Many years ago, you needed to be relatively fit to even drive a car. The technology had not yet materialised to help you turn the steering wheel with no effort, and if you were driving twisty roads all the time, you'd be able to have an upper body workout without knowing it. However, this is not the case these days, so if you're sweating too much trying to turn the wheel, it indicates a potential problem with the power steering system. What could be going wrong here?
Assessing the Fluid Levels
It could be something as simple as low fluid levels in the system. Have a look under the bonnet at the reservoir, and put some more of the proper grade inside, if it's low. If the problem comes back, you will have to take the vehicle in to find out where your leak is.
Looking at the Belt
Sometimes, the belt that runs the power steering itself may be slipping and in need of readjustment. With the aid of a friend, have a look underneath the car when the engine is running and the steering wheel is being turned from one side to another. You may notice some unusual noises when this happens, and if so, the belt itself will need to be tightened.
Having a Closer Look
While you're down there, have a look at the hoses that connect the steering pump to the steering rack. These should be in good condition, and if you notice any dampness on the exterior, this could be the source of a leak. It almost goes without saying, but if you can see any parts that appear to be loose when your friend is turning the steering wheel as mentioned before, these will need to be fixed by a qualified mechanic.
Could It Be the Actual Steering?
It's not inconceivable that the problem could be traced to the actual steering system itself, rather than the power assistance. Many vehicles are equipped with a conventional "rack and pinion" steering geometry, which is usually very reliable. However, this unit is sealed and filled with lubricant in order to keep temperatures down and promote efficiency, and it is possible that some of the seals may have worked themselves loose or become damaged. Once again, you may be able to see visual evidence of this during your quick inspection.
Getting the Expert Fix
Don't just grin and bear it if you find that your steering is too heavy and you're working harder than you should. Get in touch with a mechanic for repairs as soon as possible.