Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

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Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Picamik » 01 Sep 2016, 17:31

The car is a Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi (2006).
Even though the car has only done 50,000 miles, it has reached its 10 years, so I have just changed the timing belt. The job didn't present any particular difficulties, but it has left me with a problem I did not expect - the PAS (Power Assisted Steering) is giving trouble.
Of course, I removed the auxiliary belt, which drives the PAS pump, but I don't think the pump pulley was rotated at all while the belt was off. The only other thing I did that could affect the PAS was to move the fluid reservoir to make space for my hands, but I only moved it on its rubber hoses - I didn't disconnect it - though I may have tipped it up enough to let some air into one of the tubes.
The PAS still works as long as the engine is revving, but at low revs (eg parking), the steering becomes almost too heavy to move. I read that bleeding it involves turning from lock to lock several times, so I tried that on a quiet road, and for a short while, it seemed to have fixed it - but as I continued the procedure, the problem came back again.
I saw on the YouTube clip below (at 6:49) that some cars have a variable assistance to the steering, governed by a processor. Does anybody know if the Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi has this? Unfortunately, the video is in French, and is for a Peugeot - but it looks similar in conception, using a hydraulic ram instead of a hydraulic motor, and a belt-driven pump rather than an electric pump. In any case, there is a good deal of commonality between many makes of cars.
The "variable" function seems to depend more on road speed than on engine revs (the pick-up is on the gearbox, not on the crankshaft), so I don't think that's my problem, but maybe you know better.
Internet research tells me that this is a well known problem, but I have not found any solutions. Other people reporting the problem have bought a car that already has it. The most commonly cited reason is a bad pump, but in my case, the car did not have this issue before changing the timing belt, and it had it within 50 metres of test-driving after completing the job. The pump could have gone bad, but to do it at that precise moment would be an extraordinary coincidence.
I have tried bleeding the system several times, by putting the car on axle stands and turning the wheel lock to lock 25 times - but the problem persists. There are no bubbles or froth in the fluid, and the level has not gone down at all. It's still indicating Max, so there are no leaks.
Has anybody had/solved this issue?
Has anybody opened the steering pump? Is it serviceable? It occurred to me that if it should have gone bad, perhaps a vane is stuck.

Another unrelated little annoyance that happened at the same time - I checked the engine oil level, and the tip of the dipstick snapped off, and is blocking the tube, so that I can't get the new dipstick in (£18!!). This, also, is a known fault, and as the dipstick is not subject to wear, if it snaps while doing its job, it is due to a design fault. The new one is quite different - so I think this should be Citroen's problem - not mine. I guess the sump will have to come off.

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by xantia_v6 » 01 Sep 2016, 18:45

Have you checked that the hose from the reservoir to the pump is not kinked or collapsing under suction?

Could someting inside the tank be obstructing the flow?

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by RichardW » 01 Sep 2016, 21:21

Also check the belt is tight enough - not sure on what tensioner these use - or is it a stretchy belt??

Breaking off the original plastic dip stick is common on this engine - removing the sump is not hard - you can do it - just - with the exhaust in situ. Remove all the bolts, and the second nut at the crank pulley end, then remove the final 2 nuts. Now progressively wind out (with an E4 socket) the two studs and it will pull the sump off. Manipulate it out past the exhaust. Just 3 bolts to remove the oil pick up which will let you at the dipstick tube - although you might be able to pull it out without removing the pick up. The worst bit is cleaning off the old sealant so that you can fit new, and then refit the sump.

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Picamik » 02 Sep 2016, 02:13

I don't think the tube is likely to be kinked or collapsing, because it's a pretty hard, robust tube - but it's a good thought, and would offer an explanation, so I'll definitely check in the morning. Something is wrong - that's definite. I tried to follow the tube yesterday, but it goesout of sight behind other things where I can't get my hand in, so I couldn't. I'll make a better effort.

Also, thanks to RichardW for the instructions to take the sump off. The real drag about taking it off is that it's full of black oil , which will inevitably get where I don't want it, and will have to be disposed of, which means putting it in a sealed container, etc. etc. I may just take it to a garage and let them do it. I'm sure it will be much easier with the car raised on a jack. The fact that, as you say, it is a common fault, makes me think it should have been subject to a recall. What would it have cost them to send every owner, who has paid the cost of a car after all, a new dipstick?!
Sorry, Richard, if it seems that I'm moaning at you. I'm most definitely not.

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Picamik » 09 Sep 2016, 00:22

For anybody reading this, I have an update. I haven't solved my problem yet, but I have a theory, which might also help other people with the same problem. In trying to solve it, I have done a good deal of Internet reading, and I see that several other people have had the identical symptoms - very heavy steering at low engine revs, but OK when the engine is revving. Here are my thoughts ...

I took the steering pump out of the car today. It was pretty difficult, and involved a lot more dismantling than I had expected. It's a Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi Desire, so it has a lot of large diameter plastic tubing with butterfly valves etc over the top of the steering pump (I think it's part of the air conditioning), which has to come off to provide access. I was hoping to dismantle the pump to find out what was wrong, but I didn't have an allen key big enough, and even if I had, I'm not sure I would have got it apart - it's a bitch! So I ordered another one (£75 on Ebay - factory re-manufactured).

I was completely puzzled about what could have caused the problem, as I had not opened the hydraulic circuit, and had not interfered with the pump at all - but I have a theory about it now, and I'm hoping a new pump will fix it. When the pump is running slowly, it still has to be able to drive enough pressure to operate the steering. When it is running at typical engine speed, it generates much more flow, which would result in higher pressure, except that there is a pressure relief valve integral to the pump, which bypasses most of the flow. When I drained the fluid system, there was quite a bit of krud in it, that had been lying on the bottom of the reservoir, and I think when I moved it, some of this detritus had been dislodged, had been pumped through the system, and had blocked the pressure relief valve open. At high revs, there would still be enough pressure, but at low revs, all the fluid would be flowing through the stuck-open valve, so there wouldn't be enough to drive the hydraulic steering ram. Here's hoping. At least, the theory offers an explanation for the symptoms.

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Picamik » 09 Sep 2016, 20:32

For anybody who has the problem that has been described, I believe my theory above is correct. There are two tubes that go to the pump. The low pressure tube connects to the reservoir, and is a rubber tube that connects with a hose clip. The high pressure side has a metal tube that is screwed into the pump body. I removed both (of course - I removed the pump), and found that the high pressure tube screws in with a nut, but the part that it screws into also has a nut, and also screws into the pump body. I took it out, and found that it is the pressure bypass valve - and sure enough, it was stuck. It has a conical sleeve in it that is pressed into a conical seat by a light spring. The sleeve is supposed to move up and down on a central shaft, and at first, mine was jammed. After a lot of washing out with paraffin, it's freer now, but still not completely free. I think the central shaft (which is tubular) is pressed into the assembly, but I'm scared that if I try to get it out, I'll break it. I have ordered another pump, so I'm going to wait for it to arrive, and I'll fit it next week.

If you have this problem, I'd recommend removal of the valve. You can get at it without taking the pump off, but as it comes out of the pump, be ready to put a plastic tube onto it to drain the fluid into a container, and block the hole in the pump that it just came out of. Fluid will run out of both, and there's not much space to get a container under the tube as you remove it, so a plastic tube would be the answer. Maybe you'll be able to free up the valve, or maybe you could contact a place that reconditions pumps, and ask if they sell the valve alone. Good luck. I would also recommend removing the reservoir and swilling it out with something. I filtered my old steering fluid through an old shirt and used that for a rinsing agent. New fluid would be a bit expensive for the purpose, and I didn't want to contaminate it by using something different. I may also try flushing the ram by swinging the wheel from side to side, but before I move it, I'll have to arrange some sort of container for the fluid to come and go. If anybody has any advice about doing this, I'd be most grateful.

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Picamik » 15 Sep 2016, 02:27

The steering is fixed. It was the pressure bypass valve which is integral to the steering pump. by the time I had realised this, I had already ordered a pump, so I put it in, and that fixed the problem.
Here's how to change the pump on a Citroen Xsara Picasso Desire 1.6 HDi:
1. Put the front end of the car on axle stands and remove the front right wheel.
2. Remove the plastic lining of the front right mud guard. It's held on with half a dozen plastic nails which will be destroyed by taking them out, so you'll need to buy a spare set. They're cheap.
3. Put a spanner on the tensioner for the belt that drives the steering pump. Spring it towards the back of the car, and while holding it there, lift the belt off the air conditioner pulley. Release the tensioner and take the belt off.
Note: To gain access to the pump, you have to first remove the wide diameter (2 1/2" - 3") plastic tubing assembly above the pump. I tried to do the job without doing that, but it isn't possible.
4. Undo the hose clips on the radiator end of the flexible rubber tubes, then remove the 3 allen screws that attach each of the flanges at the engine end of the tubes (2 flanges, so 6 screws in all). Take the flanges out, then remove the radiator-ends of the tubes and take them off.
5. The hard plastic tubes are held on with 3 10mm screws, 2 from the front and one from the side. Release 3 hose clips, disconnect 4 connectors, and remove the hard plastic assembly.
6. Remove the metal bracket over the top of the pump that supports two cable looms.
Note: It's difficult to get a container under the unions to collect steering fluid when you disconnect the tubes from the pump - but try your best. From here on, DON'T TOUCH THE STEERING WHEEL - If you move it, it will pump fluid out of the steering rack.
7. Disconnect the high- and low-pressure tubes from the pump, drain the fluid out of them and catch the fluid that drains out of the pump (and onto the alternator if you allow it)
8. The pump is held on with three screws. The two at the bottom are horizontally opposed, and the right-hand one (the one on the left side of the car) screws into an expanding Colet, so the pump will feel tight even once the screw is out. As it comes out, it goes behind the turbo guard, and I had to take mine out, 1/12 turn at a time, turning the flat-spanner over constantly. When you have removed the top screw and loosened the other two, get a lever behind the pump, and it will move.
9. Remove the pump.
I recommend removal of the reservoir as well. It's held on with a single nut, so it's pretty easy. Filter the old steering fluid through fine cloth (I used an old shirt), and use it as a rinsing agent. Remove the tubes from the reservoir, then block the outlets and half-fill it with the fluid. Rinse it around well (shake it) to dislodge any particles that might otherwise jam the pressure bypass valve in the pump, and pour the fluid out.
10. Reassemble using the new pump, and fill the reservoir with new fluid. Try to banish the unpleasant memory of paying for it.

If your symptoms are as described above, you probably only need to change the valve, which can be done without taking any of the other stuff off.
1. Disconnect the high-pressure union on the pump. Put a plastic tube onto it to drain fluid into a container on the ground.
2. Remove the valve, which is the nut that you just removed the tube from. Check to see if the conical part moves easily on the central shaft, and whether it re-seats itself with the spring. If it doesn't, go looking for a replacement valve.

And above all - have fun!

Originally, I had a reliable car. Then I changed the timing belt, and in so doing, moved the steering reservoir, which dislodged some bit of rubbish that jammed the valve in the steering pump as soon as I started the engine again. It took a while to figure out, but then I changed the pump - and now, I have an engine warning light. In changing the pump, I had to disconnect a number of connectors, so I think it's likely to be a problem there, but I feel as if I'm trapped in a remake of The Never-ending Story!

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Rusty59 » 17 Oct 2019, 13:40

Thank you very much Picanik. Everything was just as you said. You saved me time, money, and hassle. If I could send you a tenner, I would.

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Re: Citroen Xsara Picasso 1.6 HDi power steering issue

Post by Hell Razor5543 » 17 Oct 2019, 18:11

You could always give him a few virtual pints!

:beer: :beer: :beer: