i actually spoke to my local mechanic last night, and he said it is a common fault with puntos, especially mk2 and mk2b models. He also said that the cheapest he could fix it for would be about £350 if it went out, and thats dependant if he can get the parts cheap or not.
fiat will charge you 600+ for new column and fitting. Firstly change your battery as the powersteering is electrical, if the battery is weak it cant send enough power to boot the steering up. Secondly it may just be the motor which you might be able to source seperatley from the coloumn (scrap yard) or if it is the column then you can buy them the shop4parts.com for about £350 then either fit it yourself (prob take about a week lol) or get an independant garage to fit it 4ya. DONT JUST ACCEPT IT MIGHT BE THE COLUMN BECAUSE FIAT SAID IT WAS, THEY ARE OUT TO MAKE £ AND AS MUCH AS POSS!
Let me enlighten you on some aspects of the motor industry.Fiat sell cars,they do not diagnose cars its the dealer or garage that does this.Yes Fiat make money on the column as do the garage....but ow much? Its the parts department that make about £65 on a column (not exactly much) and the service department will make £60 diagnosis & £60 fitting.Not forgetting this is not all profit....in real terms your looking at service department making around £80 all in.There are far easier ways of making this (and more) money!
and to quote from it...
"If you are planning to buy a column secondhand think very carefully,it is well reported that 'faulty' columns are being resold"
So bad is it that old (not safe!) columns are being stolen from garage skips,we actually strip & smash them to prevent this.Yes you can be lucky & get a good one and many people have but I estimate that in last 4 years I have fitted (on customers request) around 20 faulty columns that customers has supplied....£60 down the drain everytime basically....now thats easy money
p.s.Fiat,garages,supermarkets,shops are all businesses....the whole point is to make money or else no one will have a job!