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Intermittently Hard Steering


omee
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Hello

I have a 1997 ES 300 with roughly 250,000 km (156,000 mi) on it.

Two days ago the steering of started becoming stiff intermittently....for example while turning, it would turn halfway without effort and then become stiff for the remainder of the return....it would sort of get stuck in place and effort would be require to move it back to center....this was more prominent when the car was cold....this started happening right after there was heavy rainfall (5 days straight) during which I drove thru big puddles..... So i assume that it has something to do with constantly being wet for 4-5 days.....the power steering has a very minor leak (couple of drops a week...never had to top up the reservoir)

From what I have researched i think the power steering pump is fine since the steering is not hard all the time....i read somewhere that you can lubricate the u joint....i called a mechanic and he said that there is no place to be lubricated in a rack and pinion system...leaving me no where.

So from what I gather any of the following things can be an issue as well:

Rack and Pinion

Ball joints

Strut bearings

U joint

...right? i would appreciate any help to solve this issue

Thanks in advance

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Omee,

Interesting problem. I think the mech is right, no way to "lube" the cv joints, you can buy rebuild kits, but it's better and almost the same price to just replace them w/ rebuilt ones from a factory, prolly somewhere in the 3rd world. When these go, you usually hear some clicking when the steering it at the extreme.

The symptom suggests an hydralic problem (pump, rack) vrs mechanical. Steering is ok until you have to pump some fluid (by turning the wheel) then it gets hard. Tends to happen when cold, after the fluid warms up, it moves easier.

I think replacing the pump is not as difficult as doing a rack. Might be a good idea to get it up in the air running to see if the problem can be "observed". (free diagnostic check?).

Ball joints don't seem to me to be a likely cause. But while you've got it up that can be checked by inspection for play.

Not sure how the wet weather fits in. Coincidence? I know that there is a connector to the power steering pump that is fairly close to the road, but not sure how water could create this kind of problem. W/ electrical probs its either connected (working) or not.

LL

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Hey LL

Sorry for the late reply

First off thanks for your response...I found out the hard way that there is no place to lube in a steering rack..LOL...well over the weekend the problem got progressively worse (steering got harder)...The car sat for all of mon. today morning I started up the car and the steering was 80% normal...compared to 10% the day before....and after driving for a couple of min it became 90% normal....

Still i took it to the shop..they lifted it up and found a leak in upper pipe connected to the P/S pump...I forgot if it was the return or sending pipe..but it has a washer/seal ...80% chance that the washer/seal is leaking...

Since this is really close to the passenger side wheel, the guy reckons that a little bit of moisture got in while driving thru a puddle and contaminated the system.....so tommorow he will replace the washer/seal and flush the fluid and see if it improves....

He inspected the ball joints, rack, P/S pump and belt and determined that it is fine...so gonna take the car tommorow to him

Will keep you updated on what happens

fyi..you were right about the rack being expensive to replace!...he said changing the rack is atleast 8-9 hrs in labour !!!

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Hi A friend had the same problem{92 es300} and it went away and then came back and went away again.There had been NO loss of fluid detected. If it is a seal...could air have gotten into the hydraulic system and found a way out again? I m following this post and would really like to know what the final diagnosis and solution is.

Good luck and i hope its a cheap fix ........

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Hey guys

Sorry i dont have a fix for u ppl...yet...Took it the shop today...jacked it up...removed the FR Wheel....removed inner liner to expose the pump.....and saw that the whole thing including the pump is covered in P/S fluid....so instead of fixing the washer/seal he suggested that he clean the area thorughly and have me drive it around and bring it in tommorow to see exactly where it is leaking from...according to him it could also be leaking from a seal in the pump itself (but it wouldnt explain why the P/S fluid is covering the pipes ABOVE it)....so he cleaned it and thats about it....on my way home from work it was raining cats and dogs....and it is forecast to rain tommorow as well....so lets see how that factors in

steering feel is still the same....it becomes hard intermittently but the majority of the time its normal...ive noticed that it becomes better after the car has been standing for a while...i think it gets a chance for the air/moisture trapped inside to escape...

will update u guys on what happens tommorow!

tc

Omee

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There had been NO loss of fluid detected.

Exactly same situation with me...altough the whole thing was covered in P/S fluid...never had to top up the resorvior

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obviously, ps pump is having a hard time pumping (i.e. pushing fluid in a closed circuit to assist in steering). The intermittancy is puzzling though.

One guess is that one of the hoses is breeched, leading to leakage intermittantly, perhaps when engine is torqued at the right angle. when the pressure drops, steering gets harder, fluid leaks down the hose and onto the pump.

Another possibility is related to the intermittancy could be the hydralic management of the radiator fan (run by the ps pump) coupled with a not so competent pump. (not sure this is still the case with the '97, but it was for 94-96 I believe...). When the fan turns on, drops pressure in the system, leading to difficulties steering.

Overheating?

LL

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hey guys

sorry for the late update...

so after the mechanic lifted the car up and inspected the area (after cleaning it thoroughly 2 days before)...he found the P/S pump to be leaking...the rack has a minor leak on both sides...and the culprit according to him is the valve cover leaking oil from the top and falling on the P/S pump....so he gave me a quote to change the valve covers (half the price of the car)...then took me aside and politely told me to sell the car while i still can LOL

so verdict is in...there can be an issue with any of the 2 major components....he still cant figure out why the steering is fine now....and what made it go hard....I dont want to spend basically 2/3rd the price of the car to fix such a minor issue....

I really hoped this would be a simple fix

LL: No the car dosent overheat at all...however I do notice the RPMs go up when the car is coasting in neutral and i turn the steering.

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4 grand to replace the valve cover gasket? time to find a new mech. Did he offer to take it off your hands for $1500?

It's not a challenging job, really, just to do that.

Was his quote for also replacing the ps pump and rack? That would make more sense.

I hear ya though. Minor problem, 14 year old car. If it was 2 yrs old and under warranty, sure...

You might want to try some ps pump stop leak. Have to let the resevoir drop down, or remove some fluid before dolloping in the goop. I had a merc villager a few years ago that started leaking, leading to "hard steering" until it warmed up. Stop leak did the trick and avoided the expensive ps pump replacement.

Another solution would be to find a shop that would bleed the system. (Merchant's Tire does it in my neighborhood). That costs about $150.

LL

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4 grand to replace the valve cover gasket? time to find a new mech. Did he offer to take it off your hands for $1500?

You might want to try some ps pump stop leak. Have to let the resevoir drop down, or remove some fluid before dolloping in the goop. I had a merc villager a few years ago that started leaking, leading to "hard steering" until it warmed up. Stop leak did the trick and avoided the expensive ps pump replacement.

Another solution would be to find a shop that would bleed the system. (Merchant's Tire does it in my neighborhood). That costs about $150.

LL

Hey LL

He quoted me around $ 2500 CDN for replacing both valve covers, P/S pump, rack , labour and tax....the car is worth about $3500 so i dont see the point in spending that much on it anyways...apparently only the gaskets for the intake manifold are $200 !!...labour was alot since he has to remove the intake manifold to get access to the other valve cover....the price for the P/S pump and rack is for refurbished ones....

To put in a stop leak additive I would have to remove some of the P/S fluid from the reservoir ....Ive got this car almost a year and ive never had to top it off...so i doubt its such a big leak...however i myself saw the leaks in the rack...and they are in the rubberised area and might need attention pretty soon considering i drive about 100-150 km everyday....

But after all this i still dont understand how is the air going in all of a sudden...these leaks were there when i got the car.... this has something to do with the rain/water....regardless i will try to take some fluid out and put in a stop leak..

I dont see the point of bleeding the system which has leaks in it...i think i will have it bled once the leaks finish or stablise after i put in the stop leak...

thanks for ure help!

Ill keep you posted if there is any difference after adding the stop leak

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B,

I can't believe your '97 is only worth $3500, unless it has hi miles or is in rough shape. And you don't have to take off the intake manifold to remove the valve covers or replace the valve cover gaskets. You do if you are trying to remove the heads. I got an entire head gasket set for $55 (including head gaskets and everything above that including the needed valve cover gaskets) last winter from an outfit in Ca called Erista. I've used them for other cars never had a problem w/ fit or longevity. The intake manifold gaskets do not cost 2 bills, that is unless you are buying them from Lexus. Give the stop leak a try, you may be surprised.

LL

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I can't believe your '97 is only worth $3500, unless it has hi miles or is in rough shape

It has approx 156,000 miles on it...so I consider that high mileage...a few rust spots here and there....but overall in pretty nice shape considering its age...how much do you think it should be worth?

I went to another shop as well to ask them about the valve cover gaskets, they also said that you have to remove the intake manifold...i guess it is to make their job easier and make more money in the process...since im not in a hurry to get them fixed..(i know they are leaking)...some lucas stop leak should do the trick...I doubt im going to have them replaced.....so no need to get the intake gaskets.

Now I have to find a shop that will flush the P/S fluid for a reasonable price....

tc

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A quick search on autotrader.com showed 72 '97 es 300's, highest priced 8995, lowest 2495, and average price 5769. I find this is a good way of seeing what street value might be, not as rigid as bluebook.

Good idea on the valve cover -- stop leak. It may be the '97 has different engineering in terms of valve cover gaskets, but on my '94, the covers are above and not connected into or under the intake manifold. Maybe the mech is talking about taking off the plenum (sometimes known as the "upper intake," and yes this does have to come off in order to get to the rear bank valve cover gasket. If you've never tried it, it's about 2-4 hrs of work, as you have to remove the entire intake from the hose coming off the air filter housing down to (but not including) the intake manifold, w/ some difficult to reach 10 mm and 12 mm nuts on the back side. I've been there a few times and can do it in an hour or so.

Before you get your power steering system flushed, try the stop leak (I've used Lucas brand).

LL

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