Power steering fluid is a vital part of your power steering system, allowing drivers to turn the wheel and quickly change directions while driving easily. This hydraulic fluid transfers power to let you effortlessly control your vehicle – without this important fluid, drivers would not be able to safely direct their car. Due to this fluid’s importance, it is essential to learn the steps of checking power steering fluid levels in your car.
Drivers need to learn how to check the quality of power steering fluid, the color of the fluid, how to check the entire power steering system, how to drain power steering fluid, and various low power steering fluid symptoms to look out for.
How to Check The Quality of Power Steering Fluid
Drivers can learn how to check the power steering fluid’s quality by analyzing the fluid levels and consistencies in their vehicles.
- Car owners should learn the steps of checking their brake fluid. Always be aware of the amount and the quality of your brake fluid by opening the brake fluid reservoir tank and examining inside. Make sure the fluid reaches the measurement lines, and ensure the color of the fluid is not tainted or oily.
- For learning how to check the quality of power steering fluid, drivers need first to find the power steering fluid cylinder. Check the amount of fluid and then inspect the quality of the fluid.
- If the power steering fluid is dark-colored (like brown or black) or the fluid levels are too low, it is time to bring your car to a mechanic so they can begin checking power steering fluid levels and quality.
- Leaks in your power steering system tend to occur at certain points, like at the joints and connections. Finding leaks can be hard without the right tools, which is why you should bring your vehicle to a mechanic and professional.
- Check your vehicle’s engine oil at recommended intervals. Your engine oil is a lubricant between the pistons and your cylinders, preventing overheating and excess friction.
- The quality of your vehicle’s engine oil must remain at a high level – without this, the damage to your engine will often require an expensive repair or replacement.
What color should the power steering fluid be?
When checking power steering fluid in your vehicle, you need to know the color it should be to determine if it is healthy. Power steering fluid should be red, pink, or clear, depending on the brand of fluid used for your vehicle.
- One of the only exceptions is the Honda power steering fluid, which is gold in color.
How To Check Power Steering System
Drivers need to learn the steps of how to check the power steering system in their car to determine if there are low levels of power steering fluid. Car owners need to keep in mind there are various components of the power steering system that can go wrong, including the rack and pinion, the front wheels, pistons, a pressurized power steering pump, and a cylinder containing fluid.
- Look at the reservoir cylinder – if you are having difficulty turning the wheel or you hear loud noises, there is a high chance it is time to begin checking power steering fluid levels in your car. If your levels are low, this is one of the main culprits of the steering issues. The power steering fluid can be found in a reservoir near the power steering pump.
- If you can’t find the cylinder, ask your mechanic or look at the owner’s manual to find the exact location regarding your car’s specific make, model, and year.
- Check the level of power steering fluid – if the reservoir cylinder is clear plastic, you will be able to see the levels inside clearly. If the cylinder is made of metal, you will need to use a dipstick attached to the cap.
- Examine how much of the dipstick is covered – after inserting the dipstick to see the level of fluid, you need to use the mark on the dipstick to determine if you have enough fluid. This is one of the easiest methods of checking power steering fluid.
- Examine the color of the power steering fluid – healthy power steering fluid should either be clear, amber, or pink in color.
- If you find the power steering fluid is very dark brown or black, this means it has been contaminated with rubber from hoses, seals, or O-rings. If this is the case, you need to bring your car to a mechanic so they can do the process of checking power steering fluid levels and replacing them if necessary.
- Add power steering fluid – Once determining how much fluid news to be added, you have to add fluid steadily until you reach the correct level.
- Only use the power steering fluid that is made for your car, since it will be the correct viscosity for your car’s steering system. Using the right kind of fluid ensures you will not have to continuously do the process of checking power steering fluid when something goes wrong with your power steering system.
- Replace the cylinder cap – depending on the type of vehicle, you may have it either push or screw the cap into place when learning how to check the power steering system.
How to Drain Power Steering Fluid
Drivers need to learn how to drain power steering fluid when checking power steering fluid levels in their car. Flushing power steering fluid is the process of circulating the liquid through the steering system to ensure it is working correctly and getting to all of the main components to direct your car on the road.
Step 1 – Analyze Your Car
- Check your owner’s manual for recommended maintenance period – the first step in learning how to drain power steering fluid is to consult your owner's manual to see the recommended time interval for this procedure.
- You will need to replace fluid every 35-40,000 miles for high-end cars, while other cars may only require it every 50-60,000 miles.
- Check your power steering fluid reservoir – Every month, you should examine your power steering fluid reservoir to ensure there are no leaks of power steering fluid.
- Check the color and consistency of your power steering fluid – open reservoir and analyze the consistency, color, and smell.
- If the fluid smells burnt, looks dark, or has shiny metallic pieces in it, it is time to learn how to drain power steering fluid and flush the system.
- Add and refresh your power steering fluid if your liquid is darkly colored or you frequently tow heavy loads.
- If your fluid is light-colored, dark without any metallic chunks inside, and was recently replaced, then you don’t have to worry about learning how to drain power steering fluid.
- Bring your car to a mechanic if you hear loud noises – if there are whining or moaning noises when turning the wheel, this could be a sign of serious and labor-intensive processes that could indicate other steering issues.
Step 2 – Flush The Fluid
- Lift the vehicle using a jack – make sure the front wheels are raised high enough so you can easily get under the car and access the underside of the vehicle.
- Locate and remove the catch tray – the catch tray is under the power steering system, helping to catch any of the leaking power steering fluid when learning how to drain power steering fluid.
- Place a disposable pan under the catch tray to ensure there are no leaks when checking power steering fluid levels.
- Drain the power steering fluid – remove the low-pressure hose from the steering pump.
- Unscrew the cap to the power steering reservoir – add around ½ of the manufacturer’s recommendation of power steering fluid to the reservoir. To thoroughly flush the steering system, you will have to remove any excess air pockets and bubbles within the tube to learn how to drain power steering fluid properly.
- Turn the car on and add more fluid – Keep the reservoir half full during this step, ensuring you continue flushing the system until the draining fluid is all new fluid.
- Reattach the power steering line – Once the fluid has been fully flushed, turn the car off and reattach everything in reverse order.
- Fill the reservoir – Identify the recommended level for your power steering fluid and fill the reservoir, closing it up when done with the process.
- Start the engine – once the engine and the car have been turned on, rotate the steering wheel from the left locked position to the right for five minutes. Listen for any buzzing sounds that could indicate trapped air within the system, releasing the air as you hear it.
- Turn the car off and top up with more fluid – if you hear air pockets, you will need to add more power steering fluid to your car. When learning how to drain power steering fluid, checking power steering fluid levels is a crucial component.
- Verify the steering wheel is working correctly – Turn the car on and turn the steering wheel back and forth multiple times to ensure it can go through a full range of motion.
Low Power Steering Fluid Symptoms
There are some signs you need to begin checking power steering fluid in your car to determine if you are experiencing the most common low power steering fluid symptoms. Fortunately for drivers, some telltale signs that something is off with your steering when the fluid drops to a level that is too low to function correctly.
- Difficulty turning the steering wheel – there are multiple reasons why it could be hard to turn your steering wheel to the left or right, but one of the most common low power steering fluid symptoms is toughness when changing directions. If your wheel feels stiff, stuck, or hard to turn, you might need to add power steering fluid to your reservoir.
- Loud steering – steering shouldn't make any sounds. If you have a properly working steering system, it will be virtually quiet when you turn the wheel. However, if you hear loud noises, this is one of the most prevalent low power steering fluid symptoms. Chances are, you will need to look into other fixes and repairs besides just checking power steering fluid.
- Loud sounds while steering – once again, this is another sound in your steering system that is unsettling and indicates a further issue. If you hear loud screeching or shrill noises while turning the wheel, this is a sign you need to begin checking power steering fluid. Remember, the noise might not originate from the wheel but can come from under the hood or another part of the steering system.
- Strain under your vehicle – the last issue when dealing with the low power steering fluid symptoms is strain under the vehicle. This means that fluids can be leaking from under the car or there are durability issues that need immediate attention. You need to ask a mechanic to begin checking power steering fluid levels in your car to ensure this liquid is not leaking during use.
Checking Power Steering Fluid Hot or Cold
Most manufacturers recommend that drivers learn the steps of ‘checking power steering fluid hot or cold’ when the engine is running WARM. If your car has not been running or has been sitting overnight in a garage or driveway, you will need to turn the engine on and let your car idle. Let your car idle for at least five minutes to get the liquids circulating and warm the fluids.
- If the weather is cold where you live, make sure you drive your car to warm up the engine and get the fluids flowing in the car. In this case, when determining ‘checking power steering fluid hot or cold,’ you will often find the answer is to check the power steering fluid when your car is WARM.
The Bottom Line
Drivers need to learn the steps of checking power steering fluid to avoid loud noises while turning, screeching sounds, difficulty turning the wheel, and strain under their vehicle!