Power steering fluid in a car makes it possible for a driver to make a turn while expending as little energy as possible. Power steering activates hydraulic actuators which send specific power to your wheels, creating a smooth turn for your vehicle.
What this means is that you don’t need much energy to turn your car. A little movement goes a long way as the system would multiply your effort times ten.
To keep the system effective is the reason you need some power steering fluid. It is this fluid that functions as the power when talking about power steering. By flushing or draining old ones and replacing them with new ones is how you keep the system sound.
- 1 What Is Power Steering Fluid?
- 2 Types Of Power Steering Fluid
- 3 Why Do I Have To Change Power Steering Fluid?
- 4 Signs Of Low Power Steering Fluid
- 5 How To Change Power Steering Fluid?
- 6 How Often To Change Power Steering Fluid?
- 7 How To Flush Power Steering Fluid?
- 8 How To Check Power Steering Fluid Level?
- 9 How To Check For Power Steering Fluid Leak?
- 10 Checking Power Steering Fluid Condition
What Is Power Steering Fluid?
Made from mineral-based oils/silicone/synthetic oil, power steering fluid enables the smooth working of your power steering system.
When synthetic oil is used, it is identical to automatic transmission fluid common in many vehicles. In other words, it makes the proper functioning of the steering systems.
As different fluids fit different systems, inappropriate or wrong use of power steering fluid can damage the whole system, if unlucky. This makes using the proper fluid a necessity. However, if you pay no attention to your steering fluid levels, they can quickly cause problems.
Progressively, there are telltale signals that warn you.
A power steering fluid usually has a pinkish or amber coloring.
Types Of Power Steering Fluid
With different types of steering fluids sold, it can be a daunting task to decide on which one to buy.
One rule which makes this decision faster is to check for your steering maker’s recommendation, found in its manual. Take it out, go to the fluid section and you will find the information you need.
That said, power steering fluids are usually sold as one however, some systems use other fluids. The automatic transmission fluid is another common power steering fluid. Being less dense, it is able to manipulate hot temperatures reasonably well, which makes it excellent as an alternative for major power steering fluids.
Why Do I Have To Change Power Steering Fluid?
As time passes, the internal components, O-rings, and seals are bound to wear out. Being worn out, they pollute the fluids, making the steering pump do times two of its work and causing it to break down after some time.
What Happens If I Don’t Change Power Steering Fluid?
As aforementioned, the power steering pump will breakdown after some time but it neglected completely, it will be eaten up totally. When this happens, you will have to get a new power steering system for your vehicle which likely costs more than the car itself.
Signs Of Low Power Steering Fluid
- Difficulty turning steering wheel: fluid loss makes them lose their efficiency. As time passes, it will start telling on the steering as turning would be difficult and take more effort.
- Stains underneath your vehicle: after parking for a long time, you notice fluids under the vehicle. Any fluid could be the problem however, a major suspect is the steering fluid.
- Steering screeching: if you perceive a sound similar to cat’s fighting when performing u-turns, check your fluid.
- Noisy steering: when you hear your steering making lots of noise especially when you move slow, check your fluids.
- Steering becomes jumpy or starts jerking: at times, steering jerks while you maneuver from place to place. This is more obvious in parking lots.
How To Change Power Steering Fluid?
Before attempting to do this, make sure you have a pair of gloves on to reduce skin contact, protect your eyes and clean up when done. Raise your vehicle with a jack stand, should you need to. Get rid of used steering fluids at recycling centers accepting of automobile oils.
As manufacturer specified automatic transmission fluid or power steering fluid should be used, go through your manual to see what is recommended.
Pro Guide On Changing Power Steering Fluid
- Search for a cap which has a ”power steering fluid only” label or a steering wheel symbol, within your engine accessories. This is your steering fluid reservoir. Unscrew the cap.
- Lift the vehicle’s front till the wheels come off the ground with a jack. Don’t forget to place the jack stand beneath it.
- With gloves on, send the fluid out the reservoir to your catch can with a turkey blaster or transfer pump.
- When the fluid in the reservoir gets too low to be sent out, turn your car key to accessories which turns the steering without the steering pump. Turn your wheels extreme left and right to drain the pump of dirty fluids still inside it.
- Continue to do so until there is no fluid is left. Clean up the drips with towels. Put a funnel in the neck of the fluid reservoir.
- Pour your new steering fluid, following the manual instruction. Don’t fill to overflow.
- Replace the cap and turnkeys again to the accessories. Move the wheel like you previously did and watch it as you might have to add to it. While doing this, you might observe bubbles, which is good as it doesn’t have to be dried of air bubbles like brake fluids.
- Remove the jack stand and bring the vehicle back on wheels.
- Switch on the engine and let it run for 15 seconds while moving the wheels from end to end.
- Ensure air isn’t trapped in the system by checking the fluid level.
- Take a 5 minutes drive, listening for the pump whine when turning. When you get back and the fluid level is still on ”full hot” line on its dipstick, all is well.
How Often To Change Power Steering Fluid?
While this has been on the debate as different sources claim different things, it’s best to sit in the middle.
Some claim that it should be changed always at seventy to one hundred thousand miles. Asides this, some other sources claim every two years. This has no one answer as even vehicle manufacturers differ in opinions.
This is no cause for alarm as no party is particularly correct or otherwise. As said before, it is just best to sit in the mid of the claims. That means whether for you seventy thousand miles come first or two years does just get it done.
How To Flush Power Steering Fluid?
This can be achieved in two ways as follow:
- Remove lowest power steering line found, commonly placed with the steering rack, gear or cool lines.
- Completely drain the system of any fluid in it. This could take a little time due to the stickiness/thickness of the fluid.
- Once done, fill up the reservoir to half full.
- Let someone start the car and ensure you keep it at that level as bubbles many be experienced due to existing air pockets being pumped to the reservoir.
- Once a good level is established, close the reservoir.
Another way to do this which is a bit difficult but completely drains the system is:
- Locate the spot on the power steering rack where its return line exits, taking fluid to the steering reservoir. Unhook it where it’s lowest in the system.
- Have someone turn on the car and keep adding oil to the reservoir, making sure it is half full at the minimum and also have someone checking the open return line.
- At this point, the fluid should drain from your car into your catch can.
- Immediately you see that the fluid has become the new one you put in, kill the engine and put back the open return line.
- Restart vehicle to expel trapped air from the system with steering reservoir cap removed.
- Once bubbles stop, kill the engine level up the fluid in the steering reservoir and cap it.
Do ensure an abundance of power steering fluid to complete this procedure and the people around are qualified enough.
Here is a video on how to flush your power steering fluid:
How To Check Power Steering Fluid Level?
- Go through your car manual as this will have information about how to locate it and the type of fluid to be used. It could also display how to check the fluid level as some vehicles’ fluid level marking can only be checked while running the engine.
- Find the power steering fluid container. Note if the container is wet as this may indicate a high fluid level or weak seal.
- Check the level and condition of the fluid. Some reservoirs are transparent enough to be read off from the side while some have indicators attached to them. Furthermore, fluids expand when hot and their level changes. Some manufacturers use hot or cold level marking.
Also, you can make use of a long stick or dipstick by drying it off a towel and reinserting it into the reservoir. Take it out and do hour readings while also noting the power steering fluid color. If the color is black or dark brown, flush the power steering fluid out.
Top the level of the fluid if there is a case of low power steering fluid, using a funnel attached to the reservoir neck. Pour a little each time and check so that it doesn’t overfill.
How To Check For Power Steering Fluid Leak?
- To check for a power steering fluid leak, you need to get a rag or cleaner firstly. Completely wash and dry the steering system reservoir and pump.
- As a unit, the steering system pump and reservoir’s placement varies from car to car. Spray the lines, pump bottom and reservoir, wiping them down till the wet steering fluid and grime clears off.
- To guarantee they are well sealed, survey power steering pumps to the pressure line connections. Trace the line down the rack from the pump, searching for possible power steering fluid leak at the joints.
- There may be some not well-tightened ends if there had been some replacements in past times. Slide your hands to feel for rips or tears along the lines of the hoses.
- Switch on your vehicle and completely turn the wheels from one end to the other. It will be more ideal for someone else to turn the wheel while you observe the pump.
- Search for flowing fluids originating from a row/line where a pulley is attached to the steering pump, which could be on the pump itself or reservoir.
- Commonly known, the plastic reservoir is a leak source itself. Check joints or seams including the containers’ corners for leaks.
- Unhook reservoir cap, turn the wheels as before again if you detected no leaks. The turning of the wheels would expel any air still in the system. Gauge the fluid and take a drive and when you get back, recheck.
- Once discovered, replace leaking lines or parts. Basically, replace the reservoir and pump if your car has been around for 5 to 10 years. Following this exact guide of how to check power steering fluid will make things much easier.
If the power steering is malfunctioning yet you find no leak, the steering rack or pump may not be good. If you switched your tires for one bigger than its factory size, that also could be the problem.
Checking Power Steering Fluid Condition
To do this, go through your vehicle’s manual. Check for manufacturer recommendations as to different parts like power steering fluid type, engine on or off, etc. The best way is checking what color is power steering fluid:
- Transparent reservoirs make it easy to check fluid levels while non-transparent ones need a bit more effort. If yours is not transparent, kindly use the dipstick commonly joined to the cap.
- Remove the pump cap and check if there is power steering fluid hitting the dipstick’s full mark indicator.
- Notice the fluid’s color: proper power steering fluid color is pink or amber.
- Black or brown power steering fluid color means it needs to be changed.
- Change or refill as approximate.
- Remember to fill to full mark on dipstick and not more than that
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