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Hydraulic issues in 98 Passat

I’ve got a 98 Passat 1.8T, manual, with around 80,000 miles.

Over the past 1-2 years every 4 months or so, I’ll get in the car and when I turn the steering wheel, hear a groan. It starts off fairly soft, but gets worse over the course of a few days. Knowing it has to do with the hydraulics, I top off the hydraulic fluid and that takes care of the problem for another 4 months of so.

A few weeks ago, after getting an oil leak repaired, the hydraulic groan came back so I topped off the fluid. That took care of things for about a week and the groan came back. Topped off the fluid again and now, about another week later, the noise is back again.

And this time, not only does the car groan when I turn the steering wheel, but I can hear a noise (like a constant whirring sound) whenever the car is in gear - in addition to the groaning when I turn.

My assumption is that this is a hydraulic leak and it has just gotten much worse since having the oil leak fixed. Is that a good assumption? Is there anything else that this could be?

For a car that I don’t plan to have much more than a year, is it worth fixing or would it likely be cheaper to just keep dumping hydraulic fluid in every week or so now?

One last thing to note, there is a white fog coming from my vents when the AC is on - I’m assuming that’s from the humidity, but am wondering if it could be related to the hydraulics (I often drive with my young daughters in the car and don’t want to poison them with hydraulic fluid!).

Thank you!

  1. Is that hydraulic fluid you mention the same thing as Power Steering fluid?
  2. Did you take a flashlight and tried to follow all the PS plumbing around the engine bay and locate the leak?
  3. Are you sure you’re using the correct PS fluid, as indicated in the Owner’s Manual?

That seems to be one huge leak. And it could be solved quite easily if any of the hose clamps are loose…Or quite expensively of the PS pump or the PS Rack are kaput.
If you have a filthy engine bay and it is very difficult to locate the leak, a quick wash/degrease of the bay will greatly facilitate the pinpointing of the leak, by either you, or a mechanic if you decide you take it in.

Of course you know the power steering in your car takes VW Mineral based fluid ?

  1. Yes
  2. Not yet.
  3. Yes - it’s a special mineral oil that ain’t cheap!

Thanks for the advice.

One other question - if I’m getting noise that’s likely due to the low levels of hyrdaulic fluid just when the car is in gear (ie. not just when the steering wheel is turning), would that make it less likely the issue is the PS pump or rack?

If it’s the PS that is constantly low than it is a power steering problem.