January 29

2015 Ram 1500, Power Steering

Dodge Trucks


Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. I'm here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. 25, 24, some insane amount of times they've won best auto repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How you doing, Bernie? 

Bernie: Doing very well. I think at last count, we were at 25. 

Mark: 25. Wow. So, 2015 Ram. What was happening with this pickup truck? 

Bernie: So the owner's complaint was that the power steering, it wasn't working properly. It was stiff and hard to turn. So there's a power steering complaint is why the vehicle came in.

Mark: So where do you start for testing and diagnosis? 

Bernie: Well, first of all, figuring out what kind of power steering system is in the vehicle is always important. And in this vehicle uses an electric power steering system. So the testing and diagnosis is different than it would be for a hydraulic system. So with an electric system we can scan the vehicle with a scan tool.

We can look at data. We can look for stored trouble codes. See if there's anything actually electrical going on with the system. Obviously being electrical, there is a computer controlling it. No problems were found in that area. Did a visual inspection and we noted that the steering column coupler was exceptionally rusted.

There's a universal joint on the coupler. We'll look at pictures in a moment. And that universal joint was from what we could see look to be, you know, seized. So the universal joint, of course, allows flexibility in different directions side to side, back and forth. And so as you turn the wheel, if the coupler's seized the steering will get stiff in certain spots and that's usually a telltale clue.

Mark: So is replacing that steering coupler a pretty big job? 

Bernie: It's actually not that difficult. As far as jobs go on power steering, I wouldn't say pretty easy, it's a couple hours work, but it's not too difficult to do.

Mark: Do you have some pictures? 

Bernie: I do. There's our 2015 Dodge Ram, a bit dirty. It's wintertime in Vancouver. And so this is an unwashed version of this truck. We've had some snowy weather, I believe when we brought the vehicle in the shop, a lot of snow came off the vehicle and there was mud underneath it.

2015 Ram 1500, Power Steering

Here's a view of our steering column coupler. So this is the brand new one, obviously nice and shiny painted. Here's our old one. 

2015 Ram 1500, Power Steering

And getting a little closer view on the older one and kind of see the rust and corrosion in here. Now that may or may not be a bad thing, but basically it was movable in one direction and it was a little stiff, but the other direction, we couldn't move it by hand.

2015 Ram 1500, Power Steering

I don't have a video to show that, but if you look in here at this picture, you can see the real intense rustiness. And that's basically what the problem was. And actually this is the section we could move. You can see I bent this one. The other direction, we weren't able to move it. So that's what caused the stiffness as you turn the steering wheel.

2015 Ram 1500, Power Steering

Mark: So there's bearings inside that coupler. They're not serviceable? 

Bernie: No, they're little tiny needle bearings. This all made is 1 assembly. Yeah, steering column U joints, which are used on many vehicles, probably almost every vehicle in fact, there's not too many vehicles have straight steering columns anymore. So they put a universal joint in so it allows the steering rack can be positioned in a different angle and further back and the steering wheel can come down. It allows a more compact fit in design so they use universal joints.

Sometimes they have two. And there's even vehicles where the steering column goes down in this direction, if you can see my hand, and then it reverses and goes back the other way, it's kind of bizarre. So yeah, if you ever seize one of those, that could be a real problem.

Mark: So when you're finished, and you've replaced the steering coupler, is there a wheel alignment required?

Bernie: No, you don't need to do an alignment because the coupler can only fit on one way. There are big thick splines notched in on the steering column and the power steering box. And so when you put it, not the steering box, steering rack, you can only put it on one way essentially.

So if it needs to be aligned afterwards, it's either a problem with something else or just an item that hasn't been taken care of in a long time. So it just lines up nice and straight. 

Mark: So why are we moving more towards electric power steering rather than hydraulic?

Bernie: A couple of reasons. I think hydraulic power steering uses a pump that runs off the engine. So that always creates a load on the engine and hence, you know, wasted fuel. And you don't need a lot of power steering when you're going 60 miles an hour down the highway and you go to move the steering wheel.

So there's a parasitic load on the engine. So electric power steering eliminates that. So it improves the fuel efficiency. The other good reason to have electric power steering is a lot of vehicles, you know, newer say, I don't know, 2015 and up, maybe even a little older, have a start stop technology.

So it'll actually shut the engine off. If you're sitting at a red light, of course you still need to turn the steering wheel. So if you have a start stop technology, you still have power to your steering. Whereas if you had hydraulic steering, you would have no power steering. So it makes it safer, it makes that function work if the engine's off. 

Mark: And how often is this a repair that you run into in the shop where you're changing this sort of device in the steering assembly? 

Bernie: Yeah, the coupler U joint? Not too common. We do them, you know, once in a while. It's not a really common repair. And this vehicle, we live in British Columbia, in Vancouver is not very snowy around here and there's not a lot of road salt, but this vehicle is from Alberta. They use a lot of road salt because they have long winters. And so, places that have a lot of road salt and corrosion, this part will wear out a lot quicker.

So you know, we did a four wheel brake job in this vehicle where the brake rotors and pad, everything was very, very rusted. So it's a typical rust belt. Actually, it's probably not the right word. Car rust belt kind of issue. So yeah. If you're in places in North America or anywhere in the world actually, that uses a lot more road salt, this part will need to be replaced more often. In other areas it may never need to be done. 

Mark: And how are Ram 1500 trucks for reliability? 

Bernie: Pretty good. You know, they have certain issues. I mean, I would say that this particular coupler is not a reliability issue because it's more of a climate driving climate related issue of wear and tear, but, you know, overall they're not too bad.

Mark: If you're looking for a service for your Ram truck in Vancouver or any Chrysler product of any kind, really, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Or you can call them to book your appointment. You can book online, right there on the website. And they'll call you, they'll get ready for your appointment. They'll investigate to see what they can find out over the phone. But then they're ready for when you show up. Or you can call them to talk and book your appointment at (604) 327-7112 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Thanks so much for watching and listening. Thanks Bernie. 

Bernie: Thank you, Mark. Thanks for watching.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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