power steering fluid

Everything You Need to Know About Power Steering Fluid

Taking care of and performing regular maintenance on your car can prolong its life and reduce the need for expensive repairs. While we are always happy to buy your junk vehicles, we want to help you ensure that you don’t expedite the process.

What is Power Steering Fluid?

Power steering fluid is a type of hydraulic fluid that makes turning your steering wheel easy. It works by transferring power via hydraulic assistance that allows a driver to turn their vehicle’s wheels with ease.

Do I Need to Change My Power Steering Fluid?

Yes. Power steering fluid is the least expensive component of your vehicle’s steering system. Keeping up to date on regular maintenance is the best way to prevent expensive repair bills because it prolongs the life of the more expensive components in your power steering system. Over time, these components begin to break down and wear out. As they wear down, small pieces can break off of these components and contaminate the power steering fluid. These contaminants in addition to grit and sludge will force the power-steering pump to work harder by forcing it to pump those small pieces within the fluid. Too much overwork will cause the pump to break down and fail more quickly. Over time, that grit or sludge can accumulate and get into your car’s pinion seals and rack, resulting in damage that requires expensive repairs.

How Do I Know When It’s Time To Change My Power Steering Fluid?

Most modern vehicles will have an indicator light that will let you know when it is time to change the fluid. Most mechanics advise following your vehicle manufacturer’s recommended service intervals. If none are specified, it is often advised to flush or change your power steering fluid every 30,000 miles.

Can I Change My Own Power Steering Fluid?

Changing your vehicle’s power steering fluid involves draining or flushing out your car’s old power steering fluid and then adding fresh power steering fluid. While it is possible to change your own power steering fluid, it is only recommended if you’re comfortable with vehicle repairs beyond the standard oil change. If you do a lot of your own car maintenance and are looking to service the power-steering fluid yourself, keep in mind that you’ll need to dispose of the old fluid properly, based on laws and regulations in your state.

My Power Steering is Low, What Do I Do?

If your warning indicator light is on or your car is making a groaning sound when you turn, your power steering fluid reservoir is likely low. You can add fluid or take the opportunity to flush your power steering system and replace it with fresh fluid. Keep in mind that power steering systems are closed systems, so if your fluid is low, you may have a leak in your system that will require repair if you don’t want to keep adding fluid regularly.

Can I Drive With My Power Steering Warning Light On?

Yes. However, if your power steering fluid is low and you continue to drive, keep in mind that you’re putting additional stress on your car’s power steering system. You typically have some time after the warning light comes on, but it is an indicator that your vehicle needs attention. 

Can I Drive My Car Without Power Steering Fluid?

You can drive without power steering fluid, but we do advise against it. First and foremost, it will be far more difficult to steer your vehicle without the assistance of your power steering system. If your fluid is extremely low or empty, you’re also putting increased stress on your car’s power steering pump, rack, and pinion. When these parts fail it can be very expensive to repair or replace.

How Do I Put Power Steering Fluid In My Car?

The easiest way is to ask to have it topped off during a regular oil change or service appointment. If you’re comfortable popping the hood and poking around a bit and want to top off your power steering fluid on your own, follow these steps:

  1. Start your vehicle and allow it to idle until the temperature gauge is at normal operating range.
  2. While your engine is warming up, turn your steering wheel all the way in one direction until it fully locks. Then turn it the other way to opposite lock. Repeat several times.
  3. Turn off your engine and open the hood. 
  4. Locate the power steering reservoir- it is usually located on or near the engine, and is often outfitted with either a yellow or a white reservoir and a black cap.
  5. Wipe the reservoir with a soft cloth to prevent dirt from entering it while you’re working on it. 
  6. Check your fluid level. Depending on the reservoir type, you may have to either pull or twist your cap to reveal a dipstick, or look for a “MIN” or “MAX” indicator line on the outside of the reservoir. If your reservoir level or the dipstick is between “MIN” and “MAX”, no addition of fluid is needed.
  7. If the fluid is below the “MIN” indicator line, then you need to add some power steering fluid. Be sure to be careful and add the fluid in small increments to avoid overfilling. 
  8. Replace cap and/or dipstick, ensuring a tight seal. Close your hood and you’re all set! 

Are All Power Steering Fluids the Same?

While there are “universal” options available, not all power steering fluids are interchangeable. Some vehicles require an ATF transmission fluid such as MERCON or DEXRON. Many newer vehicles use a synthetic-based hydraulic fluid specifically formulated for power steering usage.  These synthetic fluids are able to flow well at a relatively low temperature and are arguably more efficient or offer more longevity as a result. If you are going to be adding or changing fluid yourself, it is very important to know the differences and which type your vehicle needs to operate properly. Some vehicles require power steering fluid with additives, as well. These special additives can be used to protect from corrosion and for pump lubrication.  

Are Power Steering Problems Expensive to Fix?

There are a variety of factors that can affect the cost of repair to power steering. In addition to the cost of parts, which can be several hundred dollars if you need a full pump replacement, you can expect to pay for labor. Some makes and models are substantially more expensive than others. Repairs may be less expensive than replacement, but you should expect to eventually need to replace your pump and other components.

What If I Want To Sell a Car With Power Steering Problems?

Sometimes, the cost of repair can exceed the overall value of the vehicle. At this point, you may be better off getting rid of the car and starting over. If you choose to go this route, we are happy to offer you a fair price for your vehicle. We always offer the best price paid for junk cars, offer free towing, and can pick up your vehicle and leave you with cash in hand within 24 hours. 

If you want to turn your car with power steering problems into cash, contact us now to get started!

Additional Car Care Resources


CALL 773-939-3333