Ruh Roh, we seem to have a bit of a situation here.
A long time ago my car decided to complain while steering. This turned out to be a rotted connection in the power steering line.
Recently it decided to groan again while steering. I suspected that it may be a similar issue. I spent some time tracing the line looking for a leak. While examining, I noticed there was a lot of fluid in a place where fluid wasn’t suppose to be. The source of the leak looks pretty obvious.
What has happened is a rubber boot on the steering rack has broken and has left an opening for power steering fluid to leak out and for air to get in. This is causing the groaning noise because air is getting into the system. Now here is the big problem, there isn’t suppose to be fluid in here at all, even with the boot off. It should flow from steering arm to steering arm and not leak out. This could mean that the main seal inside the rack is failing. The biggest effect of this is reduced performance and possibly a loss in power steering as well as the ability for air and water to get into the system and muck things up.
This is a Saturn LS200 with nearly 200k miles on it, things are going to wear. So far, I have not noticed any decrease in steering performance and there are no gears grinding in the system.
It looks like I have 3 options:
- Replace the steering boot - ~$25 fix, pretty simple to do
- Pull the rack, take it apart and reseal it - ~$75 in parts and a long time to do, need to make sure to get it done within a weekend or I have a problem. Need to re-pressurize. Also this contingent on if the rack is sealed, Saturn likes to used completely sealed systems (like my transmission).
- Replace the rack - min $400 + labor. Since this is a steering component, I really do not want to replace it with a junkyard part though I could for 1/10th the price. I really don’t want to do that.
I am leaning toward just doing the first option. As I mentioned, there is no decrease in steering performance and there is no gear damage so I am not too worried about the rack failing. I am planning on taking it to a friends house and getting it up on jacks to take a closer look with the wheel off.
In the meantime I have fashioned a protective boot to keep any road debris out of the opening until I can replace the boot.
Oh the fun of high mileage car ownership...