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2014 Nissan Pathfinder Power Steering Pump Whining, 45k miles

I have determined that the power steering pump is making a loud whining noise. This noise started recently. My wife discovered that the power steering fluid reservoir was empty when the noise started. I drove the car the night before and heard no noise and no trouble turning. Wife never experienced trouble turning either. Researched online and found this to be a common Nissan problem. This is my wife’s car (w/2 young kids), so I don’t want to ignore if this may cause a major safety hazard.
Question 1: Did the lack of fluid cause this?
Question 2: Is there anything we can do to repair this without replacing the pump? Cost is about $550 for the pump.
Question 3: What happens if we do nothing?

Fill the p/s reservoir with the proper fluid.Turn steering wheel lock to lock a few times to remove air in the system. Check for leak at hose connection(return and supply lines) connected to the reservoir. If you didn’t drive the car much after the incident, the p/s pump might still be good.

I had some leaking power steering hoses maybe a couple of years ago, the pump growled a few times before I got the lines fixed, still ok,

  1. Yes

  2. Find and fix the cause of the leak. Worry about the pump later, unless the cause of the leak IS the pump

  3. You’ll keep losing fluid and will eventually damage the pump, and you also won’t have power assist when you really want it, such as in a parking lot at low speed

Unless you’re pretty handy, I suggest taking the car to a reputable independent shop and asking them to fix the problem(s)