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Caravan Power Steering Noises – PS Pump Whining

10:24 am DIY, Dodge Caravan, How To Auto Repair, noises, Power Steering

Town and Country

Summary: © Power steering noises can be caused by several reasons. The most common reason for a power steering pump whining is because of low PS fluid level. This auto repair blog post covers 2001 and newer Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravans with 3.3 and 3.8 liter engines. Common causes of power steering moans and groans that apply to most vehicles are revealed. We also point out a VERY common cause of whining power steering pumps which is unique to this particular mini-van.

Town and Country 3

The power steering reservoir on a Dodge Caravan is not attached to the pump.

The first thing to check on any vehicle that has a loud power steering whine, is the PS fluid level. Low power steering fluid allows air to enter the system. The pump is designed to pump fluid ONLY and if air enters the lines, the PS pump will make excessive noise. Air enters the system usually from the reservoir if the fluid is allowed to go below the minimum level. Air can also enter the system from loose clamps on return line hoses. The suction from the PS pump can actually draw the air in past the clamp if it’s not tight enough. If the fluid is low, inspect the power steering pump, all hoses and the power steering rack for signs of leaks. Keep in mind that power steering racks can leak from seals that are concealed by the plastic dust boots (AKA bellows) on either end. This may mask a leak for some time until the dust boots fill up to a certain point and also start to leak. It’s important to understand that the boots are “dust boots” and that it’s NOT normal for any fluid to be inside of them. The dust boots are designed to prevent dirt and grime from damaging the seals.

Common Power Steering Leaks

1. The most common cause of power steering leaks on any car is the high pressure PS hose. They sometimes can leak anywhere in the rubber portion or at the crimped ferrules.

2. Gear boxes on older vehicles and power steering rack-n-pinions (steering gears) are common sources of leaks. Shaft seals can fail from age or from excessive shaft movement.

3. Power steering pumps can leak from the front shaft seal and less commonly from the housing seal. Most times when the shaft seal fails it’s from too much end-play.

4. Return power steering hoses can leak anywhere in the hose or at the hose connections. Sometimes hoses become somewhat brittle, so using a screw clamp instead of a spring clamp may be enough to stop a leak.

5. Power steering coolers are like small radiators, which are designed to cool the fluid – they can sometimes leak. Coolers are easily blamed for leaks when a hose clamp may actually be the cause.

Power steering pumps can be damaged if low fluid level is neglected. This may lead to a more expensive repair since the leak and the power steering pump could need replacement after more damage has been done. Pressure lines can usually be identified by the type of fittings used on them. Pressure hoses typically have crimped fittings and NOT screw type or spring clamps. The pressure hose always goes from the PS pump directly to the steering gear. If a cooler is used, it is usually located between the steering rack or gear on the fluid’s way back to the pump or reservoir.  

A Not so Obvious Problem with the Chrysler Mini-Van

As mentioned in the summary of this car repair article, the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country has a VERY common cause of whining that is not that apparent. The cause in many cases is the power steering reservoir. The reservoir has a filtering screen built into it. If the screen becomes partially plugged or restricted, the PS pump can be starved of fluid resulting in a whine. The fluid level can be full, however if the supply of fluid is restricted the pump will make noise as if the fluid is low. In some cases the PS reservoir can be removed and cleaned, however it is usually best to replace it with a new one. At the time this article was written, there are hundreds of reservoirs being replaced every week in the USA and Canada for this particular problem.

6 Responses
  1. Laurie :

    Date: February 22, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

    Had new pump installed last weekend. Steering is great no more whine or grind but fluid is leaking like mad.

  2. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: February 23, 2015 @ 7:30 am

    Laurie, if it was overfilled, it could be coming out of the top. Otherwise, I’d find the leak and fix it. Good Luck.

  3. Carlo :

    Date: April 7, 2015 @ 4:07 am

    How much end play on a power steering pump is normal. 2003 Chrysler Grand Voyager LX 3.3lt. Parts for this car are hard to locate in Perth Western Australia.

  4. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: April 7, 2015 @ 7:23 am

    Hello Carlo, If the front seal is not leaking I wouldn’t be concerned. More than a few millimeters of end play is likely to cause excessive wear on the seal though. Good Luck.

  5. George :

    Date: January 29, 2016 @ 5:37 am

    Dodge Caravan 2003 3.3L I to hear loud wining from power steering. I did a total flush. Ok for 2-3 months. It started again. My mechanic suggested to replace the Rack in Pinion ?

  6. dennisb - Auto Tool Sales :

    Date: January 29, 2016 @ 10:01 am

    It’s possible, but replacing the rack n pinion most likely wouldn’t quiet the whine. Air in the system could cause whining though. I’d check all power steering return hose connections/clamps to make sure air isn’t getting sucked in. Good Luck.

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