Is this power steering pump leak on 96 Maxima?

My 96 Maxima (about 130,000 miles) has been leaking power steering fluid for the last few years, but it was so insignificant to notice. Finally, the power steering reservoir ran empty, but I didn’t realize it. It started making grinding noise when I start the car but it soon went away after a few minutes. It happened last winter, so I thought it was related to low temperature. But when I checked under the hood, I found the power steering fluid to be completely gone in the reservoir. I filled it, but since then it has been dribbling oil. I add about 1 quart every month. But recently, it has gotten so bad that it is leaking fluid even when the car is just sitting. I did not drive the car for the last 3 weeks, but I found a huge puddle under the car. It is at the front of the engine where power steering pump is.

My question is whether I have a power steering pump leak or steering rack leak. I guess the question could be rephrased. When the power steering fluid is low, is it the power steering pump that gets worn out or the steering rack?

I need some background knowledge before I take it to a shop or crawl under the car myself to replace it myself.

Thank you.

When you run the power steering system out of fluid and then operate the vehicle, there’s no lubrication at the pump shaft, bushing, and seal on the power steering pump. That was the grinding noise you were hearing. Once the pump shaft, bushing, and seal are damaged power steering fluid leaks from the pump, and it requires replacement.


Agreed, and there’s always the possibility of debris getting into the steering rack. You may replace the pump and soon afterwards, or maybe never, the steering rack may act up.
You should flush the entire system out.

I agree. Do flush the system liberally with fresh fluid. You can also install a Mangefine filter in the low pressure return line. That will trap any debris that may be still banging around in there.