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How to Troubleshoot Hard Power Steering When a Vehicle Is Cold

by Shelley Moore

Several factors may make power steering hard to work when the vehicle is cold. The issues range from mild to severe, and you'll probably want to try the least expensive troubleshooting methods first. If the techniques you try at home don't work, take the vehicle to a professional mechanic to ensure that the vehicle will not seize up on the road.

Step 1

Let the car warm up for a couple of minutes before you drive. Power steering fluid becomes more viscous in very cold temperatures, and doesn't flow as well as it normally would. Some vehicle systems require a bit of time for the fluid to warm up.

Step 2

Be sure the power steering fluid is completely up to the full line. If not, add fluid. Proper fluid levels are particularly important in cold weather.

Step 3

Check for leaks on the outside area. If you are losing fluid, add a product that contains a leak-repair agent, such as STP Power Steering Fluid and Stop Leak.

Step 4

Change your power steering fluid. Use a turkey baster to remove and replace the old fluid. This avoids having to drain and flush the fluid.

Try a different product than your regular power steering fluid. Using automatic transmission fluid instead of power steering fluid sometimes clears up the problem. Try adding a power steering conditioner to the power steering fluid. Use a brand of power steering fluid from the manufacturer of your vehicle, rather than a generic or store brand. Consider using General Motors product called Vehicle Care Power Steering Cold Climate fluid.


  • If you have a rack-and-pinion steering system, have a mechanic check the parts. If steering pump leaks continue after you troubleshoot the problem, have a mechanic check the power steering pump to see if it needs replacing.

Items you will need

  • Power steering fluid
  • Turkey baster
  • Automatic transmission fluid
  • Power steering conditioner

About the Author

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

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