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The first sign of fluid leaking from the power steering is a pump whine, because the fluid is low, the pump will start to make a whine noise, especially when turning the steering wheel.
If you think you may have a car power steering leak, the first thing you should do is check the power steering fluid reservoir, if the fluid level in the reservoir is low, you just might have a leak in the power steering system.
Power steering fluid has a very distinctive smell, it smells like a burnt marshmallow, that is my opinion on the smell, and I'm sure you will not find that documented anywhere on the internet or any repair manual.
If you feel the steering in your vehicle binding up, or the power steering pump starting to make whine noise, it's a good sign your power steering fluid level is getting low or it's empty.
Running the power steering pump with low or no fluid could be very damaging to the entire power steering system because metal particles from the pump enter the system and cause internal failure of the steering rack and to its valve body or to the steering gear box.
As steering leaks are normally obvious at full lock, I am assuming your question concerns fluid going missing with no obvious reason? A ruptured suspension sphere diaphragm would be a likely way to loose fluid without pools forming on the floor as the hydraulic reservoir feeds more than the steering.
The power steering cap is clearly marked so you should be able to view the reservoir to determine if it is low. If low, top it off and see what happens. But be careful.
It sounds as if the fluid is triggering a fault that turns on the lights. I would be very careful if you try to drive this vehicle, you may suddenly find the steering is VERY hard to turn. Get it to a trustworthy shop as soon as possible. If the fluid leaks fast enough to empty the power steering you could crash. It would be cheaper to have it hauled to a shop than risk a costly accident.
You are likely seeing auto trans fluid. It is often used as a substitute for power steering fluid. You say it's leaking badly so someone probably got tired of paying for power steering fluid and switched to the much cheaper ATF.
Has the steering gone heavy? if the reservoir is empty and you top it up then it must have a substantial leak.If you cant see any fluid on the floor then it maybe that the leak is internal in the power steering rack.
Clean up any oil leaks. Have someone sit in the car and depress the pedal while you check around for leaks. You need to check all brake lines, and calipers etc. Locate your leak and repair or replace parts as necessary.
check the fluid level of the clutch resovoir, try bleeding the system out and look for visable leaks.the line you need to look for should go into the side of the transmission, and lead up to a small round resovoir.
YOU HAVE A RUPTURE PRESSURE LINE IF YOU HAVE NO POWER STEERING FLUID IN THE POWER STEERING RESERVOIR.LOCATE LEAK THEN BLEED POWER STEERING SYSTEM BY ADDING POWER STEERING TO RESERVOIR.DONT OVER FILL BY FULL COLD MARK ON POWER STEERING DIP STICK.ADD FLUID TO RESERVOIR WAIT A 2 MINUTES.CHECK FLUID LEVEL AGAIN.WHEN POWER STEERING FLUID LEVEL STOP DROPPING.START ENGINE LET IT RUN FOR 10 SECONDS.THEN TURN OFF ENGINE CHECK POWER STEERING FLUID ADD FLUID IF FLUID LEVEL DROPS. WHEN FLUID LEVEL STOP DROPPING.SAFELY RAISE SUPPORT VECHICLE FRONT WHEELS.START ENGINE.NOW TURN STEERING WHEEL GENTLY FROM STOP TO STOP MEANING LEFT TO RIGHT DONT HOLD IN POSITION.LET THE STOP TO STOP BE QUICK.CHECK POWER STEERING FLUID AFTER YOU HAVE TURN STEERING WHEEL ABOUT 7 STOP TO STOP.WHEN FLUID LEVEL STOP DROPPING YOU AT HOT MARK ON DIP STICK BLEEDING PROCESS COMPLETE.TURN OFF ENGINE LOWER VECHICLE BACK TO GROUND WAIT ABOUT 5 MINUTES CHECK YOUR FLUID LEVEL.IF FLUID LOOKS LIKE A TAN COLOR.YOUR POWER STEERING SYSTEM FULL OF AIR.TURN OFF VECHICLE LET VECHICLE SET A LONG WHILE TO AIR BUBBLES SETTLE DOWN LOOK FOR LEAKS AROUND POWER STEERING PUMP FRONT SEAL AND CHECK FOR LEAKS AROUND POWER STEERING LINES.
A fluid leak that is pink and/or red colored is usually either power steering fluid or transmission fluid. I recommend checking both. You can check the power steering fluid when the car is off. However, the transmission fluid should be checked with the engine warm and idling in neutral. Have someone else step on the brake or use the parking brake and block the wheels while you're measuring the transmission fluid level.