Power Steering During the Rain

I drive an 03 Honda Accord and every time I drive through a puddle and get a bit of splash in the undercarriage on the passenger side, my steering wheel locks up. This is a nightmare during the rain because I have to completely avoid all standing water in the road or risk losing control of the vehicle. I explained this symptom to my mechanic, and they said they couldn’t find anything wrong. Has anyone else ever heard of a similar problem?

Could be the belt is slipping. Has the splash guard under the engine been removed or damaged? If not, then you may just need to have the belt adjusted or replaced.

George is right. Replace the serpentine belt and the problem will go away.


I’ve had many cars over the years that have done this, but this was before most cars had under engine covers. It should take more than a simple puddle to make the belt slip. I’d also vote for a new belt. The tensioner may also be failing.

If the OP’s mechanic is unable to link the loss of power steering in the rain to a belt problem, then the OP needs a new mechanic. The only possibilities that come to mind are the need for a new serpentine belt, and/or a new tensioner, and/or replacement of splash shields that may have been damaged by debris or by collision damage.

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+1 to VDC’s post.

Thanks to all for your comments. Any idea how much we are talking for a new serpentine belt. Since I’ll have to look for a new mechanic, apparently, I don’t want to get ripped off in the process.

Inline 4 or V6? You’ll probably be looking at a new tensioner too, so with shop time figure $400 or so. But don’t hold this number up to some poor shop owner and say “this is what some guy on the internet said it should cost”. That would be a huge mistake.

And, if you haven’t had the timing belt changed you’re overdue for that anyway, and the serp belt will be changed along with the timing belt. And water pump.

I agree. Belt, tensioner, or missing splash shield. But you should be careful driving through puddles anyway. Belts run about $35 and maybe $50 to put it on. A tensioner is a bit more involved though.

Thanks guys. I have the inline 4 cylinder. Definitely don’t go into negotiations holding up the a sign with what I think the service should cost. I haven’t had a timing belt changed because my first mechanic said I had a timing chain, so no change was needed. I haven’t had any mention of a serpentine belt change and I’ve gotten service at 90k and 120k. I’m about 8k overdue for my 150k service though. I’ll shop around and see what I can get the service completed for.

Thanks again for all your info.

If that serp belt has been on for 10+ years it’s almost certainly glazed, which makes it sensitive to water

The belt only takes a few minutes to change, but by the time the mechanic brings the car into the bay, gets the new belt and his wrench out, changes it and puts up his wrench and puts you car back out on the parking lot, he is into it for at least a half an hour.

I doubt the tensioner is bad, they usually make a lot of noise when they go bad, but I would be concerned about the splash shield. They can be damaged by road debris and even curbs and those wheel stops in parking lots. That might cost you some to get replaced.

But I do have a question. by steering wheel lock up, most everyone here is thinking sudden loss of power steering. If that is the case and it is due to the belt, you should also hear a screeching sound and the battery light should be coming on. Is it possible that the steering wheel lock is being activated like when you turn off the key? That would be a whole different problem.

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@keith: I have had a power steering belt slip many times with no screeching–when the belt is loose and well saturated with water, it can slip with no noticeable noise whatsoever. Also, if you’re driving with the sound of the rain, the defogger, tires on the wet road, windows up, and focused on driving, it may be hard to notice if it is making noise. I also have had a tensioner fail with no noise–the spring was just too weak to do its job.

@keith, you are spot on with both symptoms. Luckily, the power steering loss doesn’t last a great deal of time an is usually restored within a 30sec. I’ll look into having the splash guard replaced as well as the serpentine belt.

Gates doesn;t show a timing belt for your car so you must have a chain.

lance and oblivion, note I used the words “usually” and “should”, there are exceptions. But lanceroberts, I’m still not sure, can you still steer the vehicle when this happens? The doesn’t actually lock in place and be unable to move at all does it?

it’s not a lock as in when the keys have been taken out and the car is off. There is still some give in the steering wheel, there’s just increased resistance to turning the wheel in one direction or another.

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Ok that sound like a slipping belt, and if it is noiseless, then it must be wet, so I suspect the shield under the engine is missing.

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There is no missing shield/splash guard.

Where the power steering pump is located in relationship to the right front tire causes water to spray the power steering pump. If the serpentine belt is worn water gets between the serpentine belt and the power steering pump pulley. This causes the belt to hydroplane off the pulley and you lose power steering assist.

Replace the serpentine belt.


Did anyone have suggestions on how much the repair should cost? I’m looking to replace the serpentine belt and maybe the splash guard.

Is the splash guard something I can replace myself?