Power steering: Three common shortcomings, two helpful tips

Power steering:  Three common shortcomings, two helpful tips

By Freddie Heaney –  
Photography by Moore Good Ink:

 KRC Power Steering Pump -frontIn the early 1990’s, before power steering became prevalent in F1 racing cars, Michael Schumacher, statistically the greatest driver the sport has seen, remarked, “You have to carefully judge the amount of steering angle required as you turn into a high-speed corner, as it is very difficult to correct if your assessment is wrong.”

MichaelSchumacherHis comment came as a result of increased steering caster angles, functioning at 9-12 degrees that made the steering heavy. The problem was further exacerbated by increasingly high aerodynamic down forces.

Over twenty years later, power steering still has its abiding problems: slow response; unnecessary parasitic losses; and premature pulley failures are three of the most common. But first, commit to memory these two valuable tips.

1) Should a power steering pump fail, ensure the lines are subsequently flushed clean. If not, the new replacement pump will be immediately sabotaged by shrapnel remaining in the system from the original failure.

2) Power steering hoses, in common with all high pressure hoses, are typically made from layers of rubber, steel braiding and cloth. If you use an abrasive cut-off wheel on power steering hoses, it will cause the rubber to melt. To complicate matters further, sand particles from the abrasive wheel together with metal particles from the braided steel will adhere to the melted rubber.

Later, when the system is assembled and operating at normal temperature, the globules of rubber with sand and metal particles glued to the inside of the hose will melt. Soon after, they’ll be delivered to the pump, which they’ll destroy, usually in the first or second race.

To avoid these imminent tragedies when using an abrasive cut-off wheel, always clean the power steering hoses with a rifle-bore brush.


If the pressure relief valve (spool valve) encounters friction when it moves, it slows the response of the steering. To prevent the spool valve from sticking or cocking in its bore, KRC hone this oil passageway twice.

If the pressure relief valve (spool valve) encounters friction when it moves, it slows the response of the steering. To prevent the spool valve from sticking or cocking in its bore, KRC hone this oil passageway twice.

Three shortcomings:

1) Slow response

If the pressure relief valve (spool valve) encounters friction when it moves, it slows the response of the steering. To prevent the pressure relief valve from sticking or cocking in its bore, KRC the power steering people, hone this oil passageway twice: once after initial machining and again after hard-anodizing. The final honed finish is specified at 4Ra (roughness average—a measure of the texture of the surface stated in micro inches).

The roughness average determines how quickly the pressure relief valve will react and the hard-anodizing (measuring 60Rc) contributes to its hard-wearing capabilities. But the integrity of its bore is equally important. It must be strictly round and straight. Power steering specialist KRC holds the pressure relief valve bore tolerance to 0.0002in over a 2in distance. If the steering wheel moves so, too, does the pressure relief valve.

2) Parasitic losses are usually associated with forfeiting energy to drag, friction, wear, and heat. And therein lies the trouble with most power steering pumps. To overcome these losses, KRC switched from bushings to bearings—using a ball bearing in the front of the pump and a needle bearing at the rear.

3) HTD (high torque drive) pulley systems are now in common use in most racing categories. However, the key to their effectiveness and their longevity lies in the shape of their pulley teeth. These should exhibit rounded profiles that promote free and easy belt release.

The teeth also need to be spaced precisely at 8mm center-to-center distance so the belt meshes well. Correctly machined teeth on an HTD pulley provide maximum contact area with the belt, contributing to belt and pulley longevity. Crucially, precision-machined HTD pulleys waste the least amount of horsepower from the engine.


The purpose of the PTO arrangement is to move weight toward the center of the race car, a popular pursuit in Dirt Late Model racing. The belt, powered by the crankshaft, drives a dry-sump pump with the power steering pump and the fuel pump in tandem. Add the weight of the alternator and, indisputably, the race car has better balance.

In appearance, anodizing closely resembles hard-anodizing, but the difference between the two is profound (as reflected in the price). In the absence of hard anodizing, power steering pulleys can fail prematurely. Further where there’s slippage, aluminum from the surface of the pulley is transferred to the belt, precipitating rapid pulley wear.

KRC is a regular exhibitor at the annual PRI exhibition held each December in Indianapolis.


KRC Power Steering
2115 Barrett Pk. Dr.
Kennesaw GA 30144
(770) 422-5135


  1. Yes, I have a KRC power steering pump on my Nissan 240SX with an LS1 motor and it doesn’t seem to be controlling the rack anymore. Can you guys rebuild it or do I need to buy a new one

  2. Rudy, all of our KRC power steering pumps can be rebuilt. Please contact our tech department @ 770-422-5135 for shipping address and pricing.

  3. My son-in-law has a Late Model Rocket XR1 purchased without an engine. He later bought an engine, installed it in the car, and filled the power steering pump full of fluid. The car ran about an hour when the steering wheel became hard to turn and then the power steering pump locked up. Can you advise a solution?

  4. Kim, please call Cody or Norm (at KRC tech support) (770) 422-5135 x 201. They’ll ask questions like: is fluid running into and out of the pump, what type of fluid is being used, what are the hose sizes, have the hoses been disconnected and left uncapped, etc. From what you’ve said, it sounds like the pump has been starved of fluid.

  5. Hi, I have a KRC pump (steel pump) with an aluminum round reservoir attached to it. We ran a few races with no problems but then it progressively got harder to turn. We checked the fluid and then started it with the cap removed. You could see fluid moving, but when turning the steering wheel, the fluid stopped flowing. Could you say what caused this and is the pump repairable?

  6. Chris, We sent your inquiry to KRC but no response yet. Try calling them direct at (770) 422-5135.


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