Steering assist is reduced, drive with care — causes and fixes
Nowadays, electrical systems and sensors in modern vehicles can result in dashboard lights and messages that make the ride easier. However, some messages serve as a warning to drivers in case one of the car’s systems is malfunctioning.
So, it’s no wonder that the “steering assist is reduced, drive with care” message on the dashboard can be a bit frightening. Don’t worry, though – the only thing you should do at that moment is to be more cautious on the steering wheel and drive carefully. This guide will lead the rest of the way, as our team elaborates on the meaning behind this seemingly strange warning.
What’s the steering assist and how does it work?
The steering assist system in your car is connected with the power steering which is in most cases hydraulic. So, there’s a certain amount of power steering fluid needed for the system to work, and that’s why you can move the steering wheel so easily.
You can hear the power steering pump working when standing still and rotating the steering wheel. It reduces the effort needed to rotate the steering wheel, making your control of the car much easier. While the power steering system makes your life easier at all times when driving, the steering assist turns on in case of emergency.
It uses the sensor to detect your vehicle getting out of the lane in case you don’t use a turn signal. In that case, the power steering pump adjusts its operation to cause resistance in the steering wheel. The system warns you that you might be exiting the lane due to being tired or simply unintentionally.
While some drivers find this feature to be bothersome, it’s just one of the modern-day safety features. However, the “steering assist is reduced” message can also refer to the power steering function of your wheel. So, it at least deserves to take a look and check the power steering fluid level for a safer ride.
Types of steering assist
There are two types of steering assist. The traditional one uses a hydraulic system, while the other is an electronically powered system.
Hydraulic-powered steering assist
Hydraulic-powered assist systems move the time rod back and forth, reducing the force you would apply to the steering box. It utilizes fluid to intensify the energy used to turn your front wheels. For its time, it fared pretty well, reducing the number of stress drivers went through at the wheel.
The advantage of the hydraulic power assist system rests in its being cheaper to handle. Since the whole system is a mechanic and many auto mechanics know about it, it is easy to get a competent mechanic for repairs. On the other side, they take up a good amount of space and offer less assistance when compared with the electronic power assist.
Electronic power steering
The electronic power steering (EPS) came as a response to the difficulties presented by the hydraulic system. EPS systems are smaller, lighter, and more energy efficient than hydraulic systems. They work by calculating the assisted power needs of the driver based on the torque they apply, the steering wheel position, and the vehicle’s speed.
EPS uses the result of its calculation to apply the proper force in rotating a steering gear that reduces the torque required by the vehicle from the driver.
Very few production vehicles still use hydraulic power assist systems. All attention is on electronic power assist systems due to their smaller size and contribution to the fuel economy of cars. They also offer a better range of assistance, from stabilizing the steering to encouraging straight drive and parking.
Reasons behind the steering assist reduced warning
The mentioned message shouldn’t be overlooked, as it can also be a problem with your power steering. So, it’s not safe to keep driving that way in case you don’t have enough power steering fluid. The system is hydraulic, so it needs a certain amount of fluid to function properly.
If you have a power steering fluid leak, the wheel will become unresponsive and it will be much harder to control your vehicle and make turns. Here are some of the most frequent reasons behind the message being displayed:
- Lack of power steering fluid
- Inaccurate coolant temperature readings by the engine control unit (ECU)
- Improper use of the steering assist function
- Problems with the power steering pump
Electrical connections can also cause the power steering and steering assist to malfunction. In some cases, it can even happen by poor electrical power supply since the power steering pump is operated electrically.
Low power steering fluid level
The power steering fluid is essential for the steering assist system to work, so it’s the first thing you should check. There’s the minimum designated amount of power steering fluid on the reservoir, so you can inspect this yourself.
Usually, the reservoir can be found under the hood on the passenger side. It should say “power steering fluid” and the fluid should be red or slightly pink. If it appears to be of a darker color, the power steering fluid might be contaminated.
If any debris gets into the power steering fluid, you’ll need to flush the system and replace the fluid. If, however, the fluid level is low, you might leak somewhere in the system. Probably there’s a leaking power steering seal and sometimes it’s not enough just to replace these seals.
You’ll need to have a mechanic inspect the system, and look for red liquid puddles under your car. It’s not safe to dry with the leak in the power steering system, since it reduces your control behind the wheel.
The ECU isn’t reading the coolant temperature properly
You might wonder why the ECU’s coolant temperature readings are important for properly functioning steering assist. Well, the car’s computer receives a message from temperature sensors that the coolant temperature isn’t suitable for cooling down the engine.
Regularly, this would lead to occasional car overheating, but it also affects the condition of the power steering fluid. If the coolant can’t reduce the engine’s temperature, the fluid might get denser and harden.
In this case, the steering wheel gets stiffer and stiffer, eventually making it impossible to control the vehicle. Even if the temperature reading sensors malfunction, the ECU still sends a message to the dashboard that steering assist is reduced.
Improper usage of the steering assist feature
Sometimes, the message just appears as an error due to improper use of the steering assist function. If you leave the function on too often while the car is stationary, it might result in the steering assist reduced message.
Also, if you switch the function on and off frequently, it can malfunction and result in the error warning displayed. You should still have a mechanic check the system or use a scanner tool to search for error codes confirming the steering assist trouble.
Power steering pump malfunction
Your car’s power steering pump is responsible for distributing the power steering fluid through the system. Without it, the fluid can’t travel from the reservoir to the power steering system and it might trigger the steering assist warning.
If you notice your steering wheel being stiffer than usual and squealing noises as you turn the key into the ignition, it’s a problem with the pump. It’s more dangerous than it seems since in this case, you won’t be able to get a quick response from the steering wheel.
Fixing the steering assist warning
If you experience any of the “steering assists is reduced” warning symptoms, the next step is taking care of the problem. If it’s an error message, you can try starting your car and shutting it off a few times and the message should disappear.
If it doesn’t you’ll need to deal with the power steering fluid leaks, broken pumps, or check the thermostat. The message could also still be displayed even if the problem was settled. To remove it, you can try taking the ECU fuse out and putting it back in. This should help the computer update the readings and if the problem was fixed, the message should go away.
How much does it cost to fix the power steering assist fault?
The cost of fixing a power steering assist fault varies from one problem to another.
Problems arising from a leaking or damaged steering pump cost about $200 to $400 for repairs. Reservoir tank and power steering hose issues cost less to repair as they cost $100 to $300. Rack and pinion repairs are the most expensive ranging from $500 to $1500.
We strongly recommend that you repair your steering assist problems only with competent auto mechanics to prevent many bad possibilities.
Hopefully, you can refer to this guide to solve your problems with the “steering assist is reduced drive with care” warning. While it might be displayed due to an error, it’s not always the case, and it deserves to be taken a closer look.
If you experience your steering wheel getting stiffer and hard to turn after the message gets displayed, you shouldn’t risk it by driving for too long before checking the power steering system.
What does it mean when my car says steering assist is reduced drive with care?
When your car says steering assist is reduced drive with care, your steering lane assist feature might not operate properly. To make things even worse, there could be a problem with a power steering fluid leak in your system, which could make it difficult to control your car.
What causes steering assist fault?
An electrical error or problem with the power steering system causes the steering assist fault.
What does steering assist mean?
Steering assist is a safety feature in your car which makes the steering wheel stiffer in case the computer detects you are leaving your lane without a blinker signal.
How much does it cost to fix the power steering assist fault?
It could cost as low as $10 to fix the power steering assist fault if it’s just an electronic issue or a burnt fuse, or up to $500 if you need to replace a power steering pump.