The steering system is one of the most important parts of the vehicle. It helps the driver to steer the vehicle wheels precisely and efficiently. It requires a proper supply of the power steering fluid to work efficiently. Without power steering fluid, the steering wheel of your vehicle can feel tight, or in extreme cases, steering can be lost entirely. This article deeply describes the power steering fluid function, its change cost, and how to add power steering fluid to your car.
What is a Power Steering Fluid?
Power steering fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid used in the power steering system to generate a hydraulic connection between the vehicle’s front wheels and the steering wheel. The power steering fluid reduces the force required to change the direction of the wheel.
Power steering fluid is very important to ensure the efficient working of your car and to keep your wheels turning easily.
This hydraulic fluid also helps to lubricate the stirring components of the steering system. The steering fluid prevents the steering pump and steering gears from corrosion by eliminating foaming and keeps the vehicle in healthy condition.
How Power Steering Works
The working of the power steering fluid is very similar to the brake fluid. This fluid makes a link between the vehicle’s actual wheels and the steering wheel. A steering fluid circulates throughout the steering system in the following way:
- Firstly, the engine of your vehicle pumps the steering fluid from the reservoir into the pinion and rack by using pulleys and belts.
- When the steering wheel turns, the fluid flows via a piston, providing extra power to drive the car according to the preferred direction.
- As the steering wheel turns into a straight position, the inlet valves close, blocking fluid flow, and moving the piston back.
- Fortunately, in case of a system power failure, you can still spin the steering wheel, which is very difficult.
Do you know: How does Power Steering work?
Types of Power Steering Fluids
The power steering fluid has the following major types:
- Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)
- Synthetic-based Hydraulic Fluids
- Universal Fluid
1) Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)
ATF is one of the most famous types of power steering fluids. This fluid is usually used in vehicles that have automatic transmissions or self-shifting. The automatic transmission fluid has a green or red color, which differentiates it from the vehicle’s other fluids, coolant, and engine oils.
The qualities of this fluid are improved for special needs of the transmission like gear lubrication, torque converter, brake band friction, and valve operation.
These fluids are also utilized as a lubricant for some modern manual transmission systems. They also use as a hydraulic fluid for some power steering systems.
The latest automatic transmission fluid (ATF) has an additive package and base oil. It also contains different chemical compounds designed to supply the performance required by a particular ATF specification.
Modern ATFs contain various additives that increase the quality of lubrication, such as detergents, anti-corrosion agents, anti-rust agents, dispersants, anti-wear additives, and surfactants (for protecting and cleaning metal surfaces). The combustion of the additives improves the viscosity index and the kinematic viscosity of the fluid.
This fluid helps to lubricate and cool the different parts of the vehicle transmission system to increase performance and drivability.
Read more: Working of Hybrid Cars
2) Synthetic-based Hydraulic Fluid
These fluids are intended to compensate for the deficiencies of mineral hydraulic fluids. The Synthetic-based hydraulic fluid is made from chemically-produced base oils, which have excellent functioning than mineral hydraulic oils.
These power steering fluids have outstanding biodegradability, oxidation stability, and brilliant performance at high temperatures. But they are much more toxic and expensive. They may not be compatible with certain seal materials.
These power steering fluids are most commonly used in high-pressure hydraulic systems, such as those found in mobile equipment, industrial machinery, and aircraft.
3) Universal Power Steering Fluid
The universal power steering fluids are usually used in different latest vehicle models such as SUVs, trucks, and cars. However, some manufacturers suggest adding specific additives to this steering fluid to improve the lubricity of pumps and seals or to prevent rust/corrosion.
These fluids usually contain a blend of additives that deliver anti-wear, corrosion protection, and lubrication properties to the power steering systems.
How to Check Power Steering Fluid
Follow the below-given step to check the power steering fluid level:
- Park the vehicle
- Locate the power steering fluid reservoir
- Remove the reservoir cap
- Check the fluid level
- Check the fluid color
- Add fluid
1) Park the Vehicle
Park your vehicle on a flat surface and turn off the engine. Make sure the vehicle is in “Neutral” or “Park” mode and set the parking brake.
2) Locate the Power Steering Fluid Reservoir
The location of the power steering reservoir varies according to the vehicle model and engine type. To locate the power steering reservoir quickly, check your vehicle manufacturer’s manual and follow its instruction.
The power steering fluid reservoir is a small tank that is usually located under the hood. It has a yellow or white color with a black cap. Maximum fluid reservoirs are marked to indicate the “MIN” and “MAX” levels of the fluid.
3) Remove the Reservoir Cap
After finding the location of the power steering reservoir, use a built-in dipstick to open the cap of the power steering reservoir. Wipe the dipstick clean with a paper or rag towel.
5) Check the Fluid Level
After opening the cap, check the level of the fluid. It should be above than “MIN” mark and equal to or less than the “MAX” mark. If the power steering fluid is lower than the “MIN” mark, then add more fluid.
Many reservoirs have “full cold” and “full hot” marks to indicate the temperature condition of the steering fluid.
If your fluid level is lower than engine requirements, then your vehicle engine will be overheated, and it will increase the temperature of the steering fluid. In such conditions, your reservoir fluid will be marked as “full hot.”
6) Check the Fluid Color
After the inspection of your fluid level and temperature, inspect the fluid color. If the color of your vehicle fluid is pink, amber, or light, then you don’t need to worry. If this color has been converted into black or dark brown, change your fluid as soon as possible.
5) Add Fluid
If the reservoir fluid level is lower than the desired level, then open the reservoir cap and add fluid to the reservoir.
How to change Power Steering Fluid?
The power steering fluid replacement is very important for the efficient performance of your steering system. Before changing your fluid, you need to check its color. If the fluid color is light or clear, you don’t need to change it because your fluid is still healthy.
If your power steering fluid color is black, replace it as soon as possible. To change the power steering fluid, follow the below-given steps:
- Lift the car
- Locate the steering fluid reservoir
- Drain the reservoir
- Drain the steering system
- Flush the system
- Reconnect return lines
- Add fresh fluid
- Turn on the engine
- Check for fluid leaks
- Perform a test drive
Step 1: Lift Your Car
First of all, you need to park your car on a flat surface and turn off the engine. Lift the front of your car by using a jack. Place jack stands under your car to support it.
Step 2: Locate the Reservoir
Locate the power steering fluid reservoir. The location of the power steering fluid reservoir varies according to the vehicle model. It is recommended to check the manufacturer’s manual and follow it. This reservoir is mostly located under the hood.
Step 3: Drain the Reservoir
The power steering fluid reservoir contains a black cap. Open this cap and drain the fluid from the reservoir by using a turkey baster.
Step 4: Drain the Steering System
There are two power steering fluid return lines underneath the vehicle. These lines are connected to the power steering pump. Use a pair of pliers to remove the clamps from the return line. Before removing the return line, you should have a drain pan underneath it.
When you will remove the return lines and hose, the fluid will start to come out of the steering system. Collect this fluid safely in the drain pan.
Steer your steering wheel in the left and right directions multiple times to pump more old fluid out of the system. Keep turning your steering wheel until the fluid stops coming out.
Step 4: Flush the System
The steering system flushing is performed to remove the trapped old fluid and dirt from the system. For this process, fill your reservoir about halfway with fresh fluid but return lines and hose still be disconnected.
Now turn ON the engine of your vehicle and turn the steering wheel. In such a situation, the power steering pump circulates the power steering fluid through the steering system which forces the old trapped fluid and dirt to leave the system.
When the fluid coming out is the same color as the fresh fluid, it means your system is cleaned. Shut off your engine.
Step 5: Reconnect Return Lines
After draining the old fluid, connect the return lines back to their original place. Tight the return hose with clamps.
Step 6: Add Fresh Power Steering Fluid
Add fresh fluid until it reaches the “MAX” mark of the power steering reservoir.
Step 7: Turn on the Engine
Check the reservoir cap. If it is damaged, replace it. Put the cap on the reservoir and turn on the engine. Turn the steering wheel to the right and lift the direction. Recheck the fluid level and add more fluid if its level goes down.
Step 8: Check for Leaks
Look underneath your car to find signs of a fluid leak. anywhere. Pay close attention to where you disconnected the return lines to drain and flush the system.
Step 9: Perform a Test Drive
Now remove the jack stand and drain pan from underneath your car. After removing the jack stand, perform a test drive. If everything looks good, it means you have successfully changed your power steering fluid.
What color is of Power Steering Fluid?
The fresh and normal power steering fluid usually has a clear (or light), pink, amber, or red color. If the color of your steering fluid is foamy or dark brown, you need to change your old fluid.
When Should I Change the Power Steering Fluid?
The lifetime of a power steering fluid varies according to the fluid type and the amount of fluid that you put in your system.
One of the best options is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding when you should change your power steering fluid. The power steering fluid should generally change every 50,000 miles or every 2 years.
Another method is to change the steering fluid according to the warning symptoms. For example, if your vehicle’s fluid light color converts into black, you should immediately change your fluid for the proper working of your vehicle engine. If the steering fluid gets contamination, such as sludge, debris, or dirt, then flush the system and change the fluid.
If you do not change your steering fluid at a time, it may damage different parts of your power steering system.
How Much Does a Power Steering Fluid Change Cost?
The power steering fluid change cost depends on different factors such as the vehicle model, labor cost, and type of fluid. The average cost for the power steering fluid flush is between $14 to $30.
What does Power Steering Fluid do?
Power steering fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid used in power steering to generate a mechanical connection between the front wheels and the steering wheel. The power steering fluid reduces the force required to change the direction of the wheel.
Does Power Steering Fluid go bad?
Yes, the steering fluid can go bad. This is because everything has a specific life cycle; after that, it expires. Similarly, a steering fluid has a specific life cycle. The steering fluid can last for a long service life if you properly seal it and keep it safe from contamination.
What does Flushing the power steering system do?
The phrase “fluid flush” means eliminating all the old fluid from the power steering system and changing it with new fluid.
What kind of power steering fluid do I need?
You must use a fluid that fulfills the fuel’s specific requirements given in the manufacturer’s instruction manual. It is recommended to use synthetic fluid for excellent performance and prevention from pump wear.
What are the symptoms of a bad Power Steering Fluid?
The signs of a bad power steering fluid are given below:
- Extensive noise from the steering
- Hard to turn the steering
- The black color of the fluid
Do you need to replace the power steering fluid?
The steering fluid has a specific life cycle. You need to replace it just before the end of its service life. Different types of power steering fluids have different service life. Maximum fluids need to be replaced 50,000 miles or every 2 years, or if the fluid color becomes black.
How do you know if you need power steering fluid?
There are different symptoms of a bad power steering fluid. If the fluid color becomes black or dark brown, you need to change your vehicle fluid. If your steering generates high noise or is hard to turn, you need to check the fluid level in the fluid reservoir and add more fluid if its level has become low.
Are all cars use the same power steering fluid?
The answer is no. Different types of cars use different power steering fluids. Maximum cars use Pentosin steering fluids, but these fluids also have different types. The correct fluid choice for a vehicle is very important for the proper working and turning of the steering.
What happens if you put the wrong power steering fluid in?
If you add the wrong power steering fluid into your steering system, your steering will be hard to turn, and your steering pump will start to generate extensive noise. The addition of the wrong fluid will also start to damage the different parts of the system or cause complete failure of the steering system.
Can I use Castrol GT Power steering fluid in my 2012 Nissan Murano?
The answer is yes. Prestone Power Steering Fluid 12 Ounce can be used in Nissan Murano.
What is the best alternative to Nissan power steering fluid for a 2002 Frontier XE six cylinder?
If the Nissan Power Steering Fluid (PSF) is not available in your area then use a well-matched ATF (automatic transmission fluid) as an alternative.
How to add power steering fluid to your engine
- Locate the reservoir: For adding fluid into the steering fluid reservoir, you need to find its location. Different vehicles have different reservoir locations. Therefore, check the manufacturer’s manual and follow it. In this way, you can easily find your vehicle engine’s fluid reservoir.
- Check the Fluid level: After finding the reservoir, open the black color cap of the reservoir and check the fluid level. The reservoir has “MAX” and “MIN” marks, which indicate the maximum and minimum levels of the fluid inside the reservoir. The fluid level must be between these two marks.
- Add fluid: If the fluid level is lower than the “MIN” mark, then add fluid into the reservoir up to the desired level. It is recommended that you use a funnel to insert the fluid into your engine. It is recommended that you add steering fluid slightly lower than the “MAX” mark.