power steering fluid

Multiple fluids help your vehicle run, including the oil, transmission, coolant and power steering. When you have to exert more force to turn the vehicle, your power steering fluid likely needs to be topped off or flushed and replenished.

What Is Power Steering Fluid?

Vehicles are equipped with manual or power steering, with the latter more common on newer-model cars. Power steering systems can use either hydraulic or electric power. Whichever source it has, power steering is behind your car’s performance and feel, resulting in a smoother sensation as you drive.

The fluid helps transmit the power to operate it, creating pressure on the sides of the piston and helping you easily turn the wheel. At the same time, power steering protects the system’s parts. Once the fluid depletes or starts to thin, the steering pump may begin to experience a greater deal of wear and tear, which eventually spreads, including to the rack and pinion.

Types of Power Steering Fluids

Power steering fluids include the following basic types:

  • Mineral Fluids: These use refined petroleum and tend to be the most affordable available.
  • Synthetic Fluids: Synthetic power steering fluids offer smoother energy transmission, feature additives and primarily use a blend of polyester and polyhydric alcohol.
  • Semi-Synthetic Fluids: Both synthetic and mineral sources make up this fluid, resulting in a lower amount of viscosity and improved lubrication.
  • Universal Fluids: These are compatible with the majority of power steering systems, as they are designed to reduce friction and improve lubrication and responsiveness.

When to Change the Power Steering Fluid

Reference your owner’s manual for when to change the power steering fluid. On average, this amount tends to be every 50,000 miles. Yet certain signs indicate you may need to replace the fluid sooner:

  • The fluid is brown or black in color. Typically, power steering fluid has a clear consistency with an amber, red or pink shade. Black or brown indicates contamination, specifically by the presence of rubber from adjacent hoses or seals. At this stage, the fluid should be flushed from the system. Other parts may need to be replaced, as a leak could form.
  • The fluid has a milky or foamy color. Black and brown are not the only colors for concern. Power steering fluid that looks milky and translucent or has a foamy quality indicates contamination by air or water.
  • The level has dropped. Falling below the “Min” line on the reservoir or the dipstick means the level is insufficient” It’s a good idea to check it monthly for leaks.
  • You notice leaking. This can occur as a result of damaged or disintegrating O-rings, seals or power steering system components. A leak tends to occur in conjunction with difficulty steering or a whining sound as you turn.

If you notice any of the above signs, take your vehicle to DaSilva’s Auto Body to have the power steering fluid topped off or completely flushed. We’ll further assess the full system to determine if any worn or damaged parts need to be replaced. To schedule an appointment, contact our Naugatuck shop today.