1996 Oldsmobile Cutlass power steering leak

Tiny
NEEDHELP01
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 OLDSMOBILE CUTLASS
  • 3.1L
  • 6 CYL
  • 2WD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 123,000 MILES
Power steering fluid is leaking into driver side floorboard, why?
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Friday, February 7th, 2014 AT 9:18 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
That would be due to a leaking seal on the rack and pinion steering gear assembly. GM had a huge problem with the teflon seal rings wearing grooves into the soft aluminum housing. It would have been too costly to fix the problem the right way so if the car was still under warranty, as most were when the problem occurred, their fix was to replace the spool valve assembly instead of replacing the entire steering gear with the improvements. The goal was to make it last just long enough to get the car out of the 50,000 mile warranty, then the owner had to pay for the proper repair when the problem occurred again. It always did because the new sealing rings on the new valve only masked the problem temporarily. It didn't solve it. The aftermarket parts suppliers did a real good job of making the improvements which greatly increased the reliability, at a very low cost.

The symptom was a loss of power steering assist, not leaking fluid, and the problems GM had were pretty much over by the '96 models, but it is possible some dealers may still have the spool valve assemblies in stock. The other problem is GM uses so many different designs for various years and models, that parts interchangeability is very poor. Besides, replacing the spool valve assembly is something that is never done by mechanics. No other manufacturer even makes them available because the time involved and the cost of parts makes it not worth trying to do the repair that way. It's much easier for the mechanic to insure the quality of the repair by just replacing the entire rack and pinion assembly. Professionally-rebuilt units are very reasonable now and many have lifetime warranties. The car will need an alignment once the assembly is replaced.
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Friday, February 7th, 2014 AT 9:49 PM

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