The power steering dies every time we drive through a puddle.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

Whenever we drive through a downpour and hit a big puddle, the power steering on
our 1996 Chrysler Town and Country dies. After a few moments, it's restored.
What's going on? We figured there must be some electrical connection that's
shorting out, but we've been told there is no electricity involved in the power
steering mechanism. --Jill

TOM: You've been told correctly, Jill. I confirmed this fact years ago by making
my brother stand in a tub of water while he changed a power steering pump.

RAY: This is not an electrical problem. It's a belt problem. The power steering
is run by a belt, which is driven by the engine. When you go through a puddle,
the belt is getting wet. And when it gets wet, it slips.

TOM: Water, as you may know, is a pretty good lubricant. That's why "Caution:
Wet Floor" signs are so popular on Saturday morning cartoons.

RAY: And when your power steering belt is lubricated by the water, it slips and
stops transmitting power. And without power, power steering is just, what?

TOM: After a moment or two, the friction dries the belt enough so that it starts
to grab again, and the power steering is restored.

RAY: This may be the first sign that your belt is wearing out, Jill.
If a belt is old and glazed, it'll be more likely to slip when it's wet.

TOM: Another possibility is that the belt tensioner is weak. This vehicle has a
self tensioning belt, and if it's not working properly, that would leave the
belt loose and more prone to slip.

RAY: But it's also possible that the belt and the tensioner are both fine. In
which case you may have no choice but to just drive much more slowly through
puddles from now on.

* * *

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