Question about 1996 Ford Explorer

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What does it mean when the battery light comes on and the steering is hard when turning. There is power steering fluid in the vehicle and the battery is new.

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I would say your drive belt isn't turning the alternator or the power steering pump.
Either the belt has come off, the tensioner isn't holding the belt tight or one of the rotating pulleys is seized and not allowing the belt to turn.
If the belt has been slipping on a seized pulley it will also need to be replaced.

There you are, thank you for using FixYa.

KL

Posted on Nov 11, 2010

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Sounds like your serpentine drive belt is slipping.

Posted on Nov 11, 2010

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Can low steering fluid cause mechanical problems


Problems associated with low power steering fluid…

Hard Vehicle Steering
A low power steering fluid level can often times cause a vehicle's steering to become hard and labored. Adequate amounts of power steering fluid are necessary to enable a vehicle's power steering system to function and operate at optimum levels. A lack of power steering fluid in a vehicle's power steering system reduces the amount of hydraulic fluid pressure necessary to efficiently operating the various parts of the entire power steering system. Power steering fluid supplies the fluid force needed to operate the power steering gears and to enable power steering gearbox operation. Low power steering fluid levels reduce this hydraulic pressure, which commonly results in hard vehicle steering.

Pump Noise
It is very common for a low power steering fluid level to cause significant power steering pump noise. An adequate amount of power steering fluid is required to ensure the proper function and longevity of a power steering pump unit, which is a belt-driven pump responsible for housing and circulating power steering pump fluid. A low level of power steering fluid results in increased power steering pump friction, heat, and wear, all of which can significantly reduce the operational life of the power steering pump while at the same time cause excessive power steering pump noise.

Fluid Boiling
Many times a low power steering fluid level can result in excessive heating of power steering fluid, a condition that can seriously degrade the fluid and cause it to boil. A low power steering fluid level results in less available fluid to both lubricate and cool a power steering pump unit. A lack of power steering pump lubrication and cooling leads to excessive heat being generated within the power steering pump unit itself, a condition that translates into the available level of power steering fluid becoming super-heated and degraded. When this happens it is common for the power steering fluid to boil and lose all of its lubricating and heat-reducing capabilities.

Gearbox Wear
The power steering gearbox is a set of gears within a vehicle's power steering system designed to facilitate movement of a vehicle's front wheels. The power steering gearbox is connected to the power steering pump by hydraulic fluid lines that deliver a constant supply of power steering fluid to the power steering gearbox. A low power steering fluid level, especially a chronic and severe low power steering fluid level, can lead to increased friction and wear within the power steering gearbox assembly, a condition that can significantly shorten the operational life of the power steering gearbox and negatively affect its operation

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