Everything About Power Steering Fluid Maintenance

August 7th, 2014 by

What Power Steering Fluid Does

Engine oil is well known and people generally are very responsible with their vehicle’s oil changes which is great, unfortunately there are many other fluids that play a role in your vehicle’s operation which are commonly overlooked. One such fluid that fill an important role is power steering fluid. Power steering fluid is a key element in your vehicle’s hydraulic power steering system. The fluid is controlled by a pump that pressurizes it and uses it to move a piston which helps to turn the wheels of a car. This fluid, like most things, can break down and become contaminated over time. If there is not enough fluid in the system, or the fluid has been contaminated by degenerating O-rings and other components, the system will end up working much harder than necessary and performance will suffer.

Obviously, steering is important and crucial to proper function. Operating with less than optimal fluid levels can cause significant damage to key components of the system which are very expensive to repair and these repairs can be easily avoided by maintaining the power steering fluid.

How to Check and Maintain you Power Steering Fluid

Power steering systems, like many components of vehicles, can vary between different models based on their layout. If you open your engine bay and have a quick look around, you should be able to locate a cylindrical container that will have a cap labelled “Power Steering Fluid.” If you can’t find the reservoir after a quick check, refer to your owner’s manual.

Depending on the make up of your system, there are a variety of ways that you may need to check you fluid’s level.  Some reservoirs are transparent plastic and feature min and max level or hot and cold level indicators. For min and max levels, the fluid should be in between the lines, for hot and cold, the lines should be at either level depending on whether the engine has been running or not. Some systems are not transparent and use a dipstick similar to the engine oil system’s with proper levels marked on it.

Pay attention to the color of the fluid, it is likely clear but also could be slightly yellow or pink but should be very transparent in all cases. If the fluid is dark brown or black, it has been contaminated by degenerating components and you should have the fluid replaced and the components of the system inspected for potential damage.

It could be difficult to clearly see the color of the fluid, if you’re having trouble, wipe some fluid onto a white rag or paper towel for easier inspection.
If your power steering fluid is not at an optimal level, you can add more into the reservoir.  Be very careful to avoid overfilling the reservoir as this can be more damaging than slightly under filling as the fluid expands as its heated. Be sure to use the proper type of fluid for your vehicle as well, there are different thicknesses depending on the system.

Make sure to replace the cap on the reservoir and you’re done! Have any questions or anything to say? Respond in the comments below.