What Does the Power Steering System Warning Light Mean?

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Anyone who’s driven a car with manual steering knows it can be quite a workout. To make driving a little bit easier, auto manufacturers have been using power assisted steering systems for a few decades now. The original power steering systems use a hydraulic pump to move fluid into chambers in your steering system. When you turn the steering wheel with the engine running, the pump will fill one of the chambers to help you turn the wheels.

Electric power steering systems have started to take over as the technology has become less expensive over the years. Electric power steering systems don’t require any fluid and are generally quieter; so, more and more vehicle manufacturers are starting to use them. A warning light on the dash will let you know when a fault has been detected with the steering system.

What the power steering system warning light means

This warning light tends to be in the shape of a steering wheel, sometimes with an exclamation mark. For cars with electric power steering, the light may say EPS, for electric power steering. Either way, the warning light will be yellow or red in color.

Hydraulic Power Steering Systems: A common reason for the warning light to illuminate is low power steering fluid. You should pull over if you see this light turn on and check the fluid level immediately. Top it off with the correct fluid type and the light should turn off.

Keep in mind that low fluid means a leak is present that needs to be remedied at the earliest. Adding fluid will only be a temporary fix until there is no more leakage. If the fluid level isn’t the issue, you’ll need to have the problem diagnosed further by a certified technician and repairs will likely be necessary. With the light illuminated, you won’t have power assist to help you steer. You will still be able to drive, but the steering wheel will be very difficult to turn, so you will need to be extra careful when driving.

Electric Power Steering Systems: The warning light won’t come on for fluid levels as there is no fluid being used. In fact, simply restarting the engine can sometimes turn the light off. Like your computer at home, small errors can occur that cause the computer to think there is an actual issue. A quick reset and the computer will see that everything is working as intended. If this warning light doesn’t turn off after restarting, then the issue needs to be diagnosed further. Like hydraulic systems, the power assist will be disabled for the time being and steering will be difficult when this warning light goes on.

Is it safe to drive with the steering system warning light on?

No. Without power steering, the vehicle will be very hard to maneuver. You will need to use a lot of caution when driving, so it’s best to not use the vehicle at all if you can avoid it. Otherwise, the lack of steering assist could land you in a collision.

Replacing your power steering fluid at regular intervals will help keep your steering system in top shape. If you have any issues with your power steering system, our certified technicians will be able to help you identify any problems.


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Matthew

32 years of experience
689 reviews
Matthew
32 years of experience
Chevrolet Impala - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
First off he was on time....actually 30 mins early which was great. Everything he described was what I was going through and he knew exactly what I needed before he even looked at the car. Other mechanics i feel were trying to take advantage because I am a woman but he made me feel comfortable. Still have to get work done on it but at least I know exactly what the problem was.
Chevrolet Tahoe - Warning Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Very detailed and takes the time to explain what is being done. Willing to answer any questions you may have. I would definitely use his services again and have already been telling my coworkers about this site. I have a unique electrical situation going on with my truck that none of the dealers could assess. Just by Matt doing some general maintenance , my truck is already driving smoother. Matt asked that I monitor things to make sure we don't need to troubleshoot anything else. I feel quite confident.

Quentin

18 years of experience
12 reviews
Quentin
18 years of experience
Volkswagen Tiguan - Warning Light is on - Nottingham, Maryland
Quentin was very professional and meticulous with locating the issues with my car. Great spirit and explained and answered all of my questions.

Travis

12 years of experience
65 reviews
Travis
12 years of experience
Mercedes-Benz C230 - Warning Light is on - Charlotte, North Carolina
Travis came out to determine cause for the Check Engine light. He did so and told me what needed to be done and the cost.

Juan

8 years of experience
35 reviews
Juan
8 years of experience
Suzuki Grand Vitara - Warning Light is on - Durham, North Carolina
I won't go into details about the actual work performed - the result was completely satisfactory. Juan is knowledgeable about how these computerized engines work . He's very personable, polite, patient with my questions, and when I need service again, I'll request Juan. He put in more time than originally scheduled and seems to want to see things through and honest enough to tell you if the job is beyond his expertise and suggests taking car to dealer for more extensive diagnostic tests. I am well pleased.

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