A hydraulic power-steering system, found in most cars, enables the driver to turn the steering wheel without much effort. If your car has this feature and you’ve noticed that it has been becoming more and more difficult for you to turn the wheel and you’ve been hearing a high-pitched whining noise while steering, then it’s time to check, first and foremost, your power steering fluid.
The power-steering system consists of several items though and hence, you should check them too from time to time. This includes a rack and pinion connected to the front wheels; a piston inside the rack and pinion, which is moved by pressurized fluid from the power-steering pump that helps to turn the wheels; and a cylinder containing fluid mounted on the pump or remotely mounted for easier access.
First step is to locate the reservoir cylinder. The power steering fluid can be found in this cylindrical reservoir near the power steering pump or remotely located with hoses from the pump, and should be clearly labeled.
In some cases you may be able to see the fluid level inside the cylinder, especially if it is made out of transparent or translucent plastic. If the reservoir cylinder is made of metal however, you will have to check the fluid level using a dipstick, which is usually attached to the cap of the cylinder. To do this, first wipe off any excess fluid from the dipstick when you first took it out from the cylinder and then reinsert it as far down as it will go and pull it out again.
Examine the color of the power-steering fluid too. Good power-steering fluid should be clear, amber or pinkish in color. If the power-steering fluid is brown or black, it has been contaminated with bits of rubber and this should prompt you to take your car to a mechanic.
Finally, add power-steering fluid as needed to the correct fill level. Be sure though to use only the power-steering fluid that is recommended for your car and to not overfill your power-steering unit.