Chrysler Repair Questions? Ask a Mechanic for Answers ASAP
This van typically has problems with sludge buildup in the power steering fluid reservoir. The reservoir filter screen then gets restricted and keeps fluid from flowing to the power steering pump and causes the pump to score (damage it's self from lack of lubricant). So, the first thing to do is to change the fluid reservoir and the fluid. If that doesn't fix the noise, then the next step is to change the power steering pump.
Your mechanic is dead on, with the exception of not recommending replacing the reservoir. You can check to see if the fluid is dirt and aerated from a plugged screen yourself:
After driving the vehicle for about 10 minutes turn the engine off and open the power steering fluid reservoir and look for air bubbles, or foamy fluid. If it is foamy or bubbly then it's likely that fluid is not flowing correctly because of a restricted screen in the reservoir.
To replace the fluid only: about $60.
To replace the reservoir and the fluid: about $130 depending on availability of the reservoir.
To replace the pump: about $350.
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