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post #1 of 6 Old 04-07-2019, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
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Stiff steering when hot

Hey all,
So I bought my 2002 Toyota Highlander V6 AWD in November/2018 from Canada. It has about 200k kms on it (roughly 130k miles). The car is in fairly good condition overall but I've been having steering issues which no one has been able to solve thus far.

When I was driving it down from Canada to Tennessee, roughly 8 hours in to the drive, the steering got super stiff and would not turn with one hand. I finally made it home and took it to Toyota and they said that the intermediate shaft has seized and charged me $650 to put a new one. This fixed the steering issue somewhat but the steering was still not fully smooth (it would start off fine when cold but as I drove it to temperature the steering got progressively stiffer). Toyota blamed the aftermarket steering pump not being able to provide the right pressure and had me replace the power steering pump with the original one (another $850). This did help somewhat but the issue still remains.

-When I start the car in the morning (cold), the steering is super smooth and the car drives really well. If I am driving around, the temperature gauge reaches about 40% hot (not dead center) and the steering wheel gets stiff. If I start the car cold and leave my car sitting at idle and let the engine temperature gauge reach the center (50% mark), then the steering is even more stiff and remains so until the car has sufficiently cooled down. Toyota is making excuses that it is nothing and that's how it is supposed to be and it is probably my struts heating up form usage. But if that was the case, why would it happen at idle when I haven't driven the car around at all and only let the engine heat up? I am suspicious that it could be my rack and pinion but Toyota has confirmed multiple times that there is absolutely nothing leaking from racks and they are in good shape.

-One strange thing I noticed with my previous power steering pump was that when I drained the ps reservoir by removing the return line and then replaced the return line and refilled it with ps fluid, the steering got extremely smooth for maybe 1/2 full turns but got stiff again. Would a bad reservoir cause such symptoms? I am truly clueless

Last edited by Steward Horro; 04-07-2019 at 12:26 AM.
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post #2 of 6 Old 04-08-2019, 09:46 AM
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Really weird problem.
Wild-ass guess here, but maybe the PS line is too close to an exhaust manifold and is causing the PS fluid to get real hot, maybe boiling. Is it possible that a heat shield is missing ?

My vehicles:
2006 Highlander
2001 Corolla
1999 Tacoma 4x4
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-09-2019, 08:50 PM
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I doubt this will solve the problem, but if it were me, I'd run a quart of ATF through the system to purge everything and see if anything weird (water, debris) came out.

Detach return line from reservoir and put a container under it. Plug the hose barb on the reservoir. With front end jacked and engine off, cycle the steering lock to lock. Don't let reservoir run dry.

Maybe you'll get lucky and flush your problem out of there. Good luck.
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post #4 of 6 Old 04-11-2019, 05:58 PM
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another idea: when you are experiencing the problem, get out and check the fluid for foam. If it is a lighter color pink or there is foam on top in the reservoir that would suggest a small leak in the line from the reservoir to the pump letting air in.
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post #5 of 6 Old 04-15-2019, 11:55 PM
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How bad was the fluid? It could be the valves in the rack, especially if the fluid was never changed or the wrong fluid was used. Perhaps put the car on stands under the chassis and see how much steering effort is needed without weight. If it is still high, then I would have a good independent look at the rack. If low, then maybe not enough pressure getting to the rack. It might be a restriction in a hose, but don’t see how that would be temperature sensitive. Does it get hard at all speeds? If only at idle, it might be idle speed. Did they replace the belt when they replaced the pump? I would double check belt tension too just because it is easy. I will assume that they bled air out of the system correctly
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-24-2019, 09:36 PM
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I am experiencing something similar on our 2003 Sequoia. smooth steering for the most part, then it gets stiff for a short period requiring a lot of effort to turn the wheel.
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