Have you ever driven an old car without power steering or perhaps a newer one where the power steering was not working properly? You quickly realize just how important the power steering system on your vehicle is. It allows you to cruise down the highway and make turns with just a couple of fingers on the steering wheel. Without it, you would have to use both hands to wrestle the wheel in order to turn and steer your vehicle. Just like your engine oil, you need to keep a check on your power steering fluid level and make sure it stays within normal operating range. In addition, the fluid must be flushed and changed when it becomes old and dirty. Keep reading because we’re about to tell you everything you need to know about power steering fluid.
How To Check Your Power Steering Fluid
The process to check power steering fluid levels varies based on what kind of vehicle you own. Some vehicles utilize a dipstick similar to your engine oil while others have a reservoir with capacity lines on it. You can always check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific instructions. We’ll talk about some of the most common methods here.
1. Locate Your Power Steering Fluid Reservoir
The first step to checking your fluid is to locate your fluid reservoir. This part is located in different places on different vehicles, so it will require you becoming familiar with your car. Most reservoirs are located right on top of the power steering pump, while some vehicles have remote reservoirs that are located in another area under the hood. Look for a small clear plastic canister with a black cap on it.
2. Check Fluid Levels Using Dipstick
Most power steering dipsticks are located directly on the reservoir cap. Wipe the cap clean, and then remove it to reveal the dipstick. Wipe the dipstick clean, and then reinsert it into the reservoir. Remove it again and check to see the fluid level on the dipstick. If your cap does not have a dipstick on it, then your reservoir likely has ‘Min’ and ‘Max’ indicator lines on the side. Make sure the level of your power steering fluid is between these two lines.
3. Top Off Your Fluid Levels
If the fluid level in your reservoir is low, then you’ll need to top it off to get it back into the proper operating range. Make sure that you use the type of fluid that is recommended for your vehicle. Your owner’s manual should let you know exactly what the recommended fluid type for your vehicle is. The type of power steering fluid you use can depend on the age of your vehicle as well as the style of power steering system on your vehicle.
What Should My Power Steering Fluid Look Like?
When you check your fluid level, you need to also look at the color and texture of your fluid. Clean and fresh fluid should be an amber or light brown color. If your fluid is dark brown and dirty, then you should not add new fluid to the old, gunky fluid. In this case, you’ll need to remove the old fluid by flushing your power steering system and refilling it with new fluid.
As your fluid becomes old and dirty over time, it loses its ability to properly lubricate your power steering components. The dirt and particles in the fluid can also cause your power steering pump to fail, so it’s imperative that you keep the fluid fresh and clean. Similar to automatic transmission fluid or brake fluid, power steering fluid must also be flushed and replaced on a regular maintenance schedule. Keep reading and we’ll tell you how to flush your system.
How To Flush Your Power Steering Fluid System
Maybe now you’re wondering how to change power steering fluid. Performing a power steering fluid change can be a messy job, so you should be prepared with the proper tools and know-how to perform the job. If you don’t think you’re up to the task, then consider hiring a mechanic to do it for you. This is a maintenance item that should not be ignored as it can lead to pump failure and an even bigger expense. Here are the steps you need to take to perform the task yourself.
1. Siphon Your Power Steering Reservoir
The first step you’ll need to complete is removing as much fluid as possible from the reservoir. You will need a siphon tool like a fluid extraction pump to remove the old fluid. If you don’t have a pump like this, you can even use something like a handheld turkey baster to remove the fluid. The more you can remove, the less messy things will be in the following steps!
2. Add New Fluid
Now, you can refill the reservoir with new fluid; however, there is still old fluid remaining in the pump itself and all the lines. You’ll need to start the vehicle and turn the steering wheel as far as possible to one side and then back to the other. This will push the old fluid out of the pump and lines and back into the reservoir so that you can remove it.
In some vehicles, it might be easier to disconnect the low-pressure return hose and drain it to a catch pan. Keep the reservoir full with fresh fluid and start the vehicle. Then turn the wheel all the way to one side and then back to the other This forces the fresh fluid to flush through the system and into the catch pan.
3. Flush The Old Fluid & Repeat
Repeat step 2 above until the system contains all new fluid! If you used the first option, you will siphon the reservoir again and refill with new fluid. Repeat this 2-3 times until the fluid in the system is all brand new. If you used the second option, you’ll keep the reservoir full and turn the wheel side to side at least 3 times.
4. Bleed Oxygen From Power Steering Reservoir
When you flush the system, it’s likely that oxygen works its way into the system. You’ll need to bleed the oxygen from the system by reattaching the hoses and turning the wheel side to side all the way to lock. You can also lift the front of the vehicle with jack stands if possible. Elevating the front-end will help the air bubbles float upward and exit the system through the reservoir easier. Now you’re done! No need to worry about resetting that check engine light because power steering issues don’t even cause it to come on.
Is It Worth Flushing My Power Steering Fluid Myself?
Flushing the hydraulic fluid from your power steering system is a messy job, but one that you can perform yourself if you have a little mechanical knowledge. The job is also easier if you have a partner to help you. If you don’t like the idea of doing this yourself or your car is already old and worn out anyway, why not just sell your car the easy way. Auto Wranglers will make you a cash offer in no time, and we’ll pay you top dollar for it.
We buy cars everywhere, and we’ll buy yours too! We always provide free towing and pickup, and our entire process takes just a day or two. Whether you’re selling an old junk car or a Honda or Toyota that’s in great shape, we’ll come to you with cash in hand. Give us a call today to get started!
Whether you have an electronic power steering system or a hydraulic powered one, keeping the fluid clean and at the proper level is crucial to the operation of your steering rack. You’ll want to keep an eye on your fluid every month or so – at least at every oil change – and be prepared to flush the fluid when it’s time. If you’d prefer to skip this service and just go ahead and sell your car instead, Auto Wranglers will be here for you. You can contact us for a free instant quote, and we’ll come to your location with cash in 24-48 hours. Go ahead and contact us right away to get your free offer!
Do you check power steering fluid with the engine on or off?
You check your fluid level with the engine off. Checking it with the engine running could be dangerous as you might accidentally touch a moving part like the serpentine belt, which could result in a severe injury. However, it is generally recommended that your engine be warm when you check the fluid level.
How do I know if my power steering fluid is low?
The most obvious way to tell if your fluid is low is by checking the fluid level. When your fluid starts to get low, you might also hear a whining or squealing sound when you turn your steering wheel. The sound might be even worse if you try to turn the wheel when the car is parked.
How often should I check power steering fluid?
While it’s not necessary to check your fluid before each trip, you should keep an eye on it on a regular basis. Most mechanics recommend checking the level of fluid every month or so to make sure that it maintains a proper level. This also allows you to keep an eye on the color of the fluid too.
Do you check power steering fluid when it's hot or cold?
You should check your fluid when the vehicle is warm. Some reservoirs may even have Hot and Cold indicator lines that show where the fluid should be when the vehicle is warm or cold. If your vehicle has a dipstick, then check the fluid with the vehicle warm, but not running.
How often should I flush my power steering fluid?
You’ve already learned how to flush power steering fluid, so how often do you do it? How often your hydraulic power steering system should have the fluid flushed is a hotly debated topic among car mechanics. Most vehicle maintenance schedules do not include a power steering flush at all. However, all mechanics agree that your fluid does need to be changed when it becomes old. Some mechanics suggest every two years or 30,000 – 60,000 miles while others recommend changing your fluid every 75,000 – 100,000 miles. We suggest splitting the difference and performing this service around 65,000 – 70,000 miles.