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1997 Cadillac’s power steering goes from bad to worse after succession of repairs

Click & Clack Ray Magliozzi
Dear Car Talk:
The power steering in my 1997 Cadillac Seville was making noises, so I took it to the dealer, which led to an expensive succession of repairs. The dealership said the fluid was leaking from the pressure hose, the pump and the steering rack and pinion. They replaced all three for $2,200.
The remanufactured pump they put in made a grinding noise, so they replaced it with another one. After that, the car was harder to steer, so I took it back again. They did a pressure test on the second remanufactured power steering pump and found that it was producing 800 psi, below the minimum acceptable 1,700 psi. So, they put in a third one. But the car was still hard to steer, so I went back again. They confirmed that it’s harder to steer than it should be but said the third pump is “operating as designed.”
Now the car drives like it barely has power steering at all. What do I do now?
— John

It could be a seized universal joint in the steering column, John, but if they missed that coupling when they changed the rack and pinion, shame on them.
They’re using remanufactured power steering pumps because new ones probably aren’t made anymore for this car. And they’re obviously not of great quality since at least two out of three of them failed — and the jury’s still out on the third one.
It’s possible that your current pump is sub-par, too. You could ask them to take one more shot at it, especially because they agree that the car is supposed to be easier to steer.
If it’s harder to steer primarily when the car is cold, or primarily in one direction rather than both directions, then they might have given you a defective rack and pinion. I would think they’d have put a new one in, but who knows?
And as you now know, power steering racks are very expensive to replace and there’s a lot of labor involved. They are going to whine if you push for another new unit, but they owe it to you to solve this problem after all the money you spent. And if they replace the rack and pinion again, ask them to find a new one.
But really, the pump, the rack and pinion, the hoses and the universal joint represent pretty much the whole system, so there’s not much else it can be.
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