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Ford Taurus 2000 Power Steering Leak and Squeek

The power steering on my car is acting disturbingly wonky, I have no money to bring it to a mechanic, and I need to know what’s going on, and if there is anything I can do about it.

The power steering began gradually making more and more noise, of the variety you get on a power steering car when you turn the wheel all the way to one side or the other. It was quieter when the wheel was centered, but still present.

The sound was more pronounced while the wheel was turning. I got out my power steering fluid, and opened the cap to the reservoir while the engine was running. Power steering fluid seemed rather low. It was low enough to expose the spinning shaft at the bottom of the reservoir.

I poured in enough fluid to bring the fluid level up to the bottom of the dip stick. The noise quieted down, but then, while parking, I noticed that the noise had come back, and the amount of force it took to turn the wheel fluctuated widely.

Once again, while the engine was running, I attempted to put more fluid into the reservoir. I brought it up to where the level had been before, but I noticed it began to drop immediately while I watched.

The level dropped down to where the shaft at the bottom of the reservoir was exposed again. I filled it one more time, but it dropped back down to expose the shaft one more time, and then, in the general area bellow the power steering pump, fluid began leaking onto the street.

When the fluid cooled off, the fluid level went up, and read as overfull according to the dip stick. To put it another way, after all I just described transpired, while the fluid was still hot, the dip stick said the fluid level was too low. Then, after the car was off, and the fluid had cooled, the dip stick said the fluid level was overfilled.

The fluid level is checked with the car running while hot. It doesn’t matter what the reading is when the engine is off or cool.
It does matter that power steering doesn’t work. Replace the belt.

I sincerely hope you checked your manual before you added fluid. Unless Ford made a change from the 1997 I had, your car does not use power steering fluid, but actually uses transmission fluid in the power steering system. The wrong fluid can cause some serious problems…

The short story is that you’re just going to have to find the money to bring it to a mechanic. The best I can glean from this story is that you have a power steering fluid leak. That’s how you ended up low to begin with, why things got noisy, and that’s how you ended up low again.

It also would not hurt to have your belt checked, but that cannot be your only issue.

The only thing you could possibly try is a power steering stop leak by Lucas. It sometimes works to slow or stop leaks if the leaks are from bad seals. It won’t stop other kinds of leaks (such as hose splits or fittings). Its normally about $10/pint.

As a side note, I have never seen a car where you check the ps fluid with the engine running. Ok, there’s a lot I haven’t seen but check and add the ps fluid with the engine off. Checking running and hot is for transmissions.

And don’t panic about the fluid type. While many Fords do call for transmission fluid (Mercon) in the power steering system, power steering fluids & transmission fluids are both basically hydraulic oils and don’t differ all that much. The power steering system is pretty simple in comparison to a transmission and its not going to blow up or anything. Do not assume the same about the reverse - i.e. never put something called power steering fluid in the transmission. Transmissions are much pickier & need precisely whatever was formulated for them.

I see a mechanic in your future (or a bicycle).