What Is Power Steering Fluid?

Posted Friday, Mar 25, 2022

There are tons of different fluids in a vehicle and keeping track of them all can get confusing. The least talked about fluid is one that is essential to keeping your vehicle feeling smooth.

Like all fluids in your vehicle, the power steering fluid plays an important and specific role in keeping your car operating at peak performance. This fluid is critical for providing its namesake system with hydraulic assistance so you can turn the steering wheel of your vehicle easily.

Ever driven a vehicle without power steering? It feels like you’re at the gym trying to curl the heaviest set of dumbbells! In fact, you could probably skip the gym and get better-looking arms just by removing the power steering from your vehicle.

Jokes aside, it also helps lubricate the power steering pump and the steering components as well as prevents corrosion from rearing its ugly self.

Because this fluid serves a variety of different purposes, you can see why it’s so important to use the right kind.

Is Power Steering Fluid the Same as Brake Fluid?

Some of the other important fluids in your vehicle are brake fluid and transmission fluid. While they all have the same overall function — to keep your car running smoothly — they all have different properties to help them do their specific jobs.

No, the power steering fluid isn’t the same as brake fluid, and you should never use brake fluid as a substitute if you find that your power steering fluid is low. It has a very different chemical composition and could damage your vehicle.

Can You Use Automatic Transmission Fluid for Power Steering?

It gets a little trickier when you’re trying to decide if you can use automatic transmission fluid instead of power steering fluid. You want to make sure you’ve done your homework on this one before you consider swapping out fluids.

While the short answer may be yes, the long answer requires you to do a little homework. Every vehicle is different and because of that may respond differently to what you put inside it.

Many systems were designed to use automatic transmission fluid as they are both hydraulic systems and therefore operate with hydraulic fluid. Others, however, require that you only use steering wheel fluid.

Prior to doing car maintenance on your own, make sure to check your owner’s manual to see what the car manufacturer recommends. It should specifically state in the manual which one to use.

Some models require specific types of fluid, such as synthetics, so it’s worth taking the time to track down the correct information. If you can’t find your owner’s manual, contact a car mechanic or car dealership and talk to the service department. You can also find many manuals online by doing a quick search through a search engine.

Using the wrong type of fluid can cause damage to seals, plastic, and rubber components inside your vehicle. If it doesn’t mix well with the fluid you’re adding it to, it could create an acidic reaction.

How to Choose the Right Power Steering Fluid

Not all power steering fluids are the same. It’s important to know the different types and understand which one is right for your car.

As already noted, some SUVs/Vans/Trucks use automatic transmission fluid. The most common types of ATF are Dexron, Mercon, Type F, and ATF+4. However, there are also different types of synthetic fluids that have been developed specifically for use in power steering systems in newer vehicles.

If you drive a European or Japanese car, your power steering fluid needs will very likely be different than what’s required in American-made cars. Cars from Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen, and Volvo all have different power steering fluid requirements, and the fluid types can change from one make and model to the next.

In many cases, imports require Pentosin power steering fluid, but there are different types of Pentosin fluid. Make sure you’re using the one that your car is designed to run. If your vehicle uses Pentosin steering wheel fluid, be sure not to mix it with other types of fluids as this could be catastrophic to the system.

If the make of your car is a Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, or made by a Japanese manufacturer check the specific requirements for your make and model.

There’s no single rule that applies when it comes to power steering fluids for cars. Take time to review your owner’s manual, do some online research, or check with the service department at your dealership to make sure that the fluids you’re using are right for your car.

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