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When Should You Replace Power Steering Fluid?

When Should You Replace Power Steering Fluid

When Should You Replace Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid makes to control the power steering system of your car more easily. This type of hydraulic fluid makes turning your steering wheel as convenient as possible. The power steering fluid (or oil) in the brake system also helps you brake with flexibility and a little bounce to cushion your foot while braking. 

But what would happen if the power steering fluid smells burnt or turning dark and dirty? It could also turn foamy or bubbling. And why should these things happen in a sealed vessel? Are these conditions normal? 

Yes, of course! These are normal occurrences in a car’s power steering system in the long run.

In this write-up, we will advise you when should you replace power steering fluid and other facts about this hydraulic fluid. Moreover, if you got a problem with a locked steering wheel, read this article.
Power steering moment diagram

Power steering diagram

What is a power steering fluid?

A power steering fluid is simply the type of hydraulic fluid that transmits power in modern vehicles using the power steering. This oil also helps to maintain balance and lubrication in the power steering system.

The fluid also transmits the needed pressure around the system so you can steer the wheel without resistance. This oil is made from mineral oil or silicone-based fluid while some are made synthetic oil bases. 

To avoid damaging the steering pump, you should use the right transmission fluid recommended by your car manufacturer. You should check your owner’s manual for the right power steering to use in your car.

Why replace power steering fluid?

Power steering fluid, just like any other fluid elements in the vehicle, may undergo chemical changes in the long run. Also, like periodical changes on your engine oil, replacing the power steering fluid is a must on your car.

Over the course of time, the power steering fluid becomes foamy or bubbling. It can have a dark color suggesting a dirty fluid that could impede the performance of the system.

If you fail to replace your power steering fluid, it can result in various mechanical problems, such as the malfunctioning of the transmission system and its components.

Tell-tale signs that power steering fluid should be replaced

If you are checking your fluid regularly, you should notice the changes it undergoes. If you notice that the fluid has a burnt smell and it becomes darker than when it is new, it is probably time for a replacement.

The changing color of the oil is one of the basis in replacing the fluid. Moreover, an abnormal noise (such as a moaning or growling sound) coming from the power steering [if not from the power steering belt] indicates a necessity to change the fluid.

A leak on the power steering line could also diminish the fluid level which can affect the pressure of the fluid.

Another thing to consider when a replacement for the oil is needed is that the fluid might have debris (like small metal pieces) and particles that thicken the oil. The cycle of heat and cold can also affect the viscosity (a state of the ability of the oil to flow efficiently) that could make transmission harder for the pump.

How frequent should you change power steering fluid?

Most automotive experts suggest flushing and replacing your fluid once every year (some recommend once every two years), or between 70,000 to 100,000 mileage (whichever comes first), with a monthly cycle for checking. However, not all vehicles have the same recommendation for replacing the power steering oil. 

Again, you should consult your owner’s manual for the frequency of changing the power steering fluid. But constant check-up on the system’s components and the fluid may indicate early flushing if you find the signs we mentioned above. Also, you can consider your vehicle’s age and performance.

What power steering fluid color suggests?

When new, the power steering fluid varies in color depending on the manufacturer. Most fresh (or new) power steering fluid comes usually red and pink (sometimes green) and must be clear and not tainted with dirt or other debris.

The old and used fluid is usually dark brown while some become black and dirty.

How much power steering fluid change/replacement cost?

Power steering fluid is one of the cheapest components of the power steering system so you should not hesitate to replace it when needed. What is more expensive is the labor cost when you hire a mechanic to do this. 

However, if you wish to do it yourself, the video we provided below might help. It can save you a lot of money in the long run. However, if you notice something odd about the system and you can’t figure out about it, it’s better that you consult a mechanic to thoroughly diagnose the problem.

Some expert mechanics that we spoke to, the average labor cost to replace the power steering fluid is between $100 and $125. The power steering fluid cost ranges from $10 to $17 per liter on online stores. 

Here’s a tip: Pentosin CHF 11S Synthetic Hydraulic Fluid offers the best deal when it comes to power steering fluids.

Power steering fluid vs ATF

The power steering fluid is a slight variant of the automatic transmission fluid (or ATF). They are both hydraulic fluids. However, the big difference between the two fluids is that the power steering fluid has detergents and friction modifiers.

The detergents help clean the gunk that can build-up in the system. But is there a power steering fluid substitute? 

ATFs sometimes use as a power steering fluid alternative. Brake fluids today, as power steering fluid is classified, are mostly made from glycol-ether based chemicals while some manufacturers use mineral oil and silicone-based fluids.

So, according to automotive experts, the most common power steering fluid substitute is ATF. But do you know that there are a lot of auto manufacturers that use ATF in place of power steering fluid? Now you know.

Watch this video on how to replace power steering fluid:


When power steering fluid becomes dirty, it is just one of the indications that you need to change or replace your power steering fluid. You should also consider the color, consistency, age, and smell of the fluid.

Now you know when you should replace power transmission fluid and how to do it, you won’t hesitate to change the oil yourself when you find the signs that we have mentioned above. However, as we always tell you, if you find something not right about your car, it is better to seek the help of your most trusted mechanic.

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