Power Steering Stiff Until Car Warms Up – Why?

The steering wheels are designed to be soft and light, so you don’t feel the entire weight of the car as you steer.

However, you may find the power steering stiff until car warms up. The primary cause of a hard steering wheel is contaminated steering fluid – either from old fluids or foreign contamination. A bad pump or low fluid level may also cause stiffness in your wheel.

If you are experiencing this issue, this article is for you! We will examine the causes, implications, and remedies for the steering wheel hard to turn when cold.

steering wheel hard to turn when cold

Causes of Power Steering Stiff Until Car Warms Up

Below are some of the causes we have identified that may cause the power steering to stiff up before warm-up.

1. Contaminated Fluid

Power steering fluids are hydraulic fluids used to create a link between the frontal and steering wheel. When the fluid is contaminated or thickened, circulation becomes very difficult. Contamination may be caused by old or thickened fluid, which clogs up the system.

2. Cold Temperature

You can also experience power steering stiff when cold. The cold temperature will cause the steering fluid to be viscous and thick, restricting fluid flow. The power steering not working when cold would stay this way till the car warms up and the fluid begins to flow again.

3. Faulty power steering pump

Over time, the power steering pump can develop faults that hinder its performance. In this sense, the power steering pump cannot deliver hydraulic pressure to assist with steering. You may also experience increased fluid resistance and difficulty turning the wheel until the car warms up.

4. Power steering belt (PSB) issues

When the power steering belt is worn or damaged, the entire power steering system suffers. Signs of a damaged PSB include gravel in the belt, pilling, random cracks in the ribs, excessive stretching, frayed edges, etc.

If the damage to the steering belt is minor, stiffness can be resolved when the car warms up. For instance, if your steering wheel is tight, it may loosen up as the car warms up.

However, a serious belt issue can make your dodge ram power steering hard to turn even after the car warms up.

5. Air bubbles in the power steering system

Air trapped inside the power steering system may cause stiff steering. The air bubbles will prevent the fluid flow within the power steering system. There would be an increased level of resistance which then causes stiff steering.

The normal flow of the power steering fluid can be restored by purging the air from within. You may need professional assistance.

6. Low power steering fluid level

When the power steering fluid reaches a low level, it isn’t easy to lubricate the power steering system. As you’d expect, your steering ability is the first casualty. You need to check and refill your steering fluid frequently when required.

Is stiff steering bad?

Stiff steering can be a bad thing if you consider the risks involved. Driving becomes more stressful. With each turn you take, more force than normal is exerted while turning the steering wheels. It makes your car hard to steer.

Stiff steering might not be scary since many have driven without a power steering system for years. However, it is also not okay to drive with stiff steering.

Stiff steering can lead to other problems that may delay reaction time. For instance, if the stiff steering is caused by bad steering rack or power pump failure, your steering wheel can get locked up (freeze). It is extremely dangerous and can easily lead to an accident.

In a nutshell, your ability to respond effectively to changing road conditions or hazards would be compromised.

Note: Older models do not provide a power steering system. The power steering system is made in modern cars to give a more smooth and effortless driving experience.

If your vehicle has a stiff steering problem, inspect it by a professional. It would ensure your car regains its optimal performance on the road.

How to fix hard steering wheel?

Fixing stiff steering YouTube

Your hard steering wheel can be fixed by following some of the steps we’ve provided below:

1. Inspect Fluid level

First, you need to check the power steering fluid levels. Suppose the fluid level is within normal levels. The recommended level is between the minimum and maximum levels in your reservoir. If the fluid level is low, you must refill with the vehicle-specific fluid type.

2. Check for leaks

Search for steering fluid leaks around the pump area. You can also check the hoses and connection for any sign of leakage. This leakage can be why your power steering feels stiff.

3. Repair and seal up any leaks found.

Change the contaminated power steering fluid.

A contaminated power steering fluid can make the steering wheel hard to turn. If your power steering fluid is contaminated, replace the contaminated fluid with fresh and clean fluid.

You need to follow your vehicle’s manual when replacing the fluid. It helps with compatibility.

4. Adjust or replace the power steering belt

Check the steering belt for any wear or looseness. If the steering belt is worn, replace it with a new one. A loose steering belt may not need replacement -Proper adjustment may do.

5. Replace the power steering pump

A faulty power steering pump cannot create the pressure needed to pressurize hydraulic fluid. In turn, your steering will not receive enough force to turn easily.

If your steering pump is faulty, have it looked at by an automobile technician? The pump may be repaired or replaced.

 6. Steering still hard to turn.

Drive to any authorized dealership.

It is the safest option if you cannot fix the hard steering issue yourself. An authorized dealership will have the necessary expertise and tools to diagnose and repair any power steering system issue properly.


Stiff steering will cause some inconvenience while driving. When you encounter this problem, ensure you take the right steps to fix it. You can seek professional assistance when needed. For instance, if you plan to work on the power steering system, you’ll need more knowledge than changing the steering fluid.

So, if you’re unsure of your ability to perform the repairs yourself, seek professional assistance!

Akindayini Temiloluwa

I am Akindayini Temiloluwa, an automotive expert writer and car enthusiast. I have over three years of experience in the automotive writing niche and have completed over 300 pieces of content from 50 projects. I have vast knowledge and skill in vehicle repairing, all mechanical work, car upgrades and maintenance. My goal as an automotive content writer is to simplify the most challenging concepts for my readers, help them self-diagnose what may be wrong with their vehicles and offer real value for their time.

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