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Plymouth Grand Voyager Power Steering

My son in-law has a 99 Grand Voyager (V6)and he said the steering seems to have gotten very hard or stiff as though it were not power steering. I happened all of a sudden. He was backing into his driveway heard a thump or bump noise and the steering got hard. It’s drivable but hard at low speed. He checked fluid level and hoses as well as anything that might have bent or broken on tie rods or rack and saw nothing obvious. He said he could hear the pump “pumping” when the steering was turned. A local mechanic said it could be the pump but be seemed reluctant to tackle it. Does this sound like a pump or is it more likely the rack? Is there a a test or some diagnostic I can perform?

Thanks for any help.

You sure the power steering belt is still there? The power steering fluid is at the correct level?

As far as I can tell yes. The belt is intact because the alternator is working and there is no overheating. Fluid level is also good.

Check to see if the tensioner is “frozen” in place and is no longer spring loading the belt. If that happens, the power steering is the first thing affected. If he is really hearing the pump trying to work it is probably not the tensioner. If it is the rack, it should get better as the car is driven and you should hear groaning noises when it is cold. I think it is the pump-take it to a better mechanic and don’t tell him to replace the pump. Let him diagnose it’

Thanks for the response. Wouldn’t a “frozen” tensioner cause a belt squeal or noise? I don’t think he’s getting that.