2003 Outback power steering prob. - Subaru Outback - Subaru Outback Forums
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-23-2013, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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2003 Outback power steering prob.

We have a 2003 Outback with the 2.5 engine.
Today we noticed a problem with the power steering while trying to back out of a parking spot...very difficult to turn. It seems to only happen during very slow maneuvers, but not during normal driving.
The reservoir is @ the Max level and there are no noticeable leaks/noise.
Could this be related to a possible pump failure ?

Thank you

Last edited by tinfish; 03-23-2013 at 07:05 PM. Reason: update
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-23-2013, 06:53 PM
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I deleted your other thread, no cross posting please.

2003 Outback wagon: "Kaylee". 152,000 and counting.
Basics: Quaker State Advanced Durability 5W30, Motorcraft oil filter, Fram air filter, Valvoline Maxlife Dex/Merc ATF, Mobil 1 75W90, Michelin Primacy MXV4.
Mods: Scangauge II, 2004 Forester XT shift knob, Fumoto oil drain valve, Phillips VisionPlus H1 low beams, Phillips 9011 HIR1 high beam upgrade, Nokya Hyper Yellow 2500K fog lights.

Also: More rust than I care to think about.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-23-2013, 07:19 PM
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Please answer these questions and we'll see if we can help.
1. How is the serpentine belt that goes around the pump pulley:
a. Is it loose?
b. Cracked?
c. Glazed?

2. Do you have any warning lights? Your belt goes around the alternator as well and electrical gremlins might mean the belt is going bad or too loose and messing with your alternator.

3. Is there a squealing noise when:
a. The car is just running without the wheel being turned?
b. The wheel is turned just a bit?
c. The wheel is turned all the way to lock either left or right?

4. What color is the fluid - pink/red or brown/black?

5. Does the wheel try to jerk out of your hands back to center when you turn it all the way to left or right?

6. Is there a whirring noise that changes frequency with engine speed, even when not moving?

7. Was the parking brake off?

Let me know and I can move you on to the next step of the process.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-24-2013, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks David.
Here are the answers to your questions.

1. The Serpentine belt was replaced @ 70K miles..vehicle has 74K miles now. The belt is tight. No glazing or cracks.

2. No warning lights.

3. a & b: No squealing noise at all. (c) I did notice a squeal when the wheels are turned hard...this has only happened a few times.

4. The fluid is a light pink.

5. No

6. No

7. Parking brake was off.

Thanks again.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 03-24-2013, 01:48 PM
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So much for the typical symptoms. More questions:
1. Are there any bubbles or whirling fluid in the brake fluid reservoir when the engine is running?
2. When you heard the squeal with the wheel turned hard, was it cold outside? Was the car cold?
3. Was the car moving (even slightly) when you had difficulty turning the wheel - did you turn the wheel before rolling backwards?
4. Silly question, are the tires inflated properly and evenly?
5. Have you topped it off with Automatic Transmission Fluid and NOT power steering fluid?
6. Have you inspected the hoses that run to and from the pump? Anything look like it is cracked, bound, or leaking? This could let air into the system without loosing much fluid.

If still "no" to all of the above, there is a test for torque bind, however unlikely. Go to a parking lot and turn the wheel all the way to the right and make a tight circle with little or no gas (coasting). Do the same to the left. Is there strong resistance, a grinding noise, or any "skipping" of the tires? Does the car have an automatic transmission or is it manual?

Does the car make a grinding or groaning noise when turning in either direction at a low speed, like entering a side street? If so, which direction? This could be axle related, but still not as likely.

Lastly, does it always happen when backing up at low speed? Does it only happen in reverse?

I'm still not convinced it is the PS pump because of your limited symptoms. If we decide it is, you'll want to get an OEM Subaru Outback or Legacy pump from a dealer or on-line actual Subaru parts site (Not an auto parts store with OEM replacement or OEM compatible PS pump). Another realistic option for getting a pump is a used one from a parts breaker/auto recyclers (junk yard). Ebay is a good starting point. Be sure to get one with the pulley and still attached to the mounting rack which is nice since the old one can be a bear to get off. Look for one with fewer miles than yours, though 74K is not that much for a PS pump to fail. So, I wouldn't run out and get one just yet.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 04-04-2013, 05:14 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry it's taken so long to respond. After going through all of your troubleshooting recommendations, it was determined to be the pump.
I ordered a re-man pump with pulley and O-ring
(3 year warranty) and finally got it replaced. Getting the old pump removed from the bracket was the most difficult.
After flushing out the old fluid (did see some contaminents in the reservoir) and adding new fluid, all is well. We left for a 2 week vacation shortly after with no problems.
Thanks again for your help.
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