Here is how the power steering system helps you turn the wheels. The power steering pump is usually mounted on the engine and is driven by the serpentine belt. It takes power steering fluid and pushes in under pressure through a rubber line down to the rack.
Depending on which way you are turning, the pressurized power steering fluid pushes on a cylinder inside of the rack and helps you easily turn the wheels in the direction that you want them to go. Then the fluid returns through the other line back to the pump.
Sometimes you can have problems with your power steering system, such as a bad pump or rack and those repairs can be expensive, depending on the type of vehicle.
A common problem is being low on power steering fluid. If you hear a moaning sound coming from your vehicle, especially when you are turning, you might be low. Check the fluid level and top it off if needed. Have a mechanic check the system for leaks or you might end up damaging to the system due to a lack of fluid.
In an effort to save gas, some automakers are now turning to electric motors to run the power steering systems. Think about it. Your engine uses gas and energy to turn the power steering pump all of the time, even when you are not turning your steering wheel, plus the parts are heavy. Having that load on your engine all of the time is a huge waste of gas.
The electric motors are run by the computer system and only turn on when you need them to. Since your engine doesn’t need to work as hard all of the time, you are going to get better gas mileage.
The next step that automakers are looking at is getting rid of the shaft that links the steering wheel to the steering gear and replacing it with a sensor under the steering wheel. That’s right, the steering wheel would not be connected to the wheels in any way. The vehicle's computer would be able to tell what direction you were turning the steering wheel because of the sensor, then command electric motors to turn your wheels in that direction.
Are you ready for that level of trust in your vehicle's computer system?