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Discussion Starter #1
Dealer is suggesting the power steering pump needs to be replaced. The history is: Had the timing belt replaced two weeks ago. Right after that I noticed a slight vibration and growling noise when turning the wheel at slow speeds. Over the two-week period to now the noise got worse. I'm aware and I made the dealer aware of the problem of tightening the fan belt shroud to much when then pulls the power steering tube and allows air to enter the line. They are not buying that explanation and suggesting that the power steering pump needs to be replaced.

The question is: how do I know the pump really is bad and it's not simply the problem of air in the power steering fluid? Is there a direct test that will tell you the pump has or is failing? We'd prefer not to replace the power steering fluid to see if that fixes the problem because if it doesn't, then we'll have to pay for the fluid twice.
 

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01 Outback H6 VDC, 97 GT wgn w/ ej22, 98 OBW w/ej22
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loosening the shroud and / or replacing the o-ring/s will take you less than an hour (30 min, tops) and cost less than $5 in parts. try it and see. if it improves it is not the pump.

if you are not able to do it yourself maybe a neighbor or a teen who works on cars. it is really easy.
if you have to, go to an independent shop and pay them to do it. the pumps do not fail very often.

what year, model, engine , trans, miles are we talking about?

where are you located, there may be a member close who could help? i'd do it for a beer, or 3.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I have a 2001 Outback, 2.5, automatic with 107,000 miles. I'm in Los Angeles with a six-pack waiting for you.

If I get the O ring replaced, I'm assuming I have to drain the fluid out and put in new. Correct?
 

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Onyx, 2008 LL Bean 3.0R and 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring
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The O-ring problem occurs mainly with the H6 not the H4 that you have. If you decide to do or have the o-rings (there are 2 on the H4) you'd only have to replace the fluid that you lost during the procedure, about a quart from the reservoir. Be sure to use the original Subaru o-rings and not auto parts store OEM-like parts.

Do this test first. Start the car, remove the cover of the PS fluid reservoir, have someone turn the steering wheel left to right from lock to lock and look for bubbles in the reservoir. If there are no bubbles then you probably don't have a leak either from the o-rings or the shroud pulling the pump due to over tightening.

How does the fluid look? If it is not happy pink or red color it may be time for a change anyway. Note: Your PS pump uses ATF not power steering fluid.

I suggest running the car with the hood opened (while you are looking for bubbles for example) and trying to pin-point the source of the sound. A mechanics stethoscope or a piece of tubing, or even a large screw drive held up to your ear and carefully placed on components like the power steering pump, alternator, or AC compressor might help narrow it down.

It seems obvious that the problem is related to the TB change. Did they do the pulleys, tensioner, and water pump at the same time? It could be a pulley noise. The engine will rev a bit higher to compensate for the PS pump when turning the wheel at low speeds.

It also seems obvious to me that the dealership should remedy the problem without sticking you with a new PS pump. They should try a bit harder to find something related to their original work. If not, I'd find another dealership, as I recall LA is a pretty large place. OR an independent Subaru mechanic that has your best intentions and not your wallet in mind.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That's wonderful advice. I'm bummed that the dealership can't come up with a solution that would work for both of us. We have been going there for all of our service for 12 years. I've racked my brain but can't find something that will allow the dealer/mechanic to save face but still allow us to make sure it really is the power steering pump.
 

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'02 Bean H6, AWP & ORP, factory hitch
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Try the bubble test. If that turns out to be the problem then go back to the dealer and ask if they have the o-rings in stock. If so, go ahead and buy them, ask them if they have a bay you could borrow, and fix it right there. Pay attention to their facial expressions. After you fix the problem, give them a big smile and ask them if they might need some advice on something else they're working on. ;-)
 

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This thread is another example of the o-ring being the presumed cause of noise and/or poor power steering operation. It's a 4 cylinder. The bubble check might not be conclusive -- if the pump is drawing in air at the suction (in) line, it will not function effectively enough to cause the aerated fluid to be pushed down through the steering valve and rack and back up to the reservoir, at least enough to clearly see the bubbles.

Also, overtightening the drive belt apparently can lead to similar symptoms (see post #11 in the linked thread).

This isn't to say that the pump can't be bad, but based on reports here, it's far more common for noises and poor operation to be due to bad fluid or air in the system.
 
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