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Steering Wheel won't turn?

Two days ago, I brought my 1995 Chevy Lumina to my repair shop I’ve been doing business with for years…they replaced an A/C compressor, oil change and flushed the sludge. Now today, this morning, I crank it up and the steering wheel is almost impossible to turn…making it almost impossible to drive and unsafe to attempt. My plan is to call them tomorrow and have them tow it and inspect…another expense. This car has been a fabulous 2nd vehicle with 155K miles on it…I’d like to keep it, but might have to exercise other options if the cost/benefit ratio is out of whack.

Any suggestions? Thanks…

Open the hood and check the power steering fluid level. If there is no fluid, there is no power steering. IIRC, the V6 engine for this car has the power steering fluid reservoir on the firewall side of the engine down below the intake manifold. It is tucked away and very hard to see and get to. If the fluid level is good, the pump may be bad.


What’s IIRC?

‘If I Remember Correctly’. Chat shorthand.

got it…thanks again!

Perhaps something went wrong with the installation of the A/C compressor–there is only one belt that runs the A/C and power steering–in which case there should be no cost to you. You could open the hood and see if the belt is on all the pulleys and if all the pulleys are turning when the engine runs.

Another thought, GM cars with the same power steering pump you have had a tendency to simply break the main shaft in half without warning, making it look like the pump is working when it’s not. If this turns out to be the case the shop could easily show you the failed part.

OK great…thanks “asemaster”…another thing to check…the belt.

“Break the main shaft” sounds scary…are you referring to the “main shaft” of the power steering pump?


In fact, the most likely cause of the problem is the simplest. They didn’t tighten the belt properly. That’s the first thing you should verify.

Thanks SteveF!

Yes, the main shaft of the power steering pump. Not the likeliest scenario but possible.

Monday morning update…

First of all thanks everyone for the help!

I checked under the hood at sunrise and found the BELT shredded!!! Closed the hood and figured that was the obvious problem. I’m assuming the BELT is called the SERPENTINE BELT.

Now I’m waiting til the shop opens so I can call…explain my situation and wait to hear their options. I do not want to be charged and am assuming they’ll offer to tow my car rather than bringing their tool box to my home.

Any suggestions on how to handle this?

As some of us supposed, the problem was the simplest: the serpentine belt failed. It must be replaced.

It is possible the shop overtightened the belt, contributing to its failure. But it is also possible the belt was elderly and was on its last legs anyway, overdue for replacement.

The shop may balk at further responsibility, and I can’t say I blame them. Unless you can show the belt was less than say, three years old, they will state what I have just said: the owner is responsible for its condition and its replacement.

You can try to deal with them of course but the outcome is doubtful. If they don’t budge, bear them no ill will. Their position either way is reasonable.

You probably had an idler pulley lock up, which is very common on the 3.1L V6 in your car as they get old. It can appear fine one day and lock up and shred the belt the next day. This is most likely no fault of the shop, so if they help out at all, be very grateful.

Well you also could have had the AC compressor lock up and shred the belt. Always first go back to the last work done to check for problems.

So far so good!

I called the shop at 0730 and 20 minutes later the shop foreman and another mechanic arrived at my home. They acknowledged the broken serpentine belt…said the A/C compressor appeared to have locked up. The shop foreman drove my car away with the defective steering to the shop…2 miles away.

Received a phone call from the shop an hour later acknowledging defective A/C compressor…one they just installed on Friday. The apologized and bent over backwards offering to make it right…rental car etc.

Will be ready tomorrow AM.

So far so good!!!

Thanks again to everyone…your comments brought me up to speed fast so that I could at least sound a bit knowledgeable around these guys.


Picked up my car yesterday…hopefully the problem is solved.

Thanks again for all the help!