Quite often, you may find it hard to turn the wheels or notice noise when turning the steering wheel while stationary. The difficulty indicates a deeper problem with your engine, suspension, or steering system. Turning the steering wheel also needs ample power steering lubrication. Therefore, you can temporarily fix the problem by lubricating your vehicle and not risk wearing its critical components.
However, if you don’t get a mechanic to fix the repair, or replace the faulty parts immediately, you risk causing accidents to you and other road users. You and your mechanic can identify the faulty parts by the kind of noise you hear when turning the steering. You may hear a whining, grinding, clunking, chucking, or squeaking noise, depending on the fault of your engine, suspension, brakes, or steering system.
This article explores the technical causes of hurdles and noises when turning the steering of a stationary vehicle.
Causes of the Noise When Turning the Steering Wheel While Stationary
Insufficient Power Steering Fluid
Low power steering fluid is one of the main causes of a whining noise when turning steering wheels when stationary. Most cars using a rack and pinion steering systems comprise the circular steering that is connected to the gearbox through a metal rack.
This rack also has a tie rod to help turn the circular motion of the steering to linear motion and reduce the gear impact for the wheels to smoothly turn. For the system to work seamlessly, it receives high-pressure fluid lubrication through two ports on the piston’s sides. Not only does the fluid lubricate the gears and column, but it provides great power for the piston to move.
Poor Fluid Quality
In addition to whining, you may a sharp grinding when turning the steering wheel of a stagnant car. This symptom indicates that you use the wrong lubrication fluid. Nowadays, most vehicle manufacturers design vehicles that can only use specific lubrication according to the unique minerals ideal for lubricating the parts’ chemical compositions. Examples of lubricants preferred by common manufacturers are Pentosin, Dextron, and P/S fluid. Using the wrong power steering lubrication causes damage to the entire power steering system.
Leaking steering pumps is also a common cause of annoying noises when operating your vehicle. The magnitude of the leaking power steering fluid will determine the extent of the whining, grinding, or clunking noise when turning the steering wheel while stationary in your car.
Similar to the cases above, the low lubrication capability wears the power steering belt bringing about severe difficulties in turning the steering column, metal rack, and gears.
You can identify power steering leaks through the stains at the bottom of your parked car. However, the fluid stains might also be from engine oil or brake fluids, therefore, check the steering fluid reservoir levels to rule out other automotive fluid leaks before you call your garage.
Faulty Steering Rack
Sometimes clunking sound when turning the steering wheel can mean you have a more severe problem than low steering fluid or a leaking steering system. You can have a faulty steering rack after getting into an accident or because you have not serviced your vehicle for a while.
The clunking sound from a faulty rack usually knocks in pauses when you turn the tires from one end to the other. Repeated clunks indicate mounting or bad struts.
Whenever your car has suspension problems, it becomes very difficult to steer especially at low speeds or when stationary. The steering system relies on the vehicle suspension to turn its wheels. Therefore, faulty struts and improper suspension cause strain to the steering system which could cause detrimental damage to its mechanics. When your car makes noise when turning right but not left it indicates that you have failing ball joints and the tie rod end has worn out. The clunking sound is due to sudden weight shifts of the car as its tires turn.
Worn Out Power Steering Belt
When you have a broken or worn-out power steering belt, your car is likely to produce a sharp screeching or squeaking noise when turning the steering wheel left or right during low speeds or in a stationary position. This belt is the connection between the engine and the power steering pump. It, therefore, requires enough lubrication from the power steering fluid to prevent it from wear and tear during your vehicle’s operation.
Air Bubbles, Water, and Impurities in the Power Steering Fluid
Typically, the presence of any impurities or air in the power steering fluid reduces its ability to lubricate the power steering system optimally. Therefore, mechanical parts of the system are subjected to tension, friction, and pressure impacts that cause noise when turning the steering wheel while stationary. You can identify impurities by noting a difference in the power steering fluid color.
Low Tire Pressure
Low tire pressure can also cause a clicking sound when turning the steering wheel left or right when stationary. Low tire pressure causes an imbalance in the car weight distribution. Therefore the steering system experiences discomfort when attempting to shift the tire direction causing extreme tension that brings about noises.
In addition to tire pressure, using worn-out tires or mixing different tire types can affect and cause power steering problems.
Steering Pump Malfunctioning
As mentioned earlier, the steering pump is responsible for creating sufficient pressure to support the power steering system. Therefore, pump impediments create a crucial problem for the steering system. Although it may not hinder the steering movement completely, damaged pumps lead to further mechanical issues like torn steering belts which could damage the whole power steering system. You notice malfunctioning steering pumps when the wheel becomes difficult to steer and makes a clicking noise in the steering column when steered in a stationary position.
How to Fix These Power Steering Noise Problems
The first step to fixing the annoying noises from your vehicle is to diagnose the cause of the noise. You don’t need a mechanic for most of this process. You can diagnose and get the satisfaction of fixing them yourself using a mechanical toolbox unless they are too complicated. A good example of problems you don’t need to call a mechanic for is if your power steering problems are due to mix-matching different tires or using severely worn-out tires.
You can visit your local car dealership to purchase and conveniently replace the tires using simple tools such as a lug wrench, a car jack, and wheel wedges.
You can also check your power steering fluid levels using a dipstick and change them without needing a specialist’s help. Insufficient or poor steering fluid quality is the cause for most whining sounds when steering your stationary car. Consequently, the primary step when you experience hardship steering or an unpleasant sound from your vehicle is to check the lubricant levels of your steering fluid reservoir.
Checking your power steering fluid should be easy during the day or at night especially if you have a functioning underwood work light for adequate visibility. Open the power steering cap and place the deep stick inside the reservoir. Remove it to check the oil levels against the deep stick calibration. When the levels are between the MIN and MAX marks, your power steering fluid levels are fine and you shouldn’t experience any steering troubles.
If you have power steering sound problems and your fluid is within the required levels it means you either used the wrong power steering fluid or the fluid is contaminated. Either way, you need to flush the power steering system before filling it with fresh fluid as recommended by the manufacturer’s manual.
However, make a habit of inspecting for leaks around your power steering system’s hoses if you notice your power steering fluid levels dropping at an alarming rate now and then.
Powerful screeches and loud clucks when attempting to steer a stationary car indicate a bigger mechanical problem in your power steering system. Sadly, the cause for these loud clunks is not easily identifiable. You may need a professional inspection from a qualified mechanic to know which part to fix or replace. However, you can reduce the noise yourself by lubricating the mechanical parts of your car. You will still need to fix or replace some of the following parts to completely solve the clunking noise when you steer the vehicle;
- The power steering pump
- Suspension joints
- Ball joints
- CV joints
- Tie rods
- The sway bar link
Ask someone to turn the engine on and turn the steering wheel back and forth as you inspect the screeching and clunking engine noises to identify which part needs fixing or replacement. Although most power systems damages noises and damages are due to insufficient lubrication or road accidents, you still need to take your car for regular maintenance services if you are to avoid these problems.
A problem with one part always leads to a problem with another; therefore service maintenance is the best way to avoid severe steering problems.
How to Fix Power Steering Noise When Turning YouTube Video
A healthy power steering system produces no noise when turning it whether it is in motion or stationary. The type of noise coming from your car enables you or your mechanic to know what the problem is. Whining and grinding noise mostly indicate a problem with lubrication by the power steering fluid, while sharp clunks mainly originate from worn-out mechanical parts like the steering belt, rack, and cracks.
It is imperative to fix these problems as soon as you notice them avoid further damage to your car and risk causing accidents.