Q: Power steering or transmission issue

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Power steering wasn't working (very difficult to turn the wheel, comes back to straight easily). The power steering reservoir was empty so I filled it with the recommended fluid (an automatic transmission fluid). After filling I noticed a leak under the engine and the power steering issue has not been resolved(still very difficult to turn, some leaking continuing). Is this just a steering issue or could my transmission be involved also?

My car has 168000 miles.
My car has an automatic transmission.

There are a few different places that can cause a power steering leak. The fluid can leak from a power steering pump, the fluid lines, a steering rack, or even a power steering cooler. What you need to understand is, the system is designed to be a closed system. Meaning, outside air should not be able to get into the system. When a seal, gasket, or connection fails, it will allow fluid (which can resemble transmission fluid) to leak from the component and allow air to enter. When air is able to enter, it will mix with the fluid and the pump will cause the fluid to aerate. Aerated fluid will compromise the systems ability to provide the assistance required. It can also cause the system to make noise. It sounds to me like you simply have a leak and the air being introduced is causing the power steering to operate at a reduced efficiency. If you need help identifying and/or repairing the situation, contact a certified mechanic, like those available at YourMechanic.com.

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