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If the power steering was ok before the brake job, I would suspect something went amiss while the mechanics were working on the car. And why, when you returned to the shop, would they clean out your power steering fluid? I don't think I've ever heard of anyone doing that before. Unless they knew there was something wrong with the power steering fluid. This may sound crazy, but I'm thinking they topped your power steering reservoir off with hydraulic brake fluid when they were working on your brakes. If, in fact, they did put brake fluid in the power steering, changing the fluid would only remove the brake fluid from the reservoir. The rack and pinion assemblywould still have the contaminant inside it, which could cause the steering problem you described.
the hard starting problem you're describing could be one or a combination of many things. one of the most common is a lack of routine maintenance. have you had a tune up done within the last 15,000 miles or so? old spark plugs or a clogged fuel filter, which would commonly be replaced during a tune up, would both cause a hard start. It does sound from the symptoms you've described as though you could have a low power steering fluid level situation. to check it, find the cap under the hood with the picture of a steering wheel on it and unscrew it. there should be a dipstick on the inside of the cap with low and high level indicators. check the level and check to see if the fluid is black. it's a dark color when it's fresh but you should be able to see through it if you dab some onto a white paper towel. another cause for the noise would be a kinked power steering hose, or even a faulty power steering rack. if you notice a leak from the pump, lines or rack you can try some stop leak additive, available at an auto parts store. this swells rubber o-rings and gaskets used in the system causing the seal to tighten. if this doesn't stop the leak, you will have to get in there and replace some parts. I hope this helps and good luck!
Go to where you check power steering fluid. It will have a twist cap and "power steering fluid" written on cap or side. Two lines will be there. One under pressure and one that is not. Is you power steering is not working well it will be the one under pressure. When changed out the unit will have to be completely purged of air. Not easy - a vacuum
bleeder will need to be used - I would comment more but I do not know what type of vehicle it is - Sorry
In the power steering reservior. It should have a cap and be either opaque (the cap will have a dipstick inside) or translucent (you'll be able to see the level through the reservior). It'll be on the serpentine system. You can also find it by finding a metal hose that runs into the bottom of the reservior and connects to the steering system. Hope this all helps.
It is very low on the left side almost touching the firewall,in back behind engine. If you stand on the passenger side with a flashlight,you can see it by resting your arm on the fuse box and shining the light down and toward the firewall behind the belt. You might have to push a hose to the side to see the cap.