Power Steering hard to steer when cold outside

I have a 1986 Chevy Celebrity w/2.8 carb.

engine. It has 70,000 original miles. When it is cold, 40 degrees or lower, the steering is hard to turn until it warms up. If it is warm outside it steers OK.

The belt is tight on power steering pump

& fluid level OK. There are no noises comming from any steering areas. What is wrong ?

They will say to replace the rack. They are probably right. Even the older Chevies used to do that. I had a short drive to the road so I would gently move the steering wheel back and forth on the way to the road and it would clear up.

This is a well known problem with GM’s of that vintage. It’s called Morning Sickness. And all that can be done is replace the rack & pinion assembly.


Before dumping big bucks on a new steering rack, replace the power steering fluid. It may not help, but it’s worth a shot. That fluid is probably the original and is now over 20 years old. Check the owner’s manual for the proper fluid type.

Agreed that it is a common problem with GM cars from that era. I had the same problem in an '84 Buick. I’m surprised your car performed so well for so long.

The seals are starting to give way. You can fix it by replacing the rack at mammoth expense, more than the book value of your car, or simply live with it.

I suggest changing the power steering fluid. Use the type of fluid recommended by Chevy. It’s in your Owner’s Manual. Some older GMs said it’s O.K. to use a specific type of auto trans. fluid. Other GMs require Power Steering fluid. Use the correct fluid type. It will make a difference, especially in cold weather. Check a Hayne’s or Chilton’s book for how to properly drain the fluid from the reservoir, pump and hoses. Usually it’s a matter of carefully removing the low-pressure hose and catch the drippings in a container of some kind. Then start the engine, but don’t race it. Let run for about a minute while slowly turning the steering wheel. That’ll get most of the fluid out. Button the hose back up and use a small hose clamp if you had to butcher the crimp-type clamp to get it off. Refill the reservoir, start the engine, and top off the reservoir as needed. When you’ve done that, once again slowly turn the steering wheel gently back and forth. You don’t need to go ‘stop to stop’. Just a full 360 deg. turn each way from center will do. Then check the fluid level again. The low-pressure hose is the one that usually goes from near the bottom of the reservoir into the pump. The high pressure or return hose usually has a stiffer and thicker hose. It also has threaded connections on each end. Do the rest of you “blockheads” generally agree? If you do end up with a slight leak, then remove some fluid from the reservoir using a turkey baster and add a bottle of power steering stop-leak. That will refresh your seals for a while and should (usually does!) stop minor drips.

I was thinking about replacing the fluid & now it sounds like a good thing to try. I have only had 2 Chevys in the past 36 years. The other one was a 57 wagon back in 71. This one was bought last fall from a friend who gave up driving because of age. The price was right & only 68,000 miles on it. It was only used in the summer months and has not seen snow until this year. fordman

The “0” rings shrink when cold, the only known fix is replace the rack. If it was a car down south, nobody would complain.

I also suggest that while you’re at it, check all of your brake lines for leaks and/or corrosion. Pay special attention to the rubber hoses at each wheel. Check for age-related cracking of the outer casing. While you’re at each wheel, a little squirt of ‘rust buster’ like Knock-'Er-Loose on the bleeder screws will help reduce the strain needed to loosen those bleeder screws. If the car is 10+ years old and you don’t know if the bleeders have ever been used, this is a very useful tip. It might be a good idea to change out your brake fluid since the vehicle is 10+ years old. Be sure to use the proper brake fluid. I think most '86 vintage vehicles used DOT-3 fluid but check a manual (Chilton’s or Haynes) or your auto parts store to make sure. A lot of vehicles have this info stamped or printed on the cover of the master cylinder. If you find that you’re getting some crud out of the old fluid, you can flush it with denatured alcohol but crud is a rare occurrence unless you have a leak in the system or moisture got into the system, usually through the fill cap on the master cylinder. It’s typically a two-person job, but experienced people know how to make it a one-person deal. Again, Haynes or Chilton helps in this area. Your parts store just might have a tech sheet that they’ll print out for you as changing and flushing brake systems is a “general” service function. Use the type of brake fluid specified. (So fordman owns a Chevy? That’s interesting!). Just wondering. Does that engine have a carb or a T.B.I. (throttle body injectors)?

It has a 2 Bbl. carb. What is different in a new steering rack ?
maybe different type of O Rings…

The new steering rack will have stainless steel sleeves inserted in the bores where the seals come in contact. In the original rack, the seals are in contact with the racks casted material. Over time as the seals ride back and forth it wears away the casted material. This results in gaps between the seals and the bores. The steering then becomes difficult until rack/pistons/seals expand from heat, then the steering is normal. The stainless steel sleeves prevent that from occuring again.