Lose power steering on inclined off ramps

1996 Mazda 626 1.8 Manual Trans.

When I am driving on the highway for a while and I exit the highway, I sometimes lose power steering. I am able to manage the car and if I take it out of gear and rev the engine it seems to get a little better.

It is kinda hard to test but here is what I observed:

1. It seems to be more frequent when A/C is on

2. It seems to be more frequent when I brake hard

3. Revving the engine (in neutral) seems to help get power back

4. Other times when coasting on the offramp in neutral my RPMs will go up and down quickly between normal idle and 1500 rpm.

have you checked the level of power steering fluid in the pump resivoir? Do you hear a loud screeching sound comming from the engine bay?
It sounds like the power steering pump is failing, possibly the bearing is binding up, this would account for the drag on engine speed, and for the loss of power steering. Take it to a reputalbe independent mechanic, and have him check the pump.

I have checked the power steering fluid level several times over the past 2 years and it is full/ no leaks.

I forgot to mention that this has been happening for over 5 years now.

I do get belt squeaks on humid days/ dewy mornings. I have been noticing it more now that the car isn’t garaged. If I drive the car for a decent amount of distance they go away. I do not hear a squealing noise when this happens, but I am going 40-50 mph and there is a lot of road noise.

I asked about the noise because when power steering fluid leaks from the hose or pump, the pump will squeel. But if you get a belt noise that can be an indication of a binding pully wheel bearing, and it could be related to your problem. When did you last have the belt tension checked, and how many miles on this belt?

It has been at least 2005 and 40K since it was replaced. I was going to look into replacing the belt myself in the near future because of the squeaking. It is my daily commuter (I have 2 mile each way commute)so I haven’t been too concerned about it.