Camry Intermittent Power Steering Failure

Occasionally when it rains, the power steering in my

1997 Toyota Camry just quits, it actually almost appears to

be fighting me as i steer. I’d describe it as rudder reversal,

where the power steering unit is now fighting my efforts

to steer.

Any ideas? Suggestions? Is it the power steering belt slipping?

It sounds like a slipping belt to me. The moisture in the air is acting like a lubricant, and making the belt slip. Considering the age of the car, I suggest installing a new belt instead of just trying to tighten the old one. If it’s been slipping for a while it’s probably worn and in need of replacement.

This is a safety issue, so don’t delay having it fixed. You need to be able to steer, even in the rain.

“Is it the power steering belt slipping?”

You answered your own question correctly. Yes, suspect the belt. Check it for looseness, excessive wear, grease contamination. You will likely have to replace it. Also, we must ask if you have ever removed a splash shield and not replaced that item.

i’ve never removed the splash shield, but it’s a 97, it may have been taken out after any number of service events

now is there any way to prove it’s the belt slipping? would other systems be affected also?

Another possibility would be air in the system, but you’d probably have an overflow of foam at your reservoir. But take a look anyway and see if the fluid in the reservoir is foamy/bubbly. If it is you’ll have to purge the air. Not positive on your system, but purging the air can be done on many vehicles by jacking up the front of the car (wheels off the ground) with the engine running, and turning the steering wheel lock to lock several times with the reservoir cap off of course.

And of course if air is in the system, the real question is how did it get there. Take it to a reputable shop to answer that question.

given the two times it occurred it was raining cats and dogs i think that has to have something to do with it.

"…is there any way to prove it’s the belt slipping? "

Considering that your tests must be conducted in pouring rain, with someone outside peering under the open hood, I recommend simply replacing belt and noting the predicted improvement. Belt replacement is often a DIY job.

First follow through on the foaming test above. Then do the belt.

There is a belt spray meant to stop/decrease belt slipping. Try that.

at your age car either the belt may need replacing, or both the belt and the tensioner may need replacing. you can do the belt first. if that does’nt help, then the tensioner too.

is this belt the three rib serpentine belt
or is it th elittle v belt that’s buried down in the lower engine half?

Its the little V belt buried low on the right rear of the 4 cylinder engine(?). Feel it for tension it may just need to be tightened. The car is old enough to warrent replacing the belt. Replace the serpentine belt at the same time as you will have to get that off to replace the power steering pump belt. Keep the old serpentine belt as a spare in case you lose the new belt and the service station does not have the correct one (it will save you time and aggravation).

Good luck on this.

well i am due the 180K service interval so i figure i’ll do the whole smash.

sadly the timing belt was done at 154K