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power steering problem 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback


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6 replies to this topic

#1 AWDfreak

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 02:06 PM

BTW, my car is a 1999 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon Limited with a 5-speed manual and about 103,000 miles.

Since my front anti-roll snapped, went to the local Pick-N-Pull for another front anti-roll bar. So as I drive out, I have the steering wheel in full-lock for at least 30 seconds. (Later on, I find out full-lock should only be done for 5 seconds or less. Well, that's what the owner's manual said)

Yesterday out on the freeway, on one of the flyover ramps, I notice the steering felt slightly heavier than usual. So I pull over at the nearest exit.

Exiting and then making a hairpin right, I realize the steering is extremely heavy at low speeds. At the fuel station I stop at, I notice smoke coming out from under the hood. I pop open the hood and notice something is burning up at the headers. I look in the power steering fluid levels and it's at bare minimum. At this point, I realize it is puking ATF (since the power steering as you guys know uses ATF) out all over the undercarriage (I just don't know exactly where from, maybe a leak in the lines?). Unusual thing is, there was still some ATF leftover in the power steering. It was below the min line, and thankfully, as long as I kept the revs over 2500 RPM to 3000 RPM, the steering was "acceptable".

So I drive home going sort of slow (afraid of anything else to go wrong), hazards on and all. Thankfully, I have a manual transmission so I had the option of revving the engine up to a decent amount to get the power steering to barely work. As I was driving home, the power steering got slightly harder as the time progressed.


I find it odd that there's still fluid left while the rest just came out. What could this possibly be? I'm a total noob to this stuff since this is my first car...


EDIT: Just tried filling it up with more ATF and it leaks right out (fluid level rises as I fill, then recedes back to what it was)... I looked underneath and it looks like it might be leaking around the steering rack, what the hell?! I hope this is an easy fix, I'm tired of having to pay a mechanic (or the stealership) service my vehicle...

Edited by AWDfreak, 20 August 2010 - 03:25 PM.


#2 Allpar Mod

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 06:39 AM

What it sounds like is possibly an obstruction as one possibility. Have you looked closely at the power steering lines for damage or the like? The pump would be the most likely culprit, but there could also be an issue with the steering rack causing the problem.

I've had a couple times with vehicles that the pump went and created hard steering, but no puking of fluid.

#3 OB99W

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 08:01 AM

Holding the steering at full lock generates some pretty high pressure, so if something was ready to fail, that's when it often will. Clean things off and determine whether you have a seal leak at the rack, or a loose or bad line to it. You might be visiting the Pick-N-Pull again or getting a rebuilt rack, etc.

#4 porcupine73

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 08:38 AM

Also if the full lock wasn't used very often the end of the rack might have had a little rust or grime on it and damaged the seal (if it seems to be leaking out the boot). The PS pump internal pressure relief is around 800-1000psi iirc.

#5 WoodsWagon

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 04:28 AM

You need to find and fix the leak first, then consider replacing the pump. A rash of them fail the first snowstorm each year, with people holding it over at full lock and doing donuts for long periods. Running the pump at max pressure (where it's recirculating through the relief valve and the fluid never leaves the pump/reservoir body) overheats the fluid and burns the vanes in the pump up. Then, you get no pressure.

#6 AWDfreak

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 04:30 AM

You need to find and fix the leak first, then consider replacing the pump. A rash of them fail the first snowstorm each year, with people holding it over at full lock and doing donuts for long periods. Running the pump at max pressure (where it's recirculating through the relief valve and the fluid never leaves the pump/reservoir body) overheats the fluid and burns the vanes in the pump up. Then, you get no pressure.


How should I fix the leak? I doubt anything as crude as duct tape would work.

I did get some Valvoline ATF stop-leak stuff. Do you think that's worth trying?

As for my Subaru, I haven't taken the time yet to jack it up to see exactly where the leak is from (you can call me lazy).

#7 lmdew

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 06:31 AM

The pump often leaks right at the pump and then runs down the front of the engine and blows back over everything.

Take it to a car wash and clean the bottom as much as you can. You can clean by the pump, but don't clean the alt.

Fill the pump with Dextron III trans fluid to the correct level and then check for leaks.

The lines do have fittings at the sub frame just behind the engine but they don't leak there very often.

I do have a rack and pump I just pulled off a 97 which will bolt right up.




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