Power steering whine 03 Subaru WRX wagon
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This is a discussion on Power steering whine 03 Subaru WRX wagon within the General Maintenance, Troubleshooting & Accidents. forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; So to start off I'll give a quick example of what's going on first, then break down into what I ...

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    Question Power steering whine 03 Subaru WRX wagon

    So to start off I'll give a quick example of what's going on first, then break down into what I plan to do/change.

    My issue at hand is a teeth grinding, worrisome whining that is emitted from the engine when I turn the steering wheel in either direction. Funny thing is it wasn't doing this a few days ago (when it was a bit warmer) even after sitting out in the cold, yet just after it snowed today it started to whine. I haven't been able to test it completely yet and see if it gets better after the engine warms up, but just wanted to see if anyone would know off the bat what the issue(s) could be that causes this whining.

    A possible problem that might attribute to this is the boot on the front-right side of the steering rack is torn and on the inside it looks like it could be leaking power steering fluid, but another kicker here is my fluid levels are fine. I talked to my auto shop teacher who I have worked with before on some of my family's cars and he has suggested that I should replace the entire rack. If this is the case would anyone happen to know where I can get a new steering rack? Most of the ones I've found after a quick search have been either used or re-manufactured :\

    I'll post updates later tonight when I get off work and can drive the Subaru around town.

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    \_(ツ)_/ Rambo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackerst View Post
    So to start off I'll give a quick example of what's going on first, then break down into what I plan to do/change.

    My issue at hand is a teeth grinding, worrisome whining that is emitted from the engine when I turn the steering wheel in either direction. Funny thing is it wasn't doing this a few days ago (when it was a bit warmer) even after sitting out in the cold, yet just after it snowed today it started to whine. I haven't been able to test it completely yet and see if it gets better after the engine warms up, but just wanted to see if anyone would know off the bat what the issue(s) could be that causes this whining.

    A possible problem that might attribute to this is the boot on the front-right side of the steering rack is torn and on the inside it looks like it could be leaking power steering fluid, but another kicker here is my fluid levels are fine. I talked to my auto shop teacher who I have worked with before on some of my family's cars and he has suggested that I should replace the entire rack. If this is the case would anyone happen to know where I can get a new steering rack? Most of the ones I've found after a quick search have been either used or re-manufactured :\

    I'll post updates later tonight when I get off work and can drive the Subaru around town.
    How many miles are on the car? Is the noise worse at full lock?

    My guess is your CV joint at the torn boot is toast. This has nothing to do with the other fluids in the car. The CV joint is packed with grease (not power steering fluid) under the boot, so if that boot tears, grease will slowly escape over time (it usually gets flung around the bottom of the engine and smells bad if it hits the exhaust). They are a wear item, so it's normal for them to give out. I would start by replacing the front right axle and see if that fixes it. Thankfully, axles are cheaps (well under $100) and you can do the work yourself if you're moderately mecanically inclined, otherwise it's a cheap 30 minute job at a shop. The axle should be replaced regardless of whether it resolves the noise as it's a normal maintenance item.

    If it squeals as soon as you start the car, check your accessory belt (~$20) tension/age, then look at your power steering pump (~$150). Again, these are pretty cheap items.
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    Registered User SKI.WRX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rambo View Post

    My guess is your CV joint at the torn boot is toast.

    check your accessory belt (~$20) tension/age, then look at your power steering pump (~$150). Again, these are pretty cheap items.
    I think he meant the boot on the tie rod was torn not the axle.

    Getting the boot replaced cost me about $40 but I got it done quickly after it tore. Left for too long dirt can get in and tear up the seals. If your fluids are good I would follow Rambo's advice and replace the belt to see if it solves your problem, then check the pump.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rambo View Post
    How many miles are on the car? Is the noise worse at full lock?

    My guess is your CV joint at the torn boot is toast. This has nothing to do with the other fluids in the car. The CV joint is packed with grease (not power steering fluid) under the boot, so if that boot tears, grease will slowly escape over time (it usually gets flung around the bottom of the engine and smells bad if it hits the exhaust). They are a wear item, so it's normal for them to give out. I would start by replacing the front right axle and see if that fixes it. Thankfully, axles are cheaps (well under $100) and you can do the work yourself if you're moderately mecanically inclined, otherwise it's a cheap 30 minute job at a shop. The axle should be replaced regardless of whether it resolves the noise as it's a normal maintenance item.

    If it squeals as soon as you start the car, check your accessory belt (~$20) tension/age, then look at your power steering pump (~$150). Again, these are pretty cheap items.
    Sorry for not being a bit more specific, but it isn't the boot on the axle, and I visually inspected and squeezed all of the axle boots earlier this morning when I lifted my car for an oil change and they all checked out fine. This was where I noticed the boot on the right side tie rod (thank you SKI.WRX) had a tear in it. I also checked the tension of my accessory belts and they both seem to be fine to me less it be a bad tension pulley. As for the power steering pump I have yet to find it and inspect it.


    Quote Originally Posted by SKI.WRX View Post
    I think he meant the boot on the tie rod was torn not the axle.

    Getting the boot replaced cost me about $40 but I got it done quickly after it tore. Left for too long dirt can get in and tear up the seals. If your fluids are good I would follow Rambo's advice and replace the belt to see if it solves your problem, then check the pump.
    You are correct in saying it is the tie rod boot and not the axle boot. Sadly though I just bought this car a couple days ago from a shop that repairs imports and resells them, thus I don't know entirely how long this tie rod boot has been torn and so I rather spend the $200-$300 to get a new/re-manufactured steering rack.

    Now I drove around a bit to check and see if warming the car up would reduce the noise or eliminate it and guess what, it pretty much went away. To add on top of this finding is that I also noticed on a cold start there would be a nasty sound that resembles sandpaper being rubbed against a rough piece of wood for about 1 second then it would stop. But when starting the car after warming up the engine the sound would be nowhere to be found. Mind you the temps today were below freezing all day, but before today the temps were above freezing.

    Thus I must ask is there any way to check the steering pump other than the feel of it when turning the wheel? Also is there any possibility that with the torn boot there could have been water introduced into the power steering fluid enough to the point where it might freeze inside the pump and produce the noise I'm hearing?

    Just to rule out it isn't the engine or bad oil, I have driven the car now over 400 miles and have paid close attention to the sounds and feel of the engine and never noticed anything out of the ordinary before today. I also changed the oil before all this to Rotella T6 5W-40 and put in a new oil filter.






    So here's the thing with the Subaru I purchased: Purchased it with a salvage title after the last owner treated it pretty rough and eventually had a front right collision where the fender, bumper, hood, and headlight had to be repaired or replaced. The right strut, axle, and linkage to the right wheel are all fine from a visual inspection and the frame is unchanged. This is a project car and daily driver for me as I only have to brave the Minnesota winter for about a mile to get to work, so if major repairs are needed then so be it. The great thing with the car is it only has 105k miles on it, is all stock (no mods from previous owners), and most of its life was lived down in Texas so pretty much zero rust.
    Last edited by Blackerst; 11-11-2013 at 05:37 PM.

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    Ok so just to clear things up for anyone reading this thread the main issue at hand is the audible whining of the power steering pump when starting the engine below freezing temperatures and is much more noticeable when turning the wheel in either direction. Once the engine is warmed up and at nominal running temperature the whining sound is no longer audible and does not reappear until engine has cooled down to below freezing. I have monitored the fluid levels and there has been no loss of power steering fluid, nor has it been difficult too difficult to steer after cold start.

    Possible reasons for sound?
    1) Bad power steering pump?
    2) Contaminated power steering fluid?
    3) Just normal occurrence under freezing temperatures?



    The following is more or less an unrelated problem, but at the time seemed like it might be relevant
    Now I had mentioned in my last reply that there is a sand paper against wood like sound on below freezing startup and I am more or less attributing that to poor coolant that has more water in it than antifreeze which would cause a nasty sound at first but quickly disappear after pump has effectively melted the suspended frozen water. This would also explain why it only happens below freezing.

    Edit: So starting it up after work and cringing to the unknown horrifying sound produced by my Scooby and driving it home, I decided to turn the car off and on again several times to test my coolant theory. Surprisingly to me the Scooby made the samde heart wrenching noise the first two times, but on the second I decided to do a quick turn and release on the ignition and whataya know, it starts up just fine with no OH GOD IM #%@$ING DYING noise. This would point to me being the problem of holding the ignition in too long, but I usually only turn the key for at most a half a second if not less. Guess I've been around American cars for too long? Dunno, but in the morning shall be the second trial!
    Last edited by Blackerst; 11-12-2013 at 04:47 PM. Reason: Further investigation

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