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3 Different Types of Power Steering Fluid (and How to Change)

Power steering was first invented in 1951, but it took many years before the feature was included in all vehicles. If you’ve ever driven without power steering, you know how difficult it can be to get the car where you want it. Fortunately, this is not something we have to deal with today, as long as we maintain our vehicles with the correct types of power steering fluid.

We go over the different types of power steering fluid to tell you what type of power steering fluid you need and see the steps to replace it. By keeping this system working at its best, we ensure a smooth and easy ride.

Types of power steering fluid

The most common types of power steering fluid are ATF transmission fluid, synthetic fluid, and universal power steering fluid. All of these types of power steering fluid have their own properties and it is important to choose the right type for your car.

Here is a more detailed list of the different types of power steering fluid:

1. ATF Transmission Fluid

Power steering fluid

Some vehicles are compatible with automatic transmission fluid. In these vehicles, you can use Dexron, Mercon, ATF+4, Type F, and other varieties of transmission fluids for your power steering.

Most domestic vehicles from the 1970s to the mid-1990s will use automatic transmission fluid. These include Ford, GM, and Chrysler vehicles. Additionally, all Volkswagen models built in the United States from 1984 to 1989 also use automatic transmission fluid.

2. Synthetic based hydraulic fluid

Japanese and European vehicles maintain different standards with power steering fluid, requiring a high-performance synthetic fluid to meet ISO 7308 and DIN 51 524T3 standards. Volkswagen, Volvo, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi meet different standards, depending on the year, make, and model of the vehicle.

Additionally, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Honda have unique power steering fluid specifications. Synthetic fluid is designed to flow well, even at lower temperatures, improving pump lubrication and extending system life.

3. universal power steering fluid

There is also a universal power steering fluid option that can be used in many modern vehicles. However, some manufacturers recommend putting special additives in this fluid to add lubrication to the pump and seal or to provide corrosion protection.

To find the correct power steering fluid for a vehicle, you must look at the power steering reservoir cap. The information should also be listed in the car’s owner’s manual.

When should I change the power steering fluid?

Since power steering fluid is used in a clean environment, it will last longer than many other automotive fluids. In fact, most manufacturers do not set a recommended maintenance interval for their power steering fluid.

That said, it’s a general rule of thumb to replace power steering fluid every 50,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first.

After this long period, the fluid begins to break down and you may notice contamination, which could affect the steering gear and pump. Additionally, corrosion inhibitors are depleted. Combined with the high temperatures under the hood, the fluid may begin to oxidize.

You can check your owner’s manual to see if the car manufacturer specifies a change interval or follow the recommended guidelines listed above. However, if the fluid looks dirty or dark, you should change it, no matter how much time has passed.

Like any other automotive fluid, power steering fluid is intended for lubrication. If it starts to accumulate debris and moisture, it won’t be as effective. Old power steering fluid can make noise and cause pump failure.

How to Check the Power Steering Fluid Level

Check the power steering fluid

1. Locate the tank and pump

Before you can check your power steering fluid, you need to know where to look. The power steering pump is usually located on one side of the engine and is driven by a belt.

On the other hand, the tank is at the top of this pump. On some vehicles, the reservoir is remote and mounted on the inner fender, as there is no room on the pump for it. Make sure your vehicle is turned off before continuing.

2. Remove the lid

Before removing the cover, it is important to remove any debris or dirt from the area. You don’t want contaminants to get into the liquid when you remove the cap.

Carefully unscrew the tank cap. With the dipstick in place or using the markings on the reservoir, check the fluid level. It can say FULL or have an ADD/LOW line.

In most cases, your vehicle should contain the same amount of fluid over the years. However, as your vehicle ages or if there is a small leak somewhere, you may notice a drop in fluid levels.

3. Add more liquid

If the power steering fluid level is low, you must add enough until it reaches the FULL mark. This fluid expands as it heats up, so it may have different markings depending on whether the system is HOT or COLD.

Do not overfill the fluid reservoir. Otherwise, power steering fluid could begin to leak from the system, especially when it heats up and runs out of room in the reservoir.

How to change the power steering fluid

1. Drain the system

You must disconnect all hoses from the rack or steering gear and drain the fluid into a container. However, this could still leave liquid trapped.

To drain this fluid, you must reconnect the system, except for the return hose, and add a small amount of new power steering fluid. Once you start the vehicle, the pump will expel the old fluid through this hose. Be sure to catch it in a container.

Additionally, you will want to turn the flywheel with the pump turning to ensure that the new fluid has taken the place of the old fluid.

2. Add new power steering fluid

Reconnect the return hose. With the old fluid removed, you are ready to add new power steering fluid to the system. Be sure to use only compatible fluids in your system.

3. Bleed the power steering system

Add liquid until it reaches the full mark. Start the car engine and turn the steering wheel completely left and right several times. Fill more fluid if the level drops.

Power Steering Fluid Replacement Cost

Power steering fluid replacement costs on average between $95 and $140 when you take your vehicle to the store. However, you can do it yourself for the cost of new fluid.

However, if you don’t change your power steering fluid, you could end up with a damaged pump. To replace the power steering pump, you could spend several hundred dollars.


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