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Power steering problem on 98 Sienna

The power steering on our 98 Toyota Sienna sometimes stops working for a second. It only happens when the car is first started and usually when it is raining or has rained recently. I checked some old posts from Tom and Ray and found one that sounded similar. They said it was the belt being either wet or worn or not tight enough. Does that sound like what our problem is? If so, does anyone know how much it would be to replace the belt?

It also squeals sometimes when you turn the wheel too much so it does seem like the belt could be slipping.

Yes, that sounds like the issue. Its a '98 so it probably needs a new tensioner as well. In fact, I’d probably ask for one unless you know that yours isn’t as old as the van. Cost vary a lot by where you are. Figure with parts + labor for belt + tensioner $200 if you’re really lucky & in a low cost area, up to maybe $400 depending on what you get hit for for parts. The labor time should not be all that significant.

Thanks. Do you think it is an urgent problem if it only happens occasionally and goes away very quickly?

You don’t want an accessory/serpentine belt with any hint of a problem. I don’t know the Sienna but it probably has one accessory belt for a host of things. When that breaks you are dead in the water. You have no water pump & thus can easily overheat (and maybe destroy your engine); you have no alternator; no A/C; no power steering. Stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck is no way to spend your time for something that is a very routine maintenance item.

OK, good to know. Do you think it is necessary to go to a dealership or could any decent mechanic do it? Thanks.

Actually, if you had even the slightest bit of mechanical sense and a bit of desire you could do it. So yes - any decent mechanic can do it.