2009 Forester Power Steering Issues

I just took my 2009 Subaru Forester (80,000 miles) in to a mechanic because it was having an intermittent power steering assist failure during low speed maneuvering (i.e., parking lot). This is always accompanied by a loud rhythmic whining form under the hood (kind of like a whaawhaawhaawhaa). By intermittent, I mean maybe 50% chance of it happening when I am maneuvering in a parking lot. By failure, I mean I can still turn the wheel but it’s much harder. The mechanic diagnosed it as the following:

  • dry rot in drive belts, recommended replacement
  • leaky rack and pinion, recommended replacement
  • 2 leaky front struts

I checked my power steering fluid before I brought it in and the level/color looks great. The mechanic said in addition to the leak that there’s a little bit of a catch in the steering at a certain steering position when going faster, but I haven’t noticed it myself. I have trusted this shop in the past and had good experiences, but there has been a lot of turnover lately, so I’m unsure of what to do. I went ahead and had them change the belts, but decided to wait on the rack/struts until I did more research/got a second opinion. Any advice on this issue?

The struts are not going to cause your steering problem. Bad rack or pump will. The belt needed to be done no matter what.


Leaky front struts, I don’t think so. Have you been off-roading this thing at high speed and abusing it?

If the rack were leaking, you would be seeing a fluid loss. But I do think it is in the rack. The bypass valve is sticking causing the fluid pressure to rise sharply and putting a strain on the pump. Try this check, after some normal driving, like say at the end of one of your daily commutes, open the hood and feel the return PS hose. If it burns you, the valve is stuck.

Edit: actually check both hoses, they will be warm to the tough but should not burn you.

Another condition that you get from this is high speed stability. When the fluid gets hot, the car starts to dart around like the front end is toed out too far. You have to keep both hands on the wheel and constantly correct to keep the car going straight.