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Can You Drive Without Power Steering? (Explained)

Today, we’ll have a thorough look at your car’s power steering. Experiencing difficulties with your power steering system is one of the most annoying and exhausting problems you can have with your car. Furthermore, diagnosing the problem and its severity can also be a pain. Let’s start with whether or not you can keep driving without power steering:

It’s not illegal to drive a car without power steering; as a matter of fact, power steering was still an option in many cars manufactured in the 1960s. However, driving without power steering is more difficult and can result in dangerous situations, especially when driving at lower speeds.

However, this certainly doesn’t tell the entire story. Below, we’ll explain in detail whether driving without power steering is safe. We’ll also see if this is an illegal thing to do. Furthermore, we’ll dive deep into the power steering systems that are on the market, their problems, and how long you can expect to continue driving with each problem. Read on!

Is It Safe To Drive Without Power Steering?

Driving without power steering, whether a hydraulic, electric, or electric-hydraulic system, is considered less safe than driving with power steering. The reason for this is that losing power steering makes maneuvering the car much more difficult and can even be impossible for people with less upper body strength.

Furthermore, lack of power steering is mainly a problem in low-speed, close proximity situations. This is because these situations often require more precise and sharper maneuvers compared to high-speed situations where there’s usually more space to navigate, and the turns are more gradual.

Is It Illegal To Drive Without Power Steering?

Do not cut costs by running without power steering for an extended period because you are severely limiting your car’s functionality. You are not only limiting the performance but causing a liability as well.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean driving a car without power steering is illegal. In most cases, driving without power steering won’t be an offense or infraction. Many older cars don’t even have power steering, and they’re also allowed on the road.

However, if you’re involved in an accident while you have no power steering, and it was discovered, there’s a considerable chance of suing you for negligence. And, your insurance company will not repair the damages caused. Therefore, it may not be illegal, but it won’t work in your favor either.

Furthermore, before you do drive without power steering, it’s most likely a good idea to contact your local DMV to talk about whether or not this is an offense in your state, on the off chance that your state does have regulations against this.

Will Driving Without Power Steering Damage My Car?

Whether or not driving without power steering will damage your car depends on the problem causing the loss of power steering, as well as what kind of power steering system you have. Below, we’ve outlined the power steering systems and possible problems. Furthermore, we’ll discuss how long you can still keep driving with each problem.

Hydraulic Or Electric-Hydraulic

Many hydraulic or electric-hydraulic system problems will have to do with mechanical issues of fluid leaks. Below, we’ve mentioned the three main culprits of these systems. After this, we’ll talk about the problems of a fully electric system (these problems can also relate to the electric-hydraulic system depending on how it’s designed).

1. Power Steering Fluid Leaks

A power steering fluid is meant to run the steering system components, not to leak. A little droplet is not enough reason to panic, but you should understand that it will worsen if not fixed on time once a leak starts. For instance, if the steering leak from a tiny crack in the steering hose, you’ll lose all the fluid quickly if the crack expands.

A steering fluid can leak from several areas and expands if not fixed on time. Power steering fluid can leak from;

  • Joints between the lines, reservoir, rack, and pinion
  • Gaskets and seals in the rack and pinion
  • From the steering pump itself.

The early-stage effect of running with a power steering leak is much workforce turning the wheel; once the fluid drops below the MIN level, the steering pump will run dry.

This causes metal-to-metal contact and heat, resulting in severe damage. If you must drive your baby ride with a power steering leak, try not to turn to the extreme right or left and refill your fluid or fix the cause of the leak as soon as possible.

Most power steering leak repairs cost around $400 to $550. This is just an estimated price. The exact amount depends on various factors, such as the actual cause of the leak, location, and service fee.

For instance, if you need to replace a power steering hose, you may have to pay around $70 to $150 for the parts and a few bucks for the service charge.

How long can you drive without it: It depends on the build quality of the system. In reality, there’s no telling, but failure is around the corner.

2. Damage To The Power Steering Pump

If power steering fluid leaks aren’t fixed in time, they will damage the power steering pump. The power steering pump sends fluid into the steering rack and pinion, providing the required pressure to turn the wheels smoothly. When it starts falling, you’ll notice the following signs.

  • Whining noise when turning the wheel: If you hear a whining noise when turning the wheel, you have a problem with your power steering system. It could be a low fluid level or a leak in the system. Either way, you must contact a certified mechanic to inspect and replace your steering pump.
  • Stiff steering: If you notice your steering wheel is hard to turn, your power steering pump is failing. Contact your dealership or mechanic to replace your pump if you notice a whining noise and stiff steering.
  • Squealing noise when starting the car: Do not confuse it with serpentine belt issues if you notice a squealing noise when you first start your vehicle. You can also notice this when making a sharp turn, but they usually happen when you first start the car. The squealing noise typically comes from under the hood, and it could be a failing pump causing the belt to slip.
  • Groaning noise: Groaning noises show your power steering pump is long gone. It will become more audible and annoying as the pump continues to fail. If the power steering pump fails due to a fluid leak, it will damage the steering system components, including the rack and pinion, and require complete replacement.

How long can you drive without it: stop driving immediately; you’re causing severe damage to the car.

3. Serpentine Belt Is Broken Or Slipping

A slipping or broken serpentine belt can also cause a loss of power steering. This is also the belt responsible for powering the cooling system, alternator, and air conditioning, so malfunctioning will result in severe damage to the engine (because it overheats). Symptoms of a malfunctioning serpentine belt are:

  • Squealing noises from the front of the engine
  • Malfunctioning A/C or heater
  • Overheating of the engine
  • Warning lights such as ‘check engine’

Driving without a serpentine belt is possible but will result in overheating the engine so quickly that it’s not even worth it. Replacing a serpentine belt costs between $125 – $200, whereas overheating your engine can result in replacing the complete engine (costing thousands of dollars).

How long can you drive without it: stop driving immediately; you’re causing severe damage to the car.

Fully Electric

A fully electric system (also called EPS) doesn’t have any pumps of fluids. Instead, the power steering is regulated by a motor, electrical wiring, and sensors. Therefore, these are the three main points where the power steering system can fail.

1. Electric Motor Is Malfunctioning

Overheating the electric power steering motor responsible for operating this system often leads to a loss of EPS. Besides overheating, this system can also get contaminated with water or dirt, resulting in malfunctioning or electrical shorts. Furthermore, carbon contamination can result in the failure of the motor as well.

How long can you drive without it: don’t drive a car with an overheating EPS motor; the more this system overheats, the more problems other parts of the system will experience.

2. EPS Board Malfunctions

Another problem that can cause a loss of EPS is the EPS board. This is the point where all communication from the power steering system (relays, capacitors, resistors, etc.) passes through. Therefore, it’s an important communication hub.

Failure of the EPS board often has to do with a faulty design or production, as well as possible contamination of water or dirt. However, this problem is not as likely to occur as the electric motor’s failure or the torque sensor’s failure.

How long can you drive without it: continuing to drive with a faulty EPS board may also result in electrical shorts that affect other parts of the system. Stop driving immediately.

3. Torque Sensor Failure

Torque sensors are frequently the problem when it comes to the failure of an EPS system. These sensors monitor, detect, record, and regulate linear and rotational forces extended upon it. For this reason, they tell the system how much power steering is needed. However, they tend to fail.

There are two types of torque sensors: contacting sensors and contactless sensors. Especially the contacting sensors tend to wear out over time because the metallic contact points tend to wear over time.

How long can you drive without it: Torque sensors purely serve a monitoring and communicating role. You can drive with a failed torque sensor. However, ensure it doesn’t turn on and off randomly as this can result in dangerous situations.

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