/ power steering problems

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pec on 06 Jan 2013
The power steering on my car (Peugeot 406, 2.0 deisel) has started playing up. It seems to have a variable level of assistance as the steering wheel is rotated so it goes through stiff patches and feels almost notchy. It feels a bit like driving a car with power steering which is totally broken but not as heavy or stiff if that's ever happened to you.

The fluid reservoir is full and I can't see any leaks. The drivebelt is in good condition, seated on the pulleys and tensioned correctly.

I took the belt off this morning and the pulley on the pump rotates smoothly. There is no side to side play in the pulley but there is slight movement along the shaft, i.e. the pulley moves in and out of the pump body but only by a fraction, 1 or 2mm at most.

Could such a small amount of wear indicate a problem in the pump or can pumps fail internally with no outward signs?
I don't want to replace it speculatively as a new one costs about 170.

Could the problem be on the rack and if so what should I look for? I've never had to deal with steering rack problems before. The rack itself isn't worn i.e. there's no free play between the steering wheel and road wheels but presumably there's some sort of hydraulics down there that could be at fault?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
jimtitt - on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:
A common fault (Ive had it on a BMW and my Subaru and its apparently fairly normal) is rust in the lower UJ on the steering shaft. Oil or replace as desired!
pec on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to jimtitt:
Thanks for the suggestion but would rust cause the problem to appear suddenly? It was driving normally one day and not the next.
Coel Hellier - on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

One possible cause of steering feeling "notchy" is the wheel bearings could have come loose or are worn. (I had this once.)
Justin T - on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

Is your speedo working? Had similar on 406 and it turned out to be little box of electronics behind the glovebox gone, so speedo was intermittent and when it wasn't working the assistance was weird, being variable an' all.
jimtitt - on 06 Jan 2013
cuppatea on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

Similar has happened to me, it was a sticky universal joint in the steering column.

Soak with WD40 or Plus Gas and then lubricate with 3 in 1 or similar. It will be easier to get at all sides of the column if you can jack the front of the car up and have a helper turn the steering back and forth while spraying.

Let us all know how you get on.
pec on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to cuppatea:
Thanks for the replies, the symptoms described in the Peugeot forum sound just like my problem, looks like the joints on the steering column might have to be inspected. With the dark evenings it might have to wait till next weekend though.

If anyone else has any other ideas in the meantime they'd be greatfully received. Thanks.
cuppatea on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

Got a big torch and a can of WD? Should be fairly easy to find the UJs and nothing to lose in giving them a good soak.
cuppatea on 06 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

..although modern cars, French ones in particular are annoyingly diddly in my experience. You might have to search for the right bit, but it should be obvious which area to look in.
pec on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to cuppatea:

> Soak with WD40 or Plus Gas and then lubricate with 3 in 1 or similar. It will be easier to get at all sides of the column if you can jack the front of the car up and have a helper turn the steering back and forth while spraying.
>
> Let us all know how you get on. >

I inspected the intermediate joint from inside the car yesterday and that seemed fine so got underneath and had a look at the bottom joint. There was nothing visually wrong but I couldn't get my hands to it to do anything. How the hell are you supposed to repair these things without taking off the subframe?
Anyway, I sprayed it with loads of WD40 and turned the wheel full lock each way and resprayed but I couldn't get a can of thicker oil anywhere close enough to put any on.
Took it for a test drive but couldn't really tell if there was any improvement, perhaps a fraction but it might have been wishful thinking.

Looks like it might have to be a garage job, ouch.
cuppatea on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

You can get 3 in 1 oil in an aerosol can, I first saw it in Aldi...but a google should find it.

If you get the chance before you go to a garage keep up the good work with the WD40, give the universal joints a real good soak.

I forgot to add don't get under the car unless it's properly supported by stands and not just the jack, in gear, handbrake on, wheels chocked, on level ground etc but I didn't want to teach anyone to suck eggs.
Tiberius - on 12 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:

Had a similar problem on a Skoda I bought my son for his 17th. Searching the Internet turned up 'steering angle sensor'. Bought the part, but got a local garage to actually fit it. Seems to have resolved the problem.
Paul Evans - on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to pec:
Tricky one to diagnose at a distance. As one of the replies to the Peugeot thread said, if it's sticking / free at the same amount of steering lock every time then you'd suspect the rack or something in the mechanical "chain" from steering wheel to radius arms. If its NOT at the same amount of steering lock every time then you'd suspect something in the power steering pump / reservoir area.
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pec on 13 Jan 2013
In reply to pec: Drove the car this morning and for the first 10 miles or so it was absolutely fine like there was no problem at all then, whilst driving in a straight line the steering somehow felt like it stiffened and next time I went round a bend it felt all notchy again and stayed like that.
Bizarre really! Don't know if the freezing cold weather overnight had some effect or if that's just coincidence?

Might give it another soak with WD40 and then some heavier oil if I can find any with a suitable delivery tube.

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