General Diagnosis of Your Imperial's Power Steering

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1.  Hard steering

a.  Tires not properly inflated

b.  Low oil level (usually accompanied by pump noise).

c.  Loose pump belt.

d.  Oil on pump belt.

e.  Steering linkage needs lubrication.

f.  Power steering pump output low.

g.  Steering gear malfunction.

1.  Gear shaft adjustment too tight.

2.  Pressure control valve stuck in closed position.

3.  Defective or damaged valve lever.

4.  External oil leakage at the following points:

a.  Lower sector shaft oil seal.

b.  Sector shaft adjusting screw seal.

c.  Sector shaft cover "O" ring seal.

d.  Valve housing-to-gear housing "O" ring.

5.  Excessive internal leakage.

2.  Poor recovery from turns

a.  Tires not properly inflated.

b.  Steering linkage binding.

c.  Improper wheel alignment.

d.  Faulty or damaged steering tube bearing.

e.  Steering wheel column jacket and steering unit not properly aligned.

f.  Steering gear malfunction.

1.  Improper gear shaft mesh adjustment.

2.  Pressure control valve piston stuck in open position.

3.  Column support spanner nut loose.

4.  Faulty or damaged valve lever.

5.  Improper worm thrust bearing adjustment.

6.  Burrs or nicks in reaction ring grooves in cylinder head or column support.

7.  Faulty or damaged cylinder head worm seal ring.

8.  Dirt or chips in steering gear unit.

9.  Rough or catchy worm in the piston assembly.

10.  Faulty worm piston ring.

3.  Leads to other side

a.  Incorrect tire pressure.

b.  Improper wheel alignment.

c.  Steering wheel off center when the car is traveling straight ahead.

d.  Valve body out of adjustment.

Steering to the left - move the steering valve down on the steering housing.

Steering to the right - move the steering valve up on the steering housing.

e.  Valve lever damaged.

f.  Column support spanner nut loose.

4.  Temporary increases in effort when turning steering wheel to right or left

a.  Oil level low.

b.  Loose pump belt.

c.  Oil on pump belts.

d.  Binding steering linkage.

e.  Engine idle too low.

f.  Faulty power steering pump.

g.  Air in the system -- work the steering wheel from the right to left until air is expelled.

h.  Gear malfunctions.

1.  External leakage.

2.  Improper gear shaft adjustment.

3.  Excessive internal leakage.

5.  Excessive steering wheel free-play

a.  Improper gear shaft adjustment.

b.  Column support spanner nut loose.

c.  Improper worm trust bearing adjustment.

d.  Coupling loose on the worm shaft.

6.  Lack of assistance in one direction

a.  Oil leaking past worm shaft oil seal ring or throttle "O" ring.

b.  Broken or worn ring on worm piston.

c.  Piston end plug loose.

d.  Reaction seal missing.

7.  Lack of assistance in both directions

a.  Pump belt slipping.

b.  Pump output low.

c.  Broken or worn ring on worm piston.

d.  Piston end plug loose.

e.  Reaction seal missing.

f.  Internal leakage in the valve body.

8.  Noises

a.  Buzzing noise in neutral, stops when the steering wheel is turned.

1.  Noisy pump.

2.  Damaged hydraulic lines.

3.  Pressure control valve sticking.

4.  Air in system.

b.  Chuckling noise

1.  Improper gear shaft adjustment.

2.  Improper worm thrust bearing adjustment.

3.  Excessive radial clearance in the column jacket support bearing.

4.  Coupling loose on the worm shaft.

c.  Metallic clatter or tapping noise.

1.  Back pressure valve cushion missing or broken.

Question from Alex (1956):

If you remember I was the one with the whining power steering pump.

Here is what I have done. I flushed the system and still had whining when turning left or right.

I purchased a used power steering pump and had a hose made, still whining when turning.

I sent the original and had it rebuilt for $200.00 put it on with the original hose this time, the one I had made did not have the restricter end on it, still whining.

I as I did the other times, I filled it up and turned left and right to bleed it.

I turned the hose different directions to see if it would help no difference.

Does anyone know what to do. It whines not when idling only when turning. Is there air trapped in the steering box? Can you bleed it?

I just want to get it to stop whining before the summer shows start.

Reply from Paul:

The power steering on my '56 was quiet when I bought the car over 30 years ago. It stayed quiet for many miles and a couple of years. Then the pressure power steering hose broke, and I had to replace it. The pump has whined (it is actually more like a moan) ever since.

I had two '55s one of them had noisy power steering, the other one didn't. The one I sold was the quiet one.

I have been told over and over again that the sound is caused by air in the lines. Frankly after over 25 years, if there is still air in the lines it is there to stay. I gave up trying to make the sound go away. Now that I see all the things that you have replaced, and still have the sound, I am thinking that it may be there when I die.

Question from John (1965):

As I was turning into a parking lot yesterday, I felt the power steering jerk the way it does when the belt is slipping. It did it a couple more times on the way home, including once when I was driving straight ahead. Just a couple of momentary, sporadic jerks. I haven't figured out a pattern but it seems more likely to do it when I'm making a right. The belt & pump are making no noises. The belt looks ok. I checked the fluid level and it's ok.

Dying pump? Other ideas?


From John:

It may be a good idea to flush out the old fluid & replace with new. Check the return hose where it goes into the pump. There is supposed to be a screen in there to catch debris. This piece is often missing but if there, may be getting plugged up. A couple of other possibilities are the pressure hose is starting to slough off from the inside causing momentary loss of assist. Replacing the hose would be in order. I also had a 63 that the spool valve on the steering box went bad. An easy item to get but a little tricky to adjust. I'd try the other suggestions before this one.

Another thought is the pump mounting bracket. The bracket they started using in 63 is supposed to have a rubber snubber stuffed between it , but its usually gone & there can be a LOT of movement in the pump & may cause the belt to slip at times.

From Paul:

You should check the bracket adjustment. They are tricky, if the belt is tight, but the pump is jiggling, that could cause the problem you describe.

He mentioned a rubber snubber. Only one of my cars has that in place. Two others have a small wooden stake wedged in the bracket (don't know why and haven't had any trouble so left them alone) and two others have nothing and no jiggling either.

A friend had a '68 with a similar bracket and it actually was broken. Even though the belt could be tightened, it would eventually cause the power steering to "skip".

This page last updated June 14, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club