Power Steering Warning Light On? Causes and What to Do

Seeing your power steering warning light illuminated can be concerning. It indicates a potential issue reducing or disabling the power assist that makes steering easier.

Determining the cause and severity allows you to take appropriate action. While the warning light may signal repairs needed, it doesn’t necessarily mean power steering failure is imminent.

Let’s explore why this warning activates, what it means for drivability and safety, and steps to restore normal power steering function.

What the Power Steering Light Indicates

The power steering light, commonly shown as a red or yellow steering wheel symbol, means:

  • There is a detected fault in the power steering system – hydraulic or electric
  • The fault is reducing or eliminating the power assist effect
  • Extra effort will likely be required for steering

The warning indicates a problem, but not the severity. Power assist could be totally lost or just somewhat weakened. Diagnosis of the specific issue is required.

Main Causes of the Power Steering Warning Light

On hydraulic systems, common triggers for the Power steering warning light include:

  • Low power steering fluid – Insufficient fluid from leaks or neglecting top-ups disables assist.
  • Drive belt issues – A broken or slipping belt won’t turn the hydraulic pump properly.
  • Air in the system – Air bubbles reduce hydraulic pressure for assist.
  • Leakages – External leaks or internal bypasses lower system pressure.
  • Hydraulic pump failures – Wear, seizure, or failed pressure relief reduces assist.
  • Control valve defects – Sticking, blockages, or damage to valves affects fluid delivery.

For electric systems, warning light triggers typically include:

  • Sensor problems – Faulty torque or steering angle sensors provide inaccurate data to the assist motor.
  • Electrical failures – Blown fuses, damaged wiring, or grounding issues.
  • Power supply problems – Weak battery, loose connections, or bad alternator output.
  • Motor malfunctions – Physical damage or internal issues with the electric assist motor.
  • Controller faults – Defects in the controller that powers the assist motor based on sensor inputs.

Main Causes of the Power Steering Warning Light

Steering Function When Light is On

What happens to steering when the warning activates depends on the underlying issue:

  • Low fluid or pump failures leave no power assist at all – steering relies on manual effort only.
  • Minor leaks, air bubbles, and belt slippage reduce but don’t eliminate assist. Extra steering effort is needed.
  • Intermittent faults may cycle between some or full loss of power assistance.
  • If the fault doesn’t impact the assist mechanism itself, steering remains fully powered. The light indicates need for diagnosis.

Checking steering effort gives clues about assist status, but determining the cause is still required. Don’t assume total power loss based only on the warning.

Is it Safe to Drive with the Power Steering Warning Light On?

If steering assist is fully lost, continue driving only if absolutely necessary, and with great caution:

  • Reduce speed to minimize the extra effort for steering.
  • Avoid situations requiring maximum steering input like sharp turns.
  • Increase following distance for longer braking distances without assisted steering.
  • Pull over and call for assistance if you experience loss of control.

The risks mean driving any extended distance without power steering isn’t advisable. Seek service promptly.

If partial or full assist remains, the risks are lower but repairs should still be scheduled:

  • Loss of assist could escalate suddenly, so driving distances should be minimized.
  • Have the vehicle diagnosed and repaired once convenient.
  • Discontinue driving if steering seems to deteriorate.

While less risky, deferred repairs of whatever issue caused the warning could lead to total power steering failure down the road.

If steering is fully assisted despite the light, continue driving with caution and schedule diagnosis of the underlying electrical issue. Don’t assume assistance won’t be interrupted.

What to Do When the Power Steering Warning Activates

When the power steering warning light first comes on:

  1. Safely pull over and stop.
  2. Turn off and restart the engine to reset systems. The light may switch off.
  3. Test steering effort in a parking lot to assess if assist was lost.
  4. Pop the hood and check power steering fluid level if equipped (low fluid is a common cause).
  5. Add fluid if needed and test assist after refilling.
  6. Proceed with great care if steering seems fully assisted.
  7. Have the vehicle serviced promptly even if steering seems normal.
  8. Call for towing rather than continuing to drive if assist seems fully lost.

While inconvenient, towing prevents driving unsafely with manual steering, and better protects you, passengers, and the vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drive with power steering light on?

It depends on if assist was lost – no assist requires very cautious driving while seeking immediate repairs. Partial or full assist may allow minimal safe operation to schedule service.

How do I fix my power steering warning?

First determine if assist was lost. For hydraulic systems, ensure proper fluid level. Electrical systems need diagnosis of sensors, wiring faults, etc. Repair the specific issue causing the warning.

How do you reset the steering warning light?

Power Steering Warning lights reset after repairs resolve the issue. Or temporarily after restarting the engine, pending the fault recurs. Some scan tools can also reset electronic system warnings.

What is the power steering warning light on a Skoda?

On Skoda vehicles, it’s a yellow steering wheel symbol with an exclamation point. It indicates a detected fault in the power steering system.

Does battery affect power steering?

Yes, weak battery voltage or loose connections can trigger the power steering warning light on electric assist systems. Electrical issues should be investigated.

Is light steering good or bad?

Very light, effortless steering can indicate problems like low power steering fluid or loss of assist. Control and feel may suffer. Normal firmness with good assist is ideal.

Conclusion

While illuminated power steering warning light should never be dismissed, don’t assume total failure is imminent. Proper diagnosis of the cause is key, and repairs can often be quick and simple, especially on hydraulic systems. But immediate attention helps maximize safety and prevent smaller issues from cascading into major steering repairs.

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