Can you drive a car without power steering?

Today, all modern cars have power steering, a car feature that makes the steering wheel be handled with ease. But, the power steering is prone to failure, and when that happens, the first question that comes to the driver’s mind is whether it is possible to continue driving the car like that. 

The short answer is yes, you can drive a car without power steering because the steering rack is made in such a way that when the steering wheel rotates, you transmit the force to the steering rack using a worm gear, and if the hydraulic booster is in good condition, then it just helps you due to the pressure created. Accordingly, if oil is not pumped, for any reason, then more effort is needed from the driver to turn the steering wheel in order to move the wheels.

However, you need to also consider the following:

  • The steering wheel should be turned only in motion, because on a car with power steering, the steering rack is not designed for such working conditions.
  • If your power steering does not work due to lack of oil and you cannot add it, you need to remove the belt that drives the hydraulic pump, if, of course, it goes separately from other belts.
  • And, of course, you need to fix the problem as soon as possible.

What is power steering?

Power steering that some people refer to it as the ‘power-steering gearbox’ is a compact, sealed unit (compartment) in the center of a car. The box contains a pump that moves fluid around to actuate the power-steering rack and it sends fluid back through hoses to the car’s corner wheels.

Symptoms of a bad or failing power steering

If a driver notices a leak in the power steering, as well as a loss of control stiffness, this is one of the first signals that obliges the driver to pay attention to malfunctions of the car’s steering system. Usually, there is a hum or knock under the hood when the car is just starting up. 

At the same time, the hum is not displayed in any way on the control of the vehicle, it gradually disappears as the car warms up. This hum occurs at that moment if the fluid in the power steering reservoir is less than the normal level.

If the hum in the front part under the hood has stopped, but the steering wheel has become very tight and turns with difficulty, then this means that there is very little liquid in the tank, or there is none at all. In such a situation, the driver should stop and check the oil level in the power steering. 

It should be noted that the power steering pump cannot operate in dry mode. In the absence of fluid in the hydraulic power steering system, the power steering pump can be damaged. Therefore, in such a situation, it is worth turning off the power steering pump and you can continue to drive without it.

What are the risks of driving without power steering?

Those who have never driven a car without power steering are worried about this because the effort that must be applied to the steering wheel is incomparable.

A faulty car power steering can make a typical ride very bumpy and unpleasant. Though some people may not think you can drive a car without power steering at all, it is possible to get through the tough times with an old-fashioned power steering pump!

Many drivers claim that with the power steering turned off, you can drive no more than a few kilometers. But this is not a tested statement. Practice taught us that you can drive with the power steering turned off for some time. 

Furthermore there are some untested rumors regarding a power steering that is not working while driving:

  • Some say that you can drive no more than 600 km or 380 miles. This is a kind of emergency mode for the steering rack. After that distance, it will simply break. But I never heard of this thing happening in my career as an automotive engineer.
  • “With the power steering pump turned off, the speed of 45 km / h or 28 mph cannot be exceeded”. This is not a true nor a false statement, but yes, you should drive slower, it is much safer this way.
  • “Since the steering wheel is very difficult to control, the driver should only drive straight and do not make unnecessary maneuvers on the road unnecessarily.” I agree because it is a safe thing to do.


A faulty power steering system will not allow for smooth movement while driving, leading to severe discomfort and, somehow, dangerous driving conditions. Spare yourself the potential dangers of being involved in an accident by simply having your vehicle’s power steering inspected and properly maintained. Even if you are just planning to do a short trip around town, this problem should be fixed before anything bad happens!

In addition, it should be borne in mind that with the hydraulics turned off, the car does not immediately respond to a steering wheel turn. Therefore, you should be extremely careful while driving and do not postpone your visit to the service station.

Photo by: Samf4u, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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