I think it's really important to know a bit about the internals of a car, so that when you are getting your car serviced you can talk intelligently with the auto technician. As well, there are many easy DIY jobs you can do on your car to save your some money which can make all the difference when you are young and starting out. This site is where I am recording everything I am teaching my kids about auto servicing, and because I think it will be useful to many other families as well. I hope you find it useful for your family.
When it comes to overall safety behind the wheel on busy roads, there are two critical systems on every modern-day car and truck that need your attention. The first is the braking system and the second (which does not receive as much attention as the former) is your power steering. If you're one of those people who hasn't paid much attention to the PAS, how can you get up to speed?
Do You Need Power Assist?
A couple of generations ago, most cars on the road did not benefit from assisted steering and required a lot of manual input from the driver. Today, such creature comforts abound and everyone expects to get some help in turning the vehicle, which is where these hydraulic and electrical systems come in. You may not agree that a power assisted system is vital if the car can still be driven without it and while it's certainly possible to steer any vehicle the old way, a sudden failure of the PAS could nevertheless cause you critical problems in a high-speed situation.
With so much at stake, therefore, it's important to look out for signs of a problem. Firstly, determine what type of system is fitted to your car and be aware of the way that it works. If you suddenly encounter steering that is very stiff, it could be that an electrical assist mechanism has failed. Sometimes, this will be turned off by the car's central computer and in this case you will need to use a code reader to find out exactly where the problem is.
You may also find steering that is very stiff if it loses hydraulic power. This is typically due to low fluid levels and you need to know where the reservoir is, so that you can check it. Assuming you have found this and discovered that the level is low, you will be able to top it back up. However, you will certainly need to initiate an additional inspection to find out if there are any cracks in the hydraulic lines or defective components elsewhere.
Sometimes, you will notice a very high pitched grinding sound when you are turning the wheel, especially in slower situations. This could be an issue with the pump pulley or belt and you may be able to manually inspect this if you know where to look. If you have a slipping belt, it will need to be adjusted and tightened accordingly.
If you'd rather not crawl underneath your car looking for various components or simply want to leave this important work to an expert, take the vehicle into a mechanic as soon as possible.