Power Steering Hard To Turn When Cold: 6 Reasons

Most people find power steering hard to turn when cold. Let’s discuss this issue in more detail.

Cars are quite heavy; their weight may go up to 3500 pounds. Imagine you are steering the wheel of your car with your bare hands. You will have to apply so much effort. But it’s unlikely you will be able to turn the wheels in any direction.

Power steering reduces the effort of the driver. If I will talk about hydraulic power steering, then a driver’s effort in turning the wheels is reduced by hydraulic fluid. But, when winter arrives, most car drivers find the power steering hard to turn when cold. The driver needs to apply a lot of effort in turning the wheels which can make you frustrated.

Well, you don’t need to panic about this issue. This article will discuss some of the causes due to which your power steering becomes difficult to turn in cold months, along with the solutions.

You can try some of the remedies at home, and if the problem lingers, then it’s best to take your vehicle to the nearby garage before your car seizes on the road.

Power Steering Hard To Turn When Cold

Reasons For Power Steering Not Working When Cold

Various factors may make your power steering turn hard during the winter months. Let me list out some of the factors below.

#1. Thickening Of Power Steering Fluid

If your car has hydraulic power steering, then the hydraulic plays a vital role in steering your car’s wheels. Whenever you turn your steering wheel, the hydraulic pump, which draws power from the vehicle’s engine, starts pumping the hydraulic fluid. 

The hydraulic fluid enters the valve, starts entering the double-acting cylinder, and exerts some force on the piston. The piston will push the hydraulic fluid ahead through system lines. The hydraulic fluid will finally exert pressure on the rack and pinion that multiplies the force numerous times, which helps turn the wheels.

From here, you can conclude that hydraulic fluid plays a significant role in hydraulic power steering. But during the winter months, the hydraulic fluid can become viscous and thick because of its low freezing point. Sometimes the hydraulic fluid freezes over too. 

So the hydraulic pump is unable to pump the hydraulic fluid because of the thicker power steering fluid, which disturbs the whole steering mechanism. You may hear some loud noise while driving because of the thickening of the power steering fluid.


  • Flush the old power steering fluid and replace it with new fluid.
  • You can warm up your vehicle for a few minutes before driving. It may lower the viscosity of the hydraulic fluid of your vehicle.

Power Steering Hard To Turn When Cold

#2. Improper Power Steering Fluid

When your power steering is hard to turn in the winter months, check the reservoir of power steering fluid. The reservoir should have a sufficient amount of hydraulic fluid, especially in cold months. If the hydraulic fluid is too low, then it cannot exert enough force to turn the wheels of your car.


  • Fill the reservoir with a sufficient amount of hydraulic fluid.
  • Check for any leaks on the system lines. If the system lines have leaks, the leaks will drain the fluid even if you fill the reservoir with new hydraulic fluid. So, your issue will not be resolved. And may cause power steering failure.

Also read: The Meaning Of Service Variable Effort Steering

#3. Contaminated Fluid

The hydraulic fluid should be clean so that it can apply a sufficient amount of force for which your car’s wheels can turn in one direction. But when the hydraulic fluid becomes contaminated with dust and dirt, it may clog the entire steering system. 

It can also cause wear and tear to the fittings and cause pump failure. Water can freeze on winter days and clog the system lines of your power steering. A small amount of moisture can clog up the entire steering system. 


Try to change the hydraulic fluid of your vehicle within a specific interval or as guided by the manufacturer.

#4. Broken Belt

The pulley in the hydraulic power steering attaches to the crankshaft of the engine by a belt. If the belt becomes stretched or torn, then it cannot properly transmit the force. 

So, the whole steering mechanism is affected, and you may notice the power steering becoming hard in cold winter.


Replace the belt of the pulley with a new one.

Power Steering Hard To Turn When Cold

#5. Failure Of Power Steering Pump

The pumps are an essential component in hydraulic power steering. It pumps the hydraulic fluid, which finally exerts pressure on the piston, and you can turn the wheels in one direction. 

Pumps are durable, but they do have wear and tear along with time. If your power steering pump is not working properly, you will find power steering becoming hard on cold winter days.


Replace the pump with a new one.

Also read: Car Shakes on Cold Start – What Can You Do?

#6. Damaged Steering Rack

The steering rack may get damaged due to exposure to low temperatures in winter or road debris. This can also cause your power steering to become hard on winter days.


Change the hydraulic rack as soon as possible.

Frequently Answered Questions

#1. Why is my power steering stiff when cold?

The most common reasons for the power steering becoming stiff in the cold are contaminated hydraulic fluid, or the fluid has moisture or increased viscosity. The best way to resolve this problem is to change the hydraulic fluid with a new one.

Power Steering Hard To Turn When Cold

#2. Can cold weather affect power steering?

Yes, cold weather can affect the power steering badly. The hydraulic fluid can become more viscous. As a result, it cannot flow in a normal manner. Finally, your power steering is hard to turn in any direction. Well, you need to warm up your car for 5-10 minutes. Some vehicles may require more time to warm up.

#3. What would cause the steering wheel to be hard to turn?

The causes of steering fluid to turn hard are

  • Lack of enough hydraulic fluid
  • Contaminated fluid
  • Worn-out belt of the pulley

#4. How do you fix hard power steering?

There are several reasons which can make your power steering turn hard. Well, you can fix the issues with the following ideas.

  • check the brake fluid reservoir
  • Check the pulley and its belt.
  • Check the pressure of your car.

Power Steering Hard To Turn When Cold

Wrap Up

The steering wheel plays an essential role in driving your vehicle. If you are crossing a lane and suddenly your power steering wheel becomes hard, and you cannot turn the wheels in any direction, it can cause an accident. You and the life of other drivers will be in danger.

The main reasons for power steering to become hard are lack of maintenance, not servicing at the proper time, and failure of essential components of hydraulic power steering. In this article, I have listed some of the vital causes with a solution that will help you diagnose the problem and take action accordingly.

Please don’t forget to share your suggestions for this article. 

Happy Driving!


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Sean Mendez

Hi, I am Sean, a self-confessed petrolhead. I live in Boise, Idaho with a busy family of four and our energetic Labrador retriever. Thank you for visiting my website. You can find my email on the contact page.

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