No clue whatsoever. It depends on the cause of the problem. Computers are expensive to begin with and they are relatively high-failure items. To add to the insult to your wallet, most of them now have to be programmed to your specific car or they won't work. That's why your mechanics and I are recommending a visit to the dealer. In the long run that is going to be your least expensive route. I'm more familiar with newer Chrysler products but much of what they do is similar. Their speed-sensitive-steering controller costs around $150.00 but it is accessed with a scanner through the Transmission Computer menu.
There can also be internal leakage inside the rack and pinion steering gear. Normally that begins acting up only when the engine is cold and only in one direction, then it gets worse over time. The clue there is you will get the power steering assist back at first after the engine warms up for a minute or two. GM had a huge problem with that in the '80s and '90s, and they ripped off a lot of owners with their inadequate fix under warranty. Those acted up in less than 50,000 miles. For all other car brands you really shouldn't have that problem yet at the mileage you listed. A steering rack for a Chrysler used to run around $150.00 for a rebuilt unit which is the customary part to install. If it is a new design and used parts aren't available for rebuilding yet, or if it is being replaced under warranty, the manufacturers, (other than GM), specify a new assembly must be installed. The manufacturer is paying that bill, but to BUY a new rack assembly used to run over $500.00. Your car is old enough that rebuilt racks will be available.
If a new rack is needed, the labor cost can vary widely too. It takes 20 minutes to replace one on a Dodge Dakota. It takes three miserable hours to to do one on a Stratus. Ford Aerostars are relatively easy too. From there everything is downhill as far as ease and required time.
It's time to suspect a worn pump or steering gear on your car after 100,000 miles. Based on your lower mileage, I'm betting on a simple part failure rather than on something worn out from normal use.
Thursday, February 28th, 2013 AT 9:54 PM