Power Steering and Electrical Problems- Are they connected?

My son called me today and said his power steering belt went bad. He says it had been making noise for a while- at least that is what he thinks the noise is- a kind of high whining sound when you first start the car? I don’t know if that makes any sense or not. He also said that today not only does his power steering not work, the car is now acting strangely electrically speaking. The speedometer and the radio have stopped working completely. Is any of this related? I am completely clueless about electrical problems- other than the possibility of some blown fuses or a wire that shorted out. The car is a 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. Any thoughts would be appreciated. As he is out of town at school I don’t have the luxury of looking at it myself to troubleshoot or give any more particulars.

While I am not directly knowledgeable about a Mitsubishi Eclipse, I would be very surprised if the serpentine belt on that model did not drive both his power steering pump and his alternator. Just as he has lost power assist for his steering, he may also have lost the alternator–in a manner of speaking. Right now, he may be running the car on reserve battery power only, and that reserve will last only a very short period of time until he kills the battery and strands himself.

I would suggest that you tell him to stop driving until he has the serpentine belt replaced. With any luck, that will rectify both problems.

I believe that vehicle has a serpentine belt that drives all the components. If it’s gone, then everything would have stopped, including the alternator, which will kill the battery very shortly.

If the power steering pump was the source of the failure (e.g., it locked up and burned up the belt), then they’ll both need to be replaced.

Have your son open the hood and look. A picture or two of the damage may help. He should be able to look at the belt and recognize severe damage. if he can figure out what part is the power steering pump (hint, it has a cap on it for power steering fluid), then he can grab the pulley and see if it turns smoothly or rough, and try and move it, and see if there’s any “play” in it.

Do all the above with the engine OFF. Key out, whatever’s required.

Classic case of ignoring a problem until it grows enough to cause more damage.

“My son called me today and said his power steering belt went bad. He says it had been making noise for a while- at least that is what he thinks the noise is- a kind of high whining sound when you first start the car?”

“Any thoughts would be appreciated.”

My thought is that it would behoove your son and probably you to have this car checked over to see what other neglected maintenance items are waiting to cause inconvenience or an accident.

Some fairly easy and inexpensive to service components on a car can have dire consequences when ignored and this is one example. This vehicle needs a complete safety check by a competent mechanic. Is your son good about checking, maintaining, and renewing all underhood fluids ?

Sometimes spending a little can save one lots. Penny wise and pound foolish applies to cars, too.


I had the same problem on my roommates Mustang same problems starting with the power steering and then erratic electrical problems. So we thought it was power steering pump replaced it and she drove it about a mile before the entire car became impossible to drive. The belt had come off, thought it was installed wrong but come to find out the Harmonic Balancer had gone bad. Not sure if one was related to the other or if one caused the other but your sons problem sounds strangely familiar. I’d get it checked to as we got lucky and the car wasn’t permanently damaged.

The alternator belt was replaced back in the spring- he is taking it to a garage today. Hopefully a good diagnosis will be given.

Talked to my son again last night- He said that a belt was actually gone! So, I guess the belt snapped or melted and it must be connected to the alternator also- The car eventually stopped running about 2 minutes away from the garage he was taking it to. Fortunately his girlfriend was riding with him and she has AAA.