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Power Steering Fluid Leaking from a 2001 Cavalier

2001 cavalier 220K 5-speed manual 2.2L

Had the water pump replaced about 5 weeks ago and from that moment on, have been leaking power steering fluid. This is why I have stopped taking the car in for any service - I always get one problem fixed and drive out with a new one. I figured that the guy must have broke something loose or used too much force on the s-belt and that started the leak since it wasn’t there prior to the water pump repair. Pump has started to make that awful whining, grinding noise especially when turning the wheels. Anyway, I had just been adding more fluid but this isn’t going to work out too much longer. The leak is getting worse, but is still intermittent. Sometimes just a drop or two - other times a huge puddle. Looking from under the car, everything and I mean everything under the right-front quadrant of the car is dripping with this fluid.

How screwed am I and does anyone have any experience or advice?

Since you are unwilling to have it repaired, you have two choices, fix it yourself or sell/junk the car. If you are going to repair it yourself, you can get help here, and there are Utube videos available.

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Check the metal pressure line because they always rust on those cars Should be an easy fix.

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You have a 16 year old vehicle with 220000 miles on it and have had several problems that you have posted about. There comes a time when it is time to replace instead of wasting money. You seem to have little confidence in repair shops, therefore if you drive 12000 miles or less a year you might be a candidate for a low cost lease. Life is too short to be driven nuts by a vehicle.

This car uses an automatic belt tensioner. It’s literally impossible for the mechanic to overtighten the belt

I agree with the others. Your car is older and has accumulated quite a few miles. It’s at the age, where things could fail and/or wear out, without warning

These additional problems would likely have happened, regardless of who worked on the car, what repairs they performed. They probably would have happened, even if nobody had worked on the car

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That can happen.

You remove the tension of the serpentine belt from all the components it drives, and when the serpentine belt is reinstalled, all of a sudden there’s a problem with another component the serpentine belt uses.

This can be with a tensioner/idler pulley or with a driven component.

What happens is, the tension that was a applied to all the bearings/bushings that the serpentine belt uses is released and reapplied.

This then cause those bearings/bushings to be, as we say it in the repair industry," No longer in their happy place."

And the bearing/bushing makes noise, or the belt driven component begins to leak.


Step1 determine where the fluid is leaking from, coincidence happens, and it is hard to see a correlation between replacing a water pump and developing a power steering fluid leak, not impossible but time to find and fix the leak if you plan on keeping the car.

lol … yeah, those of us with older cars know all about that one, even when we do the job ourselves. My guess is that your leak is the power steering hose, not the pump. They flex like a crazy snake especially when you turn the steering wheel until it hits the stops, and that flexing eventually will cause them to crack and develop a leak, usually right where it meets up with the pump or rack. It was already weakened by 15 years of service, and just the disturbance of the water pump work was enough to put it over the edge.


The high pressure line from the power steering pump is a solid steel line.

This is hydraulics.

The low pressure/return line is a hose.


Whichever line it is, high or low, the hose on my Corolla’s pump has a small leak developed at where it flexes the most.

Then how does it flex between the motor and the rack? Hint:

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So have gone through 6 bottles of power steering fluid and eventually the leak got so bad I just stopped adding it because it poured right out in about 20 minutes. So I have been driving around for 2 weeks with no power steering at all. I haven’t been able to get the oil changed either because I can’t take it anywhere to have done - first because of the leaking fluid, now because of now power steering.

So even though I just lost my health insurance because I can’t afford it any more, am homeless, living in the car on $1 a day, it looks like I will have to find some jack stands and try to see if I can tell where the leak is coming from and/or attempt to change the oil on this car which I have never done myself due to the impossible location of the filter.

So before I do anything, I am open to suggestions. Will 2-ton jack stands be enough for this car? It is supposed to be about 2600lbs if I recall. Also, is there a trick to using the scissors jack to raise the car then getting it from that onto the jack stands? Is there enough room near that notch on the bottom to have both next to each other? Any advice on how to change or get to the filter? And then, assuming there is a day in the next month here that is above 20 degrees and is not either snowing and or raining and/or with the ground wet and/or that I can find a parking lot somewhere to work on the car - all of which seem impossible at the moment - where should I shine my flashlight to look for the massive leak since I won’t have anyone to help me turning the wheels. I would give my right arm to be able to get the belt off from the top of the car, but I know from experience that is impossible. Just that one thing makes dealing with any component driven by the belt enough to make me want to keep driving with it broken if I can - which I have been doing with the power steering.

And don’t even get me started on my other problems. You wouldn’t believe me.

How long has that filter been in service? Depending on conditions, you could just skip changing it this time and wait until circumstances are better. The oil change is more important than the filter if you have to make tradeoffs.

2 ton are plenty, you’re only supporting a corner of the car w/each one. Most are over designed versus specifications and your car doesn’t weigh 8 tons :wink:

I use the stand as a back up. It’s placed next to the jack by the seam and jack lowered so the stand is supporting maybe 1/2 the weight. It stabilizes the car and prevents it from falling if the jack fails. Then slide a wheel underneath if you take that off, as extra insurance…

In my diyer experience, most PS leaks occur where one of the rubber hoses connect with the power steering pump. Have a helper turn the steering wheel all the way to the steering stops side to side while you look at the rubber hoses connecting to the power steering pump. You may find one of them is the source of the leak.

No experience with maintenance and repair on a Cavalier, but whatever you do, make sure you do it safely. Make doubly sure that you are not harmed while doing the job. It’s a lot easier to fix a car than fix a person.

When I work underneath the front side of my car, I use a floor jack placed at the middle support which lifts both front wheels. If you can possibly borrow or rent a floor jack, do it that way rather than a scissors jack. Then I place jack- stands under the rocker arms (underneath the front doors) at the place on the seam weld marked as a jacking point, then remove most of the pressure from the floor jack. At that point I have 3 points of support, the jack, and most of the weight on the two jack-stands. I also pile up some wood, usually 2 x 6’s from the ground (or a wheel if I take the wheel off) to the seam weld, placed behind the jack-stands as a backup. So I end up with 3 points of support, plus two backups in case a jack-stand fails. Make sure to place wheel chocks at the rear wheels too, and set the emergency brake. If you’re going to work in a parking lot, find a nice sturdy flat piece of cardboard to put on the ground. Makes it much easier to slide around on your back under the car. Make sure to wear eye protection anytime you are under the car, as there’s lots of grit that gets stuck to the underside and will most assuredly drop into your eyes if it gets disturbed during your work. Also protects against fluids leaking into your eyes. Best of luck.

btw, when you get your finances in better order, suggest to consider to trade your Cav in for a car that is easier to work on, Corolla, Civic, Focus, etc.