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Electric power steering on Zafira A - could it be battery?

I’ve got a Vauxhall (uk version of a GM/Opel) Zafira A

We keep having power steering problems with it. The problems seem to happen if we leave the car for about 5-10 mins in ignition position 3 (so the electrics are on but the engine isn’t running).

When we then go to start the engine we find out the power steering doesn’t work for about 10 mins (like as if it’s charging the battery up or something - it takes less time to get going if we rev the engine a bit.

The power steering is electronic, and we’re trying to decide whether or not the problem is caused by the battery.

The battery itself is the same age as the car (the car was made in 2005 so it’s about 13 years old now).

We’ve had the battery tested a few times and all the times the battery comes back with amazing results, one garage was surprised that the battery was actually still holding 13.5V despite the age.

Could batteries develop a fault that wouldn’t show up on a battery tester, or is it more likely to be the power steering unit? Either parts are quite expensive and we’d ideally want to replace the right one.

With the current battery the car does start fine, there has been one or two times when we’ve had to do a second start but it’s not that usual.

Replace the battery ASAP. It will leave you stranded somewhere

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13 year old battery? I’d replace it as soon as possible. Even if that’s not the problem, it’s way overdue to fail.

I’d recommend monitoring the battery voltage. For $12 you can get a voltmeter that plugs into the cig lighter socket from amazon.



The battery has lived two lives long, it needs changing.

But I suspect the problem will remain. Post back after the battery is changed and let us know.

Isn’t this the “RUN” position (the position before “START”)?

I didn’t know these gadgets existed.Thanks! Can they show cranking amperage?

no way, that requires a special current sensing (hall effect) located near the battery.

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Thanks for that info, I’ve got one of those voltage detectors although mine shows three lights red green and yellow, on initial turning on the battery is in yellow but very quickly drops to red if the engine isn’t running.

Going in the red tells you that the battery voltage is low. It is not holding a charge like a new battery would.

Yeah. Know how on your smart phone, after 2 or 3 years you’ll take it off the charger and it will show 100% charge, but then you use it for less than an hour and it’s already down to 50%, whereas when new you could go all day without charging it?

That’s pretty much what’s going on with your battery. It can deliver the proper voltage when fully charged, for a short time, and then it poops out.

I’m guessing the garages that tested it just stuck a multimeter on it, and did not put it on a load tester.

Power steering can indeed be disabled if insufficient power is available. In fact, GM has recalled vehicles for this problem (though not yours, and not because of a long-overdue-to-die battery). I think it’s entirely plausible that your power steering isn’t working until the battery recovers from starting your car.

Do as the others said - get yourself a new battery and let’s see if the problem goes away.

Without knowing what those lights mean, this is not useful.

Before presuming there’s a problem with the steering unit, use a volt meter to measure the voltage at the battery terminals. With everything off and the car been sitting overnight, should be in the 12-13 volt range. After starting the engine, should be in the 13.5 to 15.5 volt range. What do you measure when this symptom exhibits? And when this problem is happening, does the voltage drop when turning the steering wheel? If so, how much?

@billrussell the lights on a simple plug in voltage tester are just tied to the voltage reading. Without going to look, green is somewhere over 12.5. Yellow is somewhere between 11.5 to 12.5, and red is below that. So it simply means ok, marginal, and bad. For ten bucks they are a simple device and even better than the dash meters that are no longer provided for some strange marketing reason.

But for that same 10 bucks, you can get an actual plug in voltmeter, and get actual voltages.

Bill, that’s what it is. Plugs into the accessory plug and gives voltage and red, yellow, and green lights.

OK, voltage plus the lights. I thought it was just the lights.