What is Power Steering Fluid? | How to Add Power Steering Fluid?

What is a Power Steering Fluid?

Power steering fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid used in power steering to generate a mechanical 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.

This hydraulic fluid also helps to lubricate the stirring components of the steering system. The steering fluid prevents the steering pump and power steering gear from corrosion by eliminating foaming and keeps the vehicle in healthy condition.

power steering fluid system

How Power Steering Works

The working of the power steering fluid is very similar to the brake system. This fluid makes a link between the vehicle’s actual wheels and the steering wheel. A steering fluid works in the following way:

Power steering fluid working

  • Firstly, the engine of your vehicle pumps the power 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 fluid providing 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:

  1. Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

  2. Synthetic-based Hydraulic Fluids

  3. Universal Fluid

1) Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

ATF is a famous type of transmission fluid that uses in automobiles with automatic transmission or self-shifting. This type of steering fluid has a green or red color, which differentiates it from the vehicle’s other fluids and 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.

This fluid also uses as a lubricant for some modern manual transmission systems and some 4WD transfer cases and as a hydraulic fluid for some power steering systems.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

The latest automatic transmission fluid has an additive package and base oil and contains different chemical compounds designed to supply the performance required by a particular ATF specification.

Most modern ATFs use a combination of 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 Fluids

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.

Synthetic-based Hydraulic Fluid

These power steering fluids have outstanding biodegradability, oxidation stability, and brilliant performance at high temperatures. But they are much more toxic, expensive, and may not be compatible with certain seal materials.

Read more: Different types of Pumps

3) Universal Power Steering Fluids

The universal power steering fluid can use in many latest automobiles. However, some manufacturers suggest adding specific additives in this steering fluid to improve the lubricity of pumps and seals or to prevent rust/corrosion.

Universal power steering fluid

How to check Power Steering Fluid?

Follow the below-given step to check the power steering fluid level:

1) Find the locations of the power steering reservoir:

The location of the power steering reservoir varies according to the type of vehicle. Therefore, follow the manufacturer’s given manual to find the location of your vehicle’s fluid reservoir. Most commonly, it is a small tank that has black cap. Maximum fluid reservoirs are marked to indicate the “MIN” and “MAX” levels of the fluid.

2) Check the fluid level: 

After finding the location of the power steering reservoir, use a built-in dipstick to open the cap of the power steering reservoir. 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.

fluid level mark in the power steering reservoir

3) Remove the cap again and check the fluid level:

Many reservoirs have “full cold” and “full hot” marks to indicate the temperature condition of the steering fluid.

fluid hot and fluid cold marks

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.” To check this, open your power steering reservoir cap again and check this mark.

4) Check the color of the fluid: 

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 opens the reservoir cap and add fluid to the reservoir.

add fluid in the power steering reservoir

How to add power steering fluid to your engine?

If you want to add power steering fluid into your power steering reservoir, follow the following steps.

  1. Find the reservoir location: For adding fluid into the reservoir, you need to find its location. Different vehicles have different power steering reservoir locations. Therefore, check the manufacturer given instruction manual and follow it. In this way, you can easily find your vehicle engine’s fluid reservoir.
  2. 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 level of the fluid inside the reservoir. The fluid level must be between these two marks.
  3. 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 power steering fluid slightly lower than the “MAX” mark.

How to Change Power Steering Fluid?

The power steering fluid replacement is very important for the proper working of your engine. Before changing your fluid, you need to check its color. If it is light or clear, you don’t need to change it because your fluid is still healthy.

However, if your fluid color is black, replace it as soon as possible. To change the power steering fluid, follow the below-given steps:

  1. Flush the System
  2. Add Fresh Fluid
  3. Bleed the power steering system
1) Flush the system

When you feel that you should change your power steering fluid, firstly, flush the system.

For this process, firstly, disconnect the hose from the steering gears or rack and discharge the fluid in a tank. After this, some fluid could remain in the system.

To discharge this trapped fluid, reconnect the system (with the exception of the fluid return hose) and introduce a small amount of new fluid.

Now turn ON the engine of your vehicle. The power steering pump will force the old fluid to leave the system as the engine starts working.

In addition, the pump must be turned ON until the whole old fluid leaves the system.                                                                                                                

2) Add Fresh Power Steering Fluid

After draining the old fluid, recouple the return hose. Add the fresh fluid into the system according to the requirements.                                                                                  

3) Bleed the power steering system

Add fresh fluid until it reaches up to the “MAX” mark of the power steering reservoir. After adding the fluid, “Turn ON” the vehicle engine and turn the vehicle wheels in the right and lift direction. Recheck the fluid level and add more fluid if its level goes down. 

For a better understanding, follow the below-given video for changing the fluid:

Power Steering Fluid Leak

The leak of the power steering fluid in a vehicle is one of the worst problems. The steering fluid stores in a fluid reservoir. This reservoir looks like a tank. The fluid moves from this reservoir through the hose to the pump.

As the pump receives fluid, it further transfers the fluid to the steering gear, which runs the steering wheel smoothly. Therefore, there is a risk of fluid leaking from the above-mentioned parts. Some steering systems contain a radiator that can also cause a leak.

Compressed power steering pump fluid leaks occur as a result of seal wear or natural wear and tear. Unfiltered and impure fluid may also damage the seal. In general, the standard and healthy steering fluid has a clear, red, or pink color. Dirty fluid has a black or brown color.

If the pump is operated with insufficient fluid, metal particles in it can penetrate other steering components like gears and racks and cause intense damage.

How to Fix Power Steering Fluid Leak?

The components of the power steering and engine are very close to each other. Therefore, engine oil leaks and power steering fluid leaks are often confused with each other. The texture, smell, and color of the engine oils make them different from steering fluids.

 The fluid leakage may occur due to a damaged pressure valve or hose. You can stop the fluid leak by replacing these damaged components such as the pressure valve, the hose.

Sometimes, the fluid leaks due to the broken seal. In such a condition, you need to replace everything, not only the seal. Due to this reason, you need to replace the entire hose.

For fixing the steering fluid leakage, follow the manufacturer’s given manual and repeats all the steps written on the manual.

If you want to fix the power steering leak temporarily, then use a stop leak agent. The stop leak agent fixes existing leaks and stops future leaks. After putting this agent into the leaking part, you need to change the damaged part with a corresponding part if the leak occurs again.

Talk to a professional to find out how to deal with the leak before repairing the leak. This will assist you in finding a long-term solution to your problem.

What color is of Power Steering Fluid?

In maximum cases, the color of a normal power steering fluid is clear (or light), pink, amber, or red. If the color of your steering fluid is foamy or dark brown, you need to change your fluid.

When Should I Change 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 steering fluid. The power steering fluid should generally change after at least every 80468 kilometers or every 5 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 convert 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.

The oxidation process can also wear out to fluid. As the fluid wears out, the pump produces undesired noise.

If you do not change your steering fluid at a time, it may damage different parts of your power steering rack and power steering pump. It is recommended that you should change the fluid before permanently changing the pump. That’s a lot more expensive.

FAQ Section

Does Power Steering Fluid go bad?

Yes, the power 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 eliminate all the fluid from the power steering system and exchange 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:

  1. Extensive noise of the steering
  2. Hard to turn the steering
  3. 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 ending of its service life. Different types of power steering fluids have different service life. Maximum fluids need to be replaced after 5 years or 80468-kilometer distance, 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

How many quarts of oil does a 2010 Lexus es350 take?

A 2010 Lexus es350 takes 6.4 quarts (with filter).

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

Read More
  1. What are different types of pumps?
  2. What are different types of compressors?
  3. How does Power Steering System work?

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