If you are seeing a message on your dashboard that says Steering Assist is Reduced it means your car has a problem with its electric power steering. As for what to do about it, you should get it fixed (duh). If your power steering fails on you when you least expect it, you might lose control of your car.
Steering Assist is Reduced Drive with Care
I’m guessing that your warning light specifically says “steering assist is reduced drive with care.”
I’m also guessing you drive a General Motors vehicle (Chevy, GMC, Cadillac, Buick).
No, I’m not a psychic. This specific message is used in GM vehicles. And GM vehicles are notorious for having problems with their electric power steering systems.
So much, in fact, that GM has issued multiple service bulletins about issues with power steering systems in their cars. They’ve also had to issue recalls associated with power steering problems.
If you’re lucky, your problem might be covered under warranty or under a recall. I’ll provide more information about this later in the article.
First I want to give a quick overview on electric power steering.
Electric Power Steering
If you have a steering assist with reduced warning, you most likely have an electric power steering system.
What this means is that your car’s steering uses electricity and an electric motor to make your car easy to steer.
Older cars used a hydraulic pump powered by a pulley attached to your engine’s crankshaft. If you’re having problems with a hydraulic power steering system, here’s a quick article about bad power steering pump symptoms.
Don’t worry…. If your power steering assist stops working, it doesn’t mean your car won’t have any steering at all. It will just become a lot harder to steer.
Here’s a quick video from the legendary Scotty Kilmer where he gives a quick three-minute overview of the two systems:
Steering assist is reduced – what you need to do
Electronics are great. They make our lives much easier.
But when they fail, we sometimes feel like a toddler who had their crusty-ass Cocomelon iPad taken away.
Or maybe that’s just me….
The problem with a Steering Assist is Reduced Drive With Care message on your GM car’s Digital Information Center (DIC) is that it isn’t always cut and dry.
Ummmm…. can we talk about GM’s terminology for a second?
Really General Motors? You’re going to call something a DIC?
I’m glad I drive an Audi. There’s absolutely no way I’m keeping a straight face when a service advisor asks me “What does your DIC say?”
What was I talking about…. Electronics. Yes, electronics.
When your car throws a Steering Assist is Reduced Drive With Care message, it could be any number of things.
The best thing you can do is connect your car to an OBD-II scan tool and find out what codes are being thrown. Doing this can help you pinpoint what is causing the problem.
GM Service Bulletins
Before running to a mechanic or the dealer to have your car fixed, it makes good sense to do a little more research and find out if your specific vehicle is included under any specific service bulletins that relate to a Steering Assist is Reduced fault.
I’m aware of several situations where a good-intentioned mechanic tried to fix a steering assist problem only to find out it wasn’t the correct fix.
For example – an error code sometimes points to a faulty steering gear. A mechanic may replace the steering gear, but that’s not the problem and the warning light will come back on!
Here’s why this happens… The steering system uses temperature sensors to detect coolant temperature in your car to get an idea of what temperature the grease is in your steering gears (cold grease is thicker, therefore more force is needed to steer).
If the system has a bad temperature sending unit, the computer will have incorrect data.
To illustrate… a bad temperature sending unit may tell your car’s computer that the car’s temperature is cold. The computer will expect cold grease and apply more force to the steering gears.
But if the temperature is hot, the grease is less restrictive and the computer senses this difference…. So it sends an error code… which could make it look like bad steering gears.
I know… complicated stuff. That’s why you need to do a little homework.
To get you started, here are a few GM Service Bulletins that relate to Steering Assist is Reduced Drive With Care messages on your DIC (hee-hee).
These bulletins apply to the following cars:
- Buick (Enclave, LaCrosse, Regal)
- Cadillac (XT5, XT6)
- Chevrolet (Traverse, Blazer)
- GMC (Acadia)
If your GM car is not on the list, here’s a great website from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration where you can look up the service bulletins and recalls for your car: https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls
Look up your car and search for steering issues. It just might save you the grief of a mis-diagnosed problem.
Overheating Power Steering Assist
Before we wrap up, I want to quickly touch on overheating of your power steering system..
When electrical steering systems are under stress, there’s an opportunity for them to generate excess heat.
And you guessed it, if your car’s ECU/computer detects excess heat in your steering system, you can bet it will throw an error code telling you your steering assist is reduced.
This is likely to happen when you are turning your steering wheel to its limits. This could happen when you’re navigating a tight parking lot. Or maybe you’re taking seven thousand tries to properly parallel park.
So if a steering assist is reduced warning shows up on your DIC (hee-hee) after doing a lot of hard steering, you probably don’t need to panic. It will likely go away when the system cools down and you’ll be good to go.
Remember, you have to be putting a lot of hard steering stress on the system for it to overheat. It’s not going to overheat on a hot day on the highway.
Think about it… your steering system isn’t working too hard on the highway. So if the warning randomly pops up on the highway, you’re probably going to need to get it checked out.
So how much will it cost to fix a Steering is Reduced Drive with Care error?
You should know what I’m gonna say:
As with so many car problems (and especially with sophisticated computer controlled systems) there’s really no way of knowing until you get to the root cause of the problem.
With any luck, given the problems General Motors has had with its power steering symptoms, your problem may be covered by warranty or recall.
About the Author
Hi I’m Kevin and I’m a car guy. I first got the bug as a kid when I helped my dad rebuild the motor in his 1969 Mustang. I shadowed him for countless hours doing all kinds of hands-on work in the garage. As I got older, I started working on my own cars – from new transmissions to stereos to fine detailing. I started this website to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years.