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

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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.

The solution was to replace with fresh power steering fluid in the reservoir of the vehicle.

Re-seat power steering reservoir cap

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 – Top off the Power Steering Fluid

The first (and easiest) step is to make sure you are not low on power steering fluid! It is easy to neglect but makes a huge difference – this is what solved the problem for me, so check the level. Pop the hood and check that the power steering fluid level is between the minimum and maximum lines. It is inexpensive and easy to do. Use one of the correct power steering fluids listed below.

Power Steering Fluid – Asian Vehicles (Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Acura, Lexus, etc.)

Power Steering Fluid – American Vehicles (GM, Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Dodge, etc.)

Not sure where the power steering fluid reservoir is located? No problem, check out the following PICTURE GUIDES for locating your power steering:

For brand specific Power Steering Fluid, check these links:

#2 – Old or Contaminated Power Steering Fluid

The next 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 to flush the system, like this:

  1. Open your power steering reservoir and suck out as much fluid as you can with an inexpensive power steering fluid pump or even a turkey baster.  Removing old Power Steering Fluid
  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.
  4. Repeat the process of sucking out fluid and adding in fresh fluid.
  5. 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.

Power Steering Fluid (3-pack) Genuine Honda Fluid

Power Steering Fluid Exchange

#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!

Power Steering Fluid – Asian Vehicles (Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Acura, Lexus, etc.)

Power Steering Fluid – American Vehicles (GM, Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet, Dodge, etc.)

Thanks for reading, BUT, is your car ready for winter??!? Click below for my 9 Thing Checklist to MAKE SURE WORK in your car before Winter!