Steering problem with my cage, seeking opinions
I've got a '96 Camry with close to 150K miles on it. For the past few months it has acted strangely in the corners. For a while I was blaming the tires because they were the 80K warranty GoodYears, and I expected them to have less grip than tires with shorter expected life. Recently it dawned on me that when my tires DO slip in the corners I take too fast, I actually hear their screeching. This means that my steering problem is of different kind.
The problem is somewhat intermittent since it doesn't happen on every turn. I will be driving along, start turning with the corner, but it feels like the wheels have decided not to respond at all, until I crank the steering wheel some more. More oddly, sometimes it feels like the wheels have started turning, but then decided to straighten out a bit, like skipping back a notch, forcing me to crank the steering wheel more.
As you can tell, that is a rather precarious way of operating a motor vehicle. I probably will take it to the shop very soon, but I wanted to solicit some opinions from the diversely competent SBW crowd first. I did look underneath during an oil change, but did not see any torn boots or anything blatanly obvious in terms of damage to the tie-rods or the ball joints. Of course, I've no clue on what to look for in a ball joint. Could this be the power steering pump? I added a little steering fluid because it was below the MIN mark just a tad, but that did not help any (nor did I expect it to). Of course if the pump itself is acting up, even the best fluid isn't going to help.
Also, belts are not likely to be the issue. I recently had to get the timing belt replaced, at which point all belts were replaced, plus the waterpump. The steering problem predates this maintenance, and was unaffected by it.
So, any suggestions, beside the obvious one to get it to the shop ASAP?