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Symptoms of a Low Power Steering Fluid

Symptoms of a Low Power Steering Fluid

One of the main components of a vehicle is the steering system. It interprets the turning of the steering wheel into the turning of the vehicle’s front wheels. The modern cars are now equipped with a power-assisted steering system. It is very useful and probably one of the best innovations made today. It allows the driver to turn the steering wheel with much more ease than the non-powered ones. The power steering works by either using a hydraulic or high pressure steering or by an electric one. Most cars today use the hydraulic power steering. It works by using the engine’s power with the use of a belt attached to the pump which makes the power steering fluid circulate through the system. When the steering wheel is turned, the pressure in the steering fluid builds up. This pressure then transfers to the hydraulic pump and then to the piston which will then move the front wheels in the direction you wish to turn. In this process, the power steering fluid plays a very essential role to make it possible. If your vehicle has a low power steering fluid, your steering ability will be compromised. You will likely experience some common symptoms from having a low power steering fluid and here are some of them.

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  • Difficulty in Steering. Probably the first thing you will notice when you have a low power steering fluid is when you experience a difficulty in steering. You have to be careful when driving with a steering problem since it can be dangerous. You will experience stiff steering and it will be hard to turn or rotate. It would be best if you don’t drive your vehicle at all until it is fixed since it could cause an accident. If you experience or observe that there is something different in the way your car steers, even if it’s just a small one, you need to check your power steering fluid immediately. Make sure that you have the appropriate amount of steering fluid in your vehicle. Doing so can prevent any other problems that might occur because of it. 


  • Noisy Steering. The power steering system is using a pump to add pressure and needs fluid to circulate. If your vehicle has a low steering fluid, it tends to create strange and weird sounds every time you steer or turn. This happens because when there is not enough fluid circulating through the system, it makes room for the air to enter. The combination of the air and the low fluid level will cause a pump malfunction which creates the strange noises. 


  • Jerky or Jumpy Steering Wheel. When you feel like your steering wheel is jerky and not smooth when you turn, especially when you are driving slowly or when parking or turning into parking lots, it must be because of a low power steering fluid. Another indication of it is when your steering wheel shakes or vibrates while you are driving or when you turn the steering wheel to the right but it jerks to the opposite direction. 


  • Leaking Fluid. Leaking is an obvious indication that you have a low power steering fluid. You need to check if there is a reddish puddle of fluid underneath your vehicle. You can also take off the cap of the fluid reservoir and check if there is still fluid inside. If there’s not, then it is positive that there is a leak. You will need to have it repaired to stop the leak. 


  • Locked Steering Wheel. Locked steering wheels could only happen in extreme situations. It happens when you have a depleted power steering fluid or have an inadequate amount of it. You could be driving somewhere and the steering suddenly locks up and won’t rotate. It could be dangerous. That is why it is important that you take notice of the early symptoms of a low power steering fluid like the ones mentioned above  and correct it so you won’t have to experience a locked steering wheel.   


How To Change or Add Power Steering Fluid 


Most of the symptoms listed above can be fixed by adding more power steering fluid. You have to constantly check your steering fluid level and add more if it goes way below the normal level. You also have to check the fluid reservoir and the surrounding components and check if there is a leak. If you find one, have it fixed before proceeding to add or put power steering fluid in your car. But before that, review your owner’s manual to make sure that you are using the right fluid for your car since there are different kinds of essential fluids your car needs. Here are the steps on how to put power steering fluid in your car.


  • You can start by removing the cap off of the power steering fluid reservoir. 
  • Siphon the fluid out and transfer it into a can or small pail. To make sure that you won’t drop any fluid to the engine, you can use a paper towel and place it on the surrounding area. 
  • Rotate the ignition and turn the steering from lock to lock. Doing so allows lots of fluid to come out. 
  • To ensure that you won’t spill the fluid when you put it in the reservoir, you will have to use a funnel. Pour the new fluid in the reservoir. Make sure that you don’t overfill it.
  • Clean the cap and put it back on the power steering fluid reservoir. 
  • Start the car. If you check again the fluid reservoir, you might notice that there’s a little drop on the fluid level. Add more if needed.  
  • Start your car again and turn the steering from lock to lock. This time, it is done to get rid of the air out of the system. 
  • Check the fluid reservoir again if the fluid level dropped and add more fluid if it did.
  • Start your car again and this time, drive around for a few minutes. Make sure that you drive around using the steering wheel by turning through corners and bends. Check the left and the right turns. 
  • Also check the fluid levels in the first two minutes to ensure that it didn’t drop again.
  • Let the engine cool down. You will need to flush the system since this DIY process doesn’t really flush the old fluid thoroughly. There is probably some old fluid still left inside the system.
  • Remove the remaining old fluid by siphoning it out and continue to add more new fluid after. You can repeat the process if you feel like there is still some old fluid left in the reservoir.


If you have the available tools and equipment at home, you can also try this method.


  • Lift your car up using a jack. This way, your vehicle’s front wheels come up off the ground. Lift it so you can fit underneath your vehicle. This makes it easier to get the old power steering fluid out. 
  • Ready the catch can or a small can to catch the fluid. Wearing gloves is highly recommended.
  • Using a turkey baster, get the old fluid out and put it in the can. Remember to dispose of the turkey baster you used with the old fluid. You can keep it in your toolbox, but do not use it again in the kitchen. 
  • Turn the key in your ignition but do not start the engine. Turn the steering wheel from lock to lock until the pump pushes the fluid out. Repeat the process if necessary.
  • If all the old fluid is removed, you can now put the new power steering fluid. You can use a funnel and put it in the top of the reservoir and start putting the new fluid up to the right and recommended level.
  • Put the reservoir cap back on. 
  • Turn the ignition again and check if everything works. Turn the steering from lock to lock sharply. 
  • Open the reservoir again and check the fluid level. If it dropped, add more new fluid.
  • Remove the jack stands.
  • Turn the ignition, and this time, start the engine and let it run for about twenty seconds. 
  • Turn the steering wheel from left to right and check the fluid level again. Add more if needed.
  • Go for a short drive turning the steering wheel from left to right to make sure everything is working fine. 


Here are the steps on how to add a power steering fluid in your car whenever you experience a symptom of a low power steering fluid. 


  • Start the engine and let it run just until the normal operating range is achieved. You can check the vehicle’s temperature gauge to know if it has been achieved. 
  • With the engine idling, turn the steering wheel from lock to lock. You have to do it several times.
  • Turn off the engine and proceed to open the hood. 
  • Find the power steering fluid reservoir and remove the cap off from the reservoir.
  • Clean the reservoir using a paper towel or a rag to keep the dirt from getting in while you are working on it.
  • By using a dipstick, check the fluid level in the reservoir. If a dipstick is not available, you can check the MIN or MAX lines instead and determine if you need to add more fluid or not. If the fluid level is between the MIN and the MAX lines, you don’t have to add fluid. 
  • If the fluid level is below the MIN line, then you need to add power steering fluid in the reservoir. Add it in small amounts, checking the lines each time. Make sure that you won’t overfill the reservoir or fill above the MAX line.
  • Put the cap back on the fluid reservoir and make sure that it is tightly sealed. 


How Often Should You Change Your Power Steering Fluid?

One usually doesn’t mind the power steering fluid until symptoms of a low power steering fluid show up. Then you begin to think when was the last time you had the steering fluid changed or flushed. Is it really necessary to follow the recommended fluid change schedule? Why do you need it? To answer the question, yes, you should. 


The power steering fluid doesn’t burn off like an oil. It gets dirty as the some tiny particles and dirt build up in the fluid. This build up causes fluid contamination and it circulates through your vehicle’s system. This can cause problems for your car as it puts stress on your steering pump and other components of the steering system. For this reason, it is important to follow the recommended fluid change schedule and not wait until some symptoms start to come out. 


So when is the really the best time to change your power steering fluid? The answer really depends on the type of vehicle you have. There are some ways that can help you answer the question. First is by checking the owner’s manual. Make sure to follow its recommendation. Second is by inspecting the fluid. Run the car for a while and check the fluid in your reservoirs. A healthy power steering fluid color is bright red. If it is darker or is accompanied with a burnt smell, then it is time for a fluid change. If you notice that there are contaminations in the fluid, it needs a new one, too. Third is by listening to your steering fluid pump. If the pump produces noises when pumping, or if it seems that your pump needs a lot of effort to pump, that too, is a clear sign that it’s time to flush the old fluid away. And fourth, a more obvious one, if you start to notice any of the symptoms of a low power steering fluid listed above, then have your fluid changed or flushed as soon as possible. 



It is always emphasized that you should not wait for any car problem symptoms to happen before you start taking your car’s maintenance seriously. Low power steering fluid might sound like a simple problem, but the things it does to your vehicle can affect your safety if not corrected immediately. Let us all be responsible car owners and prevent problems such as this to happen. Have a safe drive!

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