1998 Dodge Caravan



March, 27, 2013 AT 3:58 PM

I live in San Francisco and have to parallel park on the street. My van was driving and turning with no problems - there have been no whines, growls, nothing but suddenly when we were departing from a friend's BD party, we couldn't. It was as though the steering wheel had been locked - so we had to be towed to our mechanic.

The belt was fine, there was fluid - the mechanic said it was the power steering pump and would have to be replaced! It was - however, the van is still in the shop because they say there is a vibration and they think it could be the rack and pinion!

I don't understand why this is happening when my van was driving just fine. I had a checkup last Oct - oil change plus and have barely driven 2000 miles since then.

Can a power steering pump suddenly break and cause problems with the rack and pinion? Or is there something else going on?

Ironically, my husband was having powers steering issues with his 1995 Lexus LS400 (128,000 miles) a few days before my pump "broke". Both our vehicles were in the shop at the same time with the same issue! They released his car yesterday (3/26/13) as fixed ($909) which I picked up just as the shop was closing.

Unfortunately, changing the pump on his car does not seem to have worked - it was okay driving forward, a little stiff turning, but parking - it was more than extremely difficult! I had a huge parking space (very rare) - it took me over 10 minutes to park and still I couldn't get closer than 18" away from the curb. It seemed to me that when I stepped on the brake the steering wheel would lock.

We have been going to this auto service shop for around 20 years - we haven't always been happy but overall they do decent work. However, times have been tough and I worry that they are taking advantage of us. They said they couldn't check anything else out on the cars without first changing the pumps. Is that true?

I just spoke with the mechanic and he is sending someone over for the Lexus.

The van - he said needs the rack and pinion replaced! I again asked him why would a vehicle that was "seemingly" having no problem suddenly have so many? - He said, it is possible that the pump seized up and when it did might have thrown something into the rack and pinion!

The Lexus was $909, (yet now more to be done?) Before taxes, so far my cost on the van for the pump is $557. If they replace the rack and pinion, there's another $700 (they took an hour labor off the cost). The Lexus needed repair but my van - are these fair prices and is it all necessary?

3 Answers



March, 27, 2013 AT 4:08 PM

The pump can fail at anytime. The debris resulting from the failure may have contaminated the rack and that needs to be replaced.

When was the last time you changed the fluid in the power steering?




March, 27, 2013 AT 10:45 PM

October 2012 - it was full and the fluid was pink



March, 27, 2013 AT 10:50 PM

Did you change it or just check it?


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