something that I can see, get to, remove, buy, and replace myself - like a fitting, washer, or hose - and not the actual rack or pump or anything that requires hours of work or the removal of that nightmare of a belt. Especially since I am now without any health insurance for the first time in my life as of December 1 since I can't afford that either anymore.

I have never changed the oil or filter myself on this car either so if there is anything you think I should know before I crawl under there and get covered with oil trying to get the filter off and the new one back on - now would be the time for such advice.

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