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Hi! My daughter Element is making loud noises emanating from this part. Can anyone tell me what this part is and what it does? Initially I thought she was having problems with the alternator because of a whining noise when I accelerate it but when we put the hood up this part is what seems to be making all the noise. Thank you all!
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Just did my son's twice. First time to swap in a used pump, then putting his back in after rebuilding it. Didn't read about the inlet o-ring until after I took his apart. Installed new seals and bearing. Quiet after a test drive this evening.

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Before replacing the pump, try this (slightly different from Element, but still applies). It will cost you an hour or less and an o-ring.

Probably a good idea to change the PS fluid after this repair. It is probably somewhat deteriorated after that abuse. Of course, a good idea to change the fluid now and then to extend life of the pump and mostly the rack.
 

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You might consider the idler bearing on the serpentine belt. It is just below the power steering pump and can be very noisy when it fails. Cheap part and replace the belt at the same time.
 
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The O-rings on the power steering hose connections can get loose after a few years, causing air to get sucked into the system resulting in a whine. The colder the engine, the worse it can get, so in colder weather the problem might suddenly start or get worse. Easy to fix. Check out this YouTube video.
 
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