How To Tell If You Have Variable Assist Power Steering: 6 Ways

Vehicles are becoming increasingly easier to drive by the day, thanks to the technological progress of the automotive industry. The variable-assist power steering is one such thing that makes car steering much easier. But, how to tell if you have variable-assist power steering or not. 

A couple of ways to figure out if you have variable-assist power steering or not are by checking the underside of any spare tire’s cover, the vehicle’s build tag, or your car’s specs. Moreover, a droop flow pump test can also come in handy.

6 Ways On How To Tell If You Have Variable Assist Power Steering

Checking if your vehicle uses and has a variable-assist power steering or not can be tough. In fact, many drivers won’t even know what the variable assist-power steering is. Besides, you won’t always be able to figure out if you have variable-assist steering by just observing your car’s performance. This is because most vehicles’ steerings become lighter with increased speed.

We’ll provide you with some easy ways to figure out if you have variable-assist power steering or not.

Method 1. Check The Underside of The Spare Tire Cover

Spare Tire Cover

The underside of your car’s spare tire cover will have a Service Parts Identification label. If you see the three-character code NV7 on the label, that means your car does have a variable-assist power steering. You won’t find this in a separate component since it is built-in as a part of the steering rack.

Method 2. Check The Build Tag

To check if your vehicle has a gm variable-assist power steering or not, look under your trunk’s lid. You should find a code there and if the code reads 1SC, that means you do have the gm variable-assist power steering.

Method 3. From Vehicle Specifications

Search online for the vehicle’s specifications or you could also get the specs from the car manual or the dealership you bought it from. Now, the vehicle specifications must state if the vehicle employs variable power assist or not. Keep in mind that vehicle specification is not the same as the variable ratio. If you are unable to find the vehicle specs anywhere, then you need to move on to visual inspection.

Method 4. Look For Wiring Harness Around The Pump

Inspect the wiring harness leading towards the solenoid at the output line of your car’s pump. If this setup is present, it means you have a Variable Effort Steering. It works by varying the output coming from the orifice of the pump. With this one, you don’t have to perform any testing procedure with the hydraulic systems. 

Method 5. Look For Wiring Harness Around The Spool Valve

If there is a wiring harness sticking out of the rack of the spool valve, you have a magnasteer, i.e. a variable-assist power steering that works magnetically. Magnetic variable-assist steering is one of the old versions of variable-assist power steering and it is also known as Magnasteer or MSVA.

Method 6. Try A Droop Flow Pump Test

In this test, you need to check at which points your car’s pump flow droops or stays the same despite an increased engine rpm. You also need to check this with a change in the metering valve. If the droop flow pump remains the same, then you do have a hydraulic power assist. 


What is variable-assist power steering?

Variable assist power steering is a system that allows you to steer your vehicle with less effort. With a variable-assist steering system, your car needs reduced assist while driving at a high speed to provide proper stability. Similarly, at low speeds, it receives more assist. Basically, it allows drivers to easily maneuver their cars at low and high speeds with the least effort.

variable-assist power steering

What happens if the power assist in your steering fails?

If the power assist in your car’s steering fails, it will become much more difficult to turn the wheels of the car. They will turn but the effort required to do so will be exponentially more. Moreover, if the power assist steering fails while you are driving, an accident can occur.

What is variable-ratio steering?

Variable-ratio steering is very different from the variable-assist power steering one. This system employs different ratios with rack-in-a-rack and pinion steering mechanisms. It works by altering the speed and rotation direction of your engine’s motor. This way it can increase or reduce the speed of the steering output. 

How does a variable-assist power steering system work?

The variable-assist power steering system controls and varies the fluid pressure in the steering gear or rack of your car. There are pressure sensors in the car that send data to the control unit which in turn controls the pressure accordingly. This leads to increasing the car’s stability and prevents it from getting out of control of the driver.

What is the difference between active steering and variable-assist power steering?

The working system of the variable-assist steering can show some striking similarities with that of the active steering mechanism. However, both are quite different in terms of work and response triggers. The variable-assist system helps you to park appropriately at lower speeds and reduces the level of assistance when you are driving at high speeds. This way your vehicle’s stability increases while driving and gives you a smooth riding experience. 

Car Steering Mechanism

On the other hand, active steering allows you to turn the vehicle’s steering wheel at the lowest possible speed so that the performance is enhanced while parking or driving at low speeds. At a higher speed, it reduces the occurrence of jerks. Clearly, its mechanism is quite different from that of the variable-assist system. 

Checkout our article on Steering wheel lock up while driving.

Final Words

That was all from our side on how to tell if you have variable-assist power steering. Firstly, you should look up the underside of any spare tire cover for a code NV7, and next you should check the vehicle’s build tag. Else, you could also know the same from the vehicle’s specifications. However, the best way to confirm if you have variable-assist power steering is by executing a droop flow pump test. We hope the above article helps you determine whether you have a variable-assist power steering system or not.

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