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1957 Ford (T-Bird) Power Steering Problem


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I was wondering if anyone has an idea about the genesis of a power steering problem I am having with my 1957 T-Bird. When I got my car in 1996 I noticed that the hole in the cap for the power steering reservior was welded shut. It didn't seem to bother things and I just left it that way, knowing it was incorrect. Well, 8,000 miles and 17 years later I decided to open up the hole, based on some advice of a friend in the local T-Bird Club. I drove up to Hershey Saturday from Rockville, MD. I discovered about an hour into the drive that the the power steering fluid was being blown out (a lot) from the previously closed hole in the cap. It seems as though the tank had become pressurized to the point that it is blowing copious amounts of power steering fluid out the hole in the cap. At the time I started to notice the leak I was on route 15 going 65 MPH and mostly driving with the wheels pointed straight ahead. The tach indicated about 2600 RPMs. Obviously the pump would be spinning faster at that speed than at idle. I think it is reasonable to assume it has been this way for a long time and is the reason why the hole was welded shut.

I took a long look at the shop manual yesterday and it looks like somehow the PS fluid is being pressurized on return from the PS cylinder. There must be some provision for that in the design of the pump so that the system does not become over-pressurized. The power steering has always worked, although it is noisy when making a turn after the car has warmed up.

To get home, I ended up disconnecting the belt and driving home with straight steering. I am thinking the issue is probably with the PS control valve, but I would welcome any other opinions regarding what is wrong and what needs to be fixed.

Thanks,

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Lew,

The system requires a certain amount of fluid to fill the system, determined by the volume of space of the components. That volume cannot change. For the system to "become overfull" suggests that you are sucking air into the system somewhere on the return side. The air causes foaming which can cause the whining in a turn when flow is high. Closely inspect the lines for any wetness, remove the return line to the pump and check it for collapsing internally and fittings for poor sealing. A high restriction on the suction side of the pump could cause this.

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TexasJohn55 is correct. Sounds like you have air in the system. Or a hose that is failing internally. Try lifting the front tires off of the ground. Disconnecting your coil wire (so the car wont fire). Then crank the car over and turn the wheel from left to right. Just a little bit at a time adding more of a turn as you go. Keep an eye on you pump reservoir. If you see foam in the fluid just stop what you're doing and walk away till the fluid is settled again. Start this process over. Once you're able to go lock to lock without any foaming the system should be bled of air.

Now this will only help if it is air trapped in the system. Make sure to check your hoses first.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is an update on my problem. I was prepared to rebuild the pump, thinking that there was something wrong with the pressure relief valve. Before I did that I pulled the top off of the reservoir and took out he filter. As far as I knew it was the proper one. It even had the Ford FoMoCo logo on it. Long story short, the filter turned out to be the wrong one for the car. It was 2.5" in diameter. It should have been 3". It was a filter from a 1958 or later car. The filter is designed to cover over the return hole in the reservoir and channel the fluid through the filter. With the smaller diameter filter the return hole was not properly covered and the fluid was just shooting up in the reservoir. This wasn't obvious since I had never taken it apart before. I have the parts to fix things on order and hopefully it will arrive tomorrow. I will post the final outcome them. The lesson here is to never assume that things are as they were when the car left the factory. Lots of cruel and unusual things have been done to our cars over the years to keep them on the road. Thankfully I was able to recognize this one.

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  • 4 years later...

I just purchased a 1957 T bird-  the power steering reservoir has fluid squirting out the vent hole.  How do I determine if the issues is with the control valve or just air in the line?   There is whining when the wheel is turned.  The lines look to be in good condition.  Thanks for the help!

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Air in fluid causes it to become frothy and increase in volume. In a P/S system this will only happen when it is being pumped - circulated. After shutting down the engine the bubbles/froth will dissipate just like the foam dissipates on the top of a beer or soda.  Frothing is not normal it means there is a leak somewhere letting air into the system. (and generally fluid out too, which is how you find the leak)  Low fluid level sucks a lot of air into the system and foams significantly 

 

To answer your question.  In a P/S system fluid is always being circulated. It is sucked from the reservoir into the pump and sent into the system. There are valves and what-not that IF NECESSARY allow the fluid stream to develop pressure and force/assist the wheels to turn and lower the steering effort.  

 

If there is no attempt to steer the car (sitting still) the fluid will FLOW ONLY (from the pump, through the system and back to the reservoir) but will not develop pressure. 

 

Testing: Car off - Remove dipstick (or cap over reservoir) to check that reservoir is full. (1/4 to 1/2 inch from top) There should be no foam it should be nice ATF color & consistency.  Start car DO NOT TURN THE WHEEL and look at the fluid as it circulates. A Ford reservoir sucks the fluid out of the center of the 'can' into the pump and returns it to the SIDE of the reservoir can directing the stream to essentially create a circular flow.  

 

In a normal system, at idle, with the top off the reservoir, the flow will be easily seen and will not splash out. (kinda neat to watch)  If it is splashing, spraying or beginning to froth, you have a problem. 

 

Is there something (control valve?) that is creating pressure when there should be only flow? 

Is something restricting the flow creating pressure where there should be none? (situation noted above had incorrect filter) 

Is the reservoir missing a metal shield that directs the flow from the return hose into the circular pattern?

 

Ford used the same pump for many years and there are variations on the reservoir, filters and covers that can inadvertently be switched and cause issues. 

 

Edited by m-mman (see edit history)
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  • 1 year later...

 

 

 

 

 

i just change over to power steering on my 57 bird and I am having a problem . when I turn left the car and steering wheel shakes at low speed Any suggestions as to whats wrong its ok when I turn right.

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You used the wording "just changed over"  tell us more

Do you mean that you added a complete 1957 FoMoCo linkage assist type system?  

OR have you added some aftermarket kit 'rack & pinion' or other design type of power steering?

 

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