Dear Tom and Ray:
I've got a problem I'm sure you guys can help me fix. The power steering on my 1996 Volvo 850 Wagon doesn't seem to work on cold mornings. The steering is very stiff until I reach the first traffic light on the way to work. Then it works fine. The dealer's mechanic says the seals are fine and the pump is working OK. The belt is also OK, and the reservoir is full of fluid. This problem only shows up when it's below 40 degrees outside, and it gets bad below 30. This is a real safety hazard, and I'm afraid to let my wife drive the car. Help! -- Bob
RAY: Geez, Bob. I hope it's not what it sounds like.
TOM: My brother thinks you have a bad steering rack, Bob.
RAY: Unfortunately, you have the classic symptoms. I still remember when the first car with these symptoms presented itself to us, back around 1982. It was a GM X-body car, like a Chevy Citation. And we wondered, what can this be? This is unusual ...
TOM: And a decade and a half later, about 14 zillion GM owners had new power-steering racks, at 600 bucks a pop. And wait 'til you see what it costs on a Volvo!
RAY: But before you panic and take out a home equity loan, have your Volvo mechanic check out the pump more thoroughly. The only way to really check the pump is to put a gauge on it and measure how much pressure it's putting out. So insist that your mechanic do that. And even if the pump seems to be OK, you might ask him to try a new one anyway, since it's relatively inexpensive.
TOM: But if all else fails, start saving your pesos, Bob, because a new Volvo rack is in the neighborhood of a thousand bucks. Yeah. Ouch.