Power steering has revolutionized driving experience. It is highly responsive and easy to handle. However, to keep it at its optimum functionality, you need to carry out routine maintenance on the power steering system. Some of these maintenance routines include flushing power steering fluid.
What is Power Steering Fluid
This is a specially formulated hydraulic fluid, which keeps your car’s steering wheel working correctly. In addition to this, the power steering fluid can also protect your vehicle.
Is It Necessary to Flush Power Steering
Every vehicle with hydraulic power-steering needs power steering fluid flush. This process improves the efficiency of a power steering wheel by making its pump easy to turn. The steering wheel fluid accumulates sludge and metal particles with time forming a thick grit resembling sand on pinion seal and cracks, which ultimately destroys them.
Even though your car owner’s manual does not include flushing your vehicle’s steering wheel fluid on its routine maintenance practices, you should do it to keep your car running at its optimum abilities. When you regularize flushing your power steering, you have to use the right fluid. Therefore, vehicle owners would ask what the best type of power steering fluid to use on their car’s steering wheel system.
What Type of Power Steering Fluid Do I Need for my Car?
Determining the type of power steering fluid for your car could be easy or hard, depending on your approach. If you look at your vehicle’s owner manual, you will know which fluid is best suited for your car. However, it could also be challenging if you decide on the type of fluid based on observing what is currently in your car.
If you do not have your car owner’s manual for some reason, you can use these tips to determine the type of fluid you need for your vehicle.
Start by examining your car to ascertain if it uses a hydraulic power steering mechanism. Car manufactured between 1980 and early 2000 are likely to have this system. However, you need to confirm these assumptions by further examining your car. The latest car models had a complete manual power steering wheel mechanism because of their smaller tires.
Modern car manufacturers are moving towards electric power-assist steering systems. These systems are fitted in the most recent models to allow them to become energy efficient by increasing mileage per unit fuel. This system fits into the new car models that lack parasitic drag experienced by old cars in their motor’s hydraulic pump.
How Will You Know the Right Type of Power Steering Fluid For Your Car?
Simply examine the type of steering in your car. Do this by looking underneath the hood of your car. Locate your engine’s power steering fluid reservoir. All hydraulic power steering systems have reservoirs used for holding the power steering fluid. It is from this reservoir that your car’s pump draws power steering fluid.
The typical reservoir is white or clear or black plastic that has a well defined identifying cap. Sometimes it is hard to locate the reservoir. Therefore, you need to find your car’s power steering pump and lay your hand on the low-pressure line that extends from your pump all the way to the car’s reservoir.
Using the right power steering fluid guarantees your engine’s longevity and the smooth running of your vehicle. The power steering pump pressurizes this fluid. The pressure created in this process is what helps a driver to take a turn while driving. The car’s power steering fluid is added into the system to provide an extra force needed to turn your car’s wheels. Apart from turning the wheels, this fluid lubricates the steering system and protects it against corrosion. It also ensures the rubber seals in the system remain in a good operational state.
When you add the wrong type of power steering fluid, it might end up being too thick or too thick to offer the right lubrication. This could lead to wear and tear. The wrong fluid might also be missing the right additives that could prevent wear, tear, and corrosion in your car’s steering system. In extreme cases, this could lead to fluid leaks.
Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) and Power Steering Fluid (PS)
Why is there confusion on which type of fluid to use in your power steering system? Some systems use automatic transmission fluid, while others only accept the power steering fluid. The automatic transmission fluid is available in different compositions.
When the examination of your car’s power steering fluid reservoir cap and the owner’s manual guide does not give you a piece of leading information on which fluid to use, you should use a power steering fluid application chart to find your car on the detailed list.
PS fluid is a pinkish or amber or clear liquid with a similar smell burnt marshmallow ATF is a red liquid with a uniquely pleasing smell. Both ATF and PS are hydraulic fluids. However, they differ in chemical composition as ATF has friction modifiers and detergents. Detergents in this fluid filter out dirt and grease that would otherwise found their way into your car’s power steering system and damage the steering rack’s hydraulic valves and pump. ATF’s friction modifiers regulate heat buildup in the pump and valves.
PS fluid, on the other hand, lowers friction between moving components within the system. It also regulates surplus temperature rising in your system. Some of its other crucial roles in the system include lubricating the gear unit and steering pump. It also supplies hydraulic pressure to the components in your steering wheel system.
Advantages of Power Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid is easy to use. You add this fluid to your power steering system, which complements its operation by making it easy for a driver to effortlessly turn the vehicle. A vehicle without a power steering system is challenging to turn.
The fluid also protects you’re the steering system of your car from corrosion. The system has metallic parts that might rust over time. However, PS fluid protects these parts, increasing their lifespan and reducing the cost of future repairs on the system.
PS fluid has the ability to stop leaks in your car. Some PS fluids have stop leak protection component that goes a long way to prevent leaks from your system. Such fluids use plasticizers, which revitalizes rubber seals across the steering system.
Types of Power Steering Fluid
There are two main types of PS fluids in the market. These are:
OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Power Steering Fluids
OEM is commonly used to describe vehicle parts. It is, however, also used when describing fluids. Fluids with OEM certification are manufactured by your specific car maker. This fluid comes with a lot of benefits, including guaranteed compatibility. Additionally, when adding fluid onto existing fluid in the system, you are assured the two fluids have the same properties.
Third-Party Power Steering Fluids
Your specific car manufacturer does not make this type of fluid; instead, you buy it from a different supplier. Some third-party power steering fluids producers might say that their fluid is compatible with all vehicle models. However, they are only compatible with a few car models. When using these products, you need to be extremely careful to ensure that you only use fluids that are compatible with your system. They are, however, not as expensive as fluids from manufacturers.
Honda Power Steering Fluid
Honda power steering fluid is one of the top fluid brands in the market today. The company is renowned for its high-performance motorcycles, and most recently, cars. It also produces motorsport cars, marine products, and power types of equipment.
As the company sells its range of products, it also fronts its Honda power steering fluid (view on Amazon) as an accompaniment.
Can You Replace PS Fluid with ATF Fluid on Any Vehicle?
Replacing hydraulic fluids in cars depends on the vehicle’s model. Some manufacturers discourage car owners from doing it while others. They only allow it if it is an emergency. However, other manufacturers permit drivers to replace hydraulic fluids.
However, the long-term effects of replacing PS for ATF affect your car’s engine negatively by degrading the structure of your vehicle’s steering system.
In case you have a car that was manufacture in the late 1970s or earlier, you can PS with ATF. These cars have power steering systems composed of crude materials, which can support ATF fluid.
Recently produced cars have power steering systems made of lightweight yet sophisticated materials that breakdown when the hydraulic fluid is replaced. In addition to this, these cars have delicate parts and subtle engineering. Each component and system in the car can only use a specific type of fluid or fuel to run efficiently. Therefore, replacing fluids in these cars is dangerous.
You Need to know this About Your Steering Fluid
Power steering fluid is under a tremendous amount of pressure. As a vehicle continuously accumulates miles these components eventually wear out. The U-joint couplings and bearings in the steering system become corroded, start to crack in the most pressurized places, or stop working altogether. When this happens, it becomes difficult to tilt the steering wheel and lock in, or you cannot do it all. This is also a symptom of further problems with the intermediate steering wheel shaft. If you bought a used car, the deterioration of some of the steering system parts has already started, including the wear on the power steering fluid.
If you want to avoid steering problems or other issues and save $100s of dollars that you’ll spend at the auto repair shop, you’ll need to service your vehicle often – you can use our mechanic-rated Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual to do this. It’s basically what mechanics use to go through your vehicle to check if there are any problems that need fixing. As soon as they notice the most minor problem, they’ll ask you to fork out some money even though it’s a problem you can fix yourself in minutes – the manual will teach you how to maintain your vehicle every few thousand miles and it’ll teach you how to fix minor problems that mechanics will ask you to pay for; saving you money in the long run.
A lot of our readers have the Auto Maintenance and Repair Manual printed on their garage wall and 92% of them haven’t visited the auto repair shop in the last year because they know what to do to avoid problems. All it takes is giving your vehicle a little attention every few thousand miles and you’ll never spend money at the workshop again.
Tips for Dealing with Hydraulic Fluids
Replace your power steering fluid after every 50,000 miles. In case your car owner’s manual provides direction on how to do it, follow your manufacturer’s guidelines in the manual.
Inspect the level of your car’s power steering fluid each time you change your vehicle’s oil. Top up the power steering fluid if it is running low.
Locate the reservoir in your car’s engine bay to add more power steering fluid. Look on the cap for directions. You can also read your owner’s manual for more excellent details on how to go about it.
Clean all around your car’s power steering reservoir opening before you remove the cap. Cleaning this area will prevent contaminants from dropping into the reservoir.
Your car may also show signs of power steering fluid deficiency. Some of these signs include noisy steering, jerking, jumping, or when it becomes difficult for you as the driver to turn the steering wheel.
If the fluid is leaking from your car, try a fluid with anti-leak properties.
Some of the most common power steering fluids in the market today include Lucas Oil 10442, Prestone AS261, Royal Purple ROY01326 MAX EZ, Genuine Mercedes, Prestone European, and Genuine Mopar Fluid +4.
Using regular power steering fluid in your Honda is not advisable as it might damage the power steering wheel system of your car. Honda car owners can only use the Honda power steering fluid in its system because it differs from all the other products available in the market. Honda has a proprietary formula that is not available to the public domain. When purchasing PS fluid for your Honda vehicle, ensure that you buy a product with ‘genuine’ as its prefix. Genuine Honda fluid was developed in 1990’s as a solution to major chatter sign in Honda power steering pinion and rack. This issue arose from incompatibility of sliding seals and old fluids. When other fluids were used in Honda, they caused chatter and leaks in Honda’s steering racks.