massive power steering leak

Hi,
I am desperately trying to narrow the location of a power steering leak in a Ford Taurus 91 Wagon 3.8. The reservoir gets empty just after driving 20 or 30 km or in a matter
of few hours. It is leaking slower when the car is not driven. When I fill up and start immediately the car, there is always a big puddle at the front of the car, slightly left of the center. It is somehow under the power steering reservoir. Could help me with some ideas on how to detect the exact source of the leak? A mechanic told me that power steering leak can only come from the pinion. I have however also read that th hoses might also be faulty. A bad O ring seal might also be the source of the trouble. I have also noticed that a kind of thin vinyl hose is always wet and that power steering liquid is dripping along it.
When the fluid is gone while I am on the road, I hear a strange noise which is probably the power steering pump that is complaining. Any hint would be greatly appreciated.
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HumanBeing wrote:

False. The system can leak anywhere in the fluid circuit if there is a hole there.

It sounds as if you have a leaking line. Could be either the rubber portion or the steel hardline (rusted). My guess is that it is on the high pressure side. (which means it's likely a steel line). The fix of course is to replace the line. Now on my winter car there was a pinhole leak in one of the steel hardlines, the one that was the most difficult to replace. I bought some brake tubing, a union, a fitting I had laying around. I cut the end off with the leak (it was close to one end), slipped the fitting on, flared it, then used the union to attach the piece of new line. Was still a pain, but easier than replacing the whole line.

It's probably the pump running out of fluid and airbubbles getting in the fluid. This is not good for the pump.
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The leak could very well be coming from the pump itself. Many pumps use a stamped sheet metal reservoir that is sealed onto the cast iron pump body. Over time, this seal will start leaking. The only solution is to replace the entire pump with a rebuild one. Worked for me on my '88 Ford van.
-Jeff Deeney-
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Good point. I had a leak that was almost impossible to locate, and replaced the high pressure hose thinking it might have a pinhole in it. Didn't.
Finally found that the PS pump was leaking past the shaft, maybe intermittently. I rebuilt the pump but the seal didnt hold,and finally replaced it with a new unit. That solved it.
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Thank you kindly for your hints and suggestions. It gives me a course of action. Do you know what a new pump (including labor) would cost? A propos labor, I had an ignition coil replaced lately here in Ottawa (Ontario). They charged 80 $ for the coil, 45$ for the diagnostics, and again 80 $ for labor. I asked them how long it would take. They answered 20 minutes. Indeed after 20 minutes the car was running and I was paying the bill. 80 $ for 20 minutes work? It makes 240 $ the hour! ps) Is it unethical, immoral or illegal if I disclose the name of the garage here? I have the proof.
HLS wrote:

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On Thu, 29 Jan 2004, HumanBeing wrote:

I believe for my old 87 celica a rebuilt pump (I had failed the safety inspection) was somewhere around 350 and labor somewhere around a couple hundred. Hoses should be cheaper. Those are only ballpark though since it was very long ago. You should stop driving the vehicle immediately since if your pump is not damaged already it will be soon. Also, even after I had the pump swapped my steering wasn't quite the same so I imagine running it on the crappy pump for so long wore out some other steering components. That was from an independant shop, the dealer said he needed 1500 to replace the whole rack and pinion system but that was just typical dealer greed. He didn't even mention the pump, now that I think about it.

Disclosing that info here is none of the above, however it also may be useless. Proof of what? No crime was committed, many places have a minimum (say one hour) charge for any labor. Besides as long as you sign a slip agreeing to it they can charge whatever the hell they want. Get a quote before you have the work done next time and make sure its reasonable if possible.
Dave
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While I am not going to defend a mechanic that I have not dealt with, it is possible that the flat rate book quotes an hour for the job, but the particular mechanic can do it twenty minutes. The flat rate book is a compilation of statistical magic to determine how long the average mechanic should take to do the average task.
Occassionally, it works the other way. Replacing the power steering pump on a '95 Ford CV should take 1.5 hours, and that is what I was billed, despite the mechanic needing 2.5 hours to finish mine.
From what I have noticed from only being an automotive repair customer, the flat rate book is meant to take some of the gambling out of repairs. The service manager can write a reasonable estimate and give a useful finishing time. the service manager can also book appointments and plan future work based on the availability of the mechanics. It also rewards the competent mechanic by allowing him to do more work, in less time (mechanics are often paid by their book time, and a friend of mine failed as a mechanic for the simple reason that despite being very good, he was not fast enough).
So, before you trumpet the name of the shop that you feel hosed you, go to Canadian Tire and ask for the book time for the repair.
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For a common domestic vehicle like that, I'm guessing around $80USD for the pump. Check the autozone site for a good guess. Installation, at least $100. Some of these pumps can be miserable to get at. The one in my E350 required special wrench building to get at the hydraulic fittings.
Be aware that the dealers add their own considerable mark-up to part prices. You can usually get better prices at your local auto store, but they've got you by the short-hairs when you have your car in for service. Bring them a lower cost part to install, and they'll make up for it by raising the labor charge.
-Jeff Deeney-
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That Taurus is notorious for leaks in the lines and the dealer gets a fortune to replace them. Fill the system up and idle the vehicle while you inspect everything you can see. You can verify the integrity of the pump very easily. Then follow the lines with a flashlight. Usually, the lines will be leaking all over the exhaust manifold and you did not mention that so perhaps your rack is leaking at the ends. You must get this fixed before anything except emergency driving.
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Many thanks to all of you for the useful explanations and hints. I think, I might have as well an engine oil beside the power streering. I went again under the hood ( Needless to say that I was frozen by -17 Celsius). The viny hoses seem to be intact. I just tightend the screws found oin the clamps. There is however still a massive leak coming from a steel pipe that is covered with rust. Now that I could see the extent of the leak, I am really scared of driving the car, and maybe worsening the damage and / or getting stranded somewhere out of town or on the highway. I would like to take it to a garage. I am a CAA plus member here in Ontario (Canada). Do you think that this membership entitles me to a towing from home to a garage. Or should I really call them when " I am on the road"? As soon as I start the car, there are at least two different flows of liquid that start dripping. Four weeks ago I had a problem with the ignition coil. It was around -25 Celcius without the wind factor. It took almost 1 hour for a towing truck to come.
regards
MaxAluminum wrote:

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Push it out onto the street, have a couple friends pull into your drive to cover any tracks, then call.
HumanBeing wrote:

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The leak could be anywhere the fluid flows, but it shouldn't be that hard to find given how fast it leaks. Fill the reservoir, start car and have someone turn wheel slightly side to side to make the pump work. Watch for leaks. If you don't see any, turn the wheel all the way to one of the stops and hold it there for a second or 2 (not more than 2 - 3 seconds at a time) and watch for leaks. If still nothing obvious, turn to the other stop and do the same. This will put max pressure on the components and should make it easier to see the leak. Watch hoses, the ends of the hoses where connections are made, watch behind the pulley on the pump and then watch each end of the rack and pinion.
As another poster said, the noise is caused by lack of fluid and you shouldn't run it like that or the pump will be damaged if it isn't already.
Good luck. bb
HumanBeing wrote:

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HumanBeing wrote:

Been there, done that. Do a google usenet search on my past multi part taurus power steering events and repairs.
It can leak any where. If its leaking up front for SURE, here is what is most likely. The small supply hose into the back of the pump gets brittle and leaks. Sometimes, you can cut off a 1/2" at the end and try to put it back on. This hose is crimped onto the steel supply hose about a foot down the line. I took a grinder and ground off the crimp, then put PS rated hose on the end with a hose clamp. Your other option is to change the whole hose. Its a BIG pain in the ass to do. Not cheap either.
The plastic reservoirs can also leak at the o ring, This big O-ring is about a 3 inches or so in diameter. You can change it on the car. Disconnect the hoses from the pump. Grab the stalk at the top and wiggle the pump back side to side while pulling back. It should eventually work itself off . There is NO fastener on the back, just the pressure of the O-ring holding it on. Buy a PS pump repair kit. Then carefully put the O-ring on the grooved slot on the pump body and SLOWLY work the back back on to the pump body. The first time i did this, i crimped the O-ring and had to get another one. Slow and careful is the word.
The high pressure line in the side can also leak. There is a small O-ring about 3/4 of an inch or so in it. As i recall, this is NOT a part of the PS pump rebuild kit and must be purchased separately. I got mine from the ford dealer. When you take the high side line out, check for cracks or deterioration of the orings.
If you real unlucky, the front seal of the pump is leaking. It would have to come off the car to do that.
Replace the low side hose and orings and see what happens.
Price out the pump and hoses in the mean time.
Bob
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