Does your power steering go out in cold weather? Follow these steps to trace down the cause and get it fixed.

The Problem

I started the Honda Accord this morning when it was -18 F outside. I let it warm up for 5-10 minutes, then started driving. The steering was incredibly stiff. This lasted for the next 15 minutes of driving until the power steering fluid had circulated through the pump a few times and warmed up. Then the steering responded normally again.

What gives? What’s causing this, and what’s the solution?

Troubleshooting Cold Weather Power Steering Issues

Problems associated with cold weather power steering issues could be the result of one or more of the following causes. Start out by troubleshooting some of the simpler things, and then move progressively to the more complicated and costly solutions.

#1 – Old or Contaminated Power Steering Fluid

The most common reason – by far – for sluggish power steering fluid in the cold, is this: the fluid is just old, has taken on moisture, and should be replaced. Regular maintenance usually suggests you flush and refill power steering fluid every 2-3 yrs or 100,000 miles.

Over time, water or other contaminants may have gotten into your power steering fluid. Water can freeze in the lines causing blockages. Even small amounts of moisture can degrade the effectiveness of the power steering fluid.

Question: What is the solution for power steering going out in cold weather?

Answer: Well, you could do a complete drain and fill…OR you can do it the easier way. The easy way is this:

  1. Open your power steering reservoir and suck out as much fluid as you can with a turkey baster or syringe.
  2. Then refill with fresh fluid up to the fill line.
  3. Start the vehicle and turn the steering wheel fully left then fully right several times, OR drive the vehicle for about 50-100 miles.
  4. Repeat the process of sucking out fluid and adding in fresh fluid. Do this about 3-4 times and you will have diluted the fluid enough that it is primarily fresh fluid.

The full system typically takes about 2.5 to 3 quarts of fluid. Click here for Amazon.com’s power steering fluid selection guide.

#2 – Low Power Steering Fluid

If the problem is not bad fluid, then the next step is to check your power steering fluid level. This is a relatively simple operation. Pop the hood and check that the power steering fluid level is between the minimum and maximum lines. Add power steering fluid as necessary. Use fluid specifically for your model of vehicle, rather than generic power steering fluid. Use this link to find the correct Power Steering Fluid for your vehicle.

Click here for instructions on checking and adding power steering fluid for a 2002-2007 Honda Accord.

Click here for instructions on adding power steering fluid in a 2003-2008 Toyota Corolla, Matrix or Pontiac Vibe.

#3 – Loose or Worn Power Steering Belt

If you hear a lot of squeaking when turning or when you first turn on the vehicle, this could be a sign that the power steering belt is too loose. Tighten up the belt, or consider replacing it if it is frayed or cracked.

#4 – Power Steering Pump Failure

As a last resort, and if none of the other steps fix the issue, your power steering pump may have failed. Consider replacing it.

Hopefully cold weather issues for your power steering system become a thing of the past.

Here is the link for Amazon.com’s power steering fluid selection guide.

For more information on 9th generation 2003-2008 Toyota Corolla maintenance, check out these articles:

Maintenance Articles on 2003-2008 Toyota Corollas

For more information on 7th generation (2002-2007) Honda Accord maintenance, check out these articles:
Maintenance Articles on 2002-2007 Honda Accords

Thanks for reading!