Power steerring fluid leak and noise on starting

I have a 1996 Nissan Sentra GXE with about 110,000 miles. Several months ago, it started leaking power steering fluid. Not much, just a few ounces a month. I’ve been keeping an eye on it and topping it off regularly (“Oh, the steering’s starting to make noise again. Time to top off the fluid.”). But my real question is about a noise I get when starting the car - a loud grinding/scraping noise that goes away when the engine turns over. It sounds rather like my coffee grinder, and doesn’t happen when the engine is warm. Since the steering fluid reservoir is located above the drive belt, it just may be possible that the dripping fluid is messing with the belt. That’s the only area under the hood that’s got gunk all over it, by the way.

How likely is it that the noise is just due to the leak, and not a bigger problem in the starter?


It’s best if a mechanic, in person, listen and look at your car. I’ve had good results using a power steering stop leak, from Walmart, no less.

An easy way to find out would be to approach the car when it’s cold, remove the serpentine belt, and spin each of the accessories (alternator, power steering pump, water pump, AC compressor) by hand and see if you can figure out which is making the noise.

An alternative to that would be to stand at the engine bay with the hood open and have someone start the car, while you listen for the noise. You would maybe get an idea of which area it’s coming from.

This could be any number of things not related to the power steering. You may be losing your water pump. Having someone stand next to the car (side) is a good way to try and find out where the sound is coming from.