Its location differs for every vehicle. It’s usually a small, clear container with a black cap. Many vehicles have marks on the outside of the reservoir to indicate “MAX” or “MIN.” Ensure the fluid level is above the “MIN” mark but not overfilled.
Check Dipstick (If Equipped)
Other vehicles have marks on the dipstick, similar to an oil dipstick. In this case, remove the cap and wipe the dipstick clean. Reinstall the cap, ensuring it’s completely seated.
Remove Cap Again And Check Fluid Level
Ensure it’s at the appropriate level. You may see marks for “full hot” and “full cold,” so ensure you’re referencing the correct mark depending on whether the engine is hot or cold.
It’s a good idea to change power steering fluid before you end up replacing the pump, which is far more expensive.
Like any other lubricant, power steering fluid accumulates wear material, moisture and other debris. The fluid also wears out due to oxidation. Worn out power steering fluid can cause the pump to whine and make noise.
While this procedure won’t remove all the old fluid, like flushing the system will, it will remove most of it. And it’s much easier and cleaner.
Place some rags around the fluid reservoir and place a catch can nearby.
Using a fluid extraction pump or turkey baster, remove the old fluid and empty it into the catch can. Leave enough fluid in the reservoir to cover the hose inlets. This prevents air from entering the system.
Add new fluid to the reservoir and run the engine. Turn the wheel from side to side as far as it goes a few times.
Turn off the engine and repeat the first three steps until the fluid is clean.
You can also drive as normal for a day or two and repeat until you’ve cycled most of the old fluid through the system.
This simple procedure removes much of the old fluid quickly and easily. I’ve performed it on a couple different vehicles with good results.
Conventional Power Steering Fluid: These are non-synthetic fluids made using conventional base oils. In general, they won’t provide the same level of protection against wear, oxidation and cold-temperature thickening as synthetic fluid.
Synthetic Power Steering Fluid: Made using synthetic base oils that provide inherently better protection and extreme-temperature performance compared to conventional fluids.
Use a fluid that meets the appropriate specification given in your owner’s manual.
For best protection against pump wear and best performance in temperature extremes, use synthetic power steering fluid.
Many vehicles today use electric power steering systems instead of traditional hydraulic systems to help improve fuel economy. Eliminating the belt-driven pump reduces parasitic losses and helps boost mpg.
In hydraulic systems, the power steering fluid is used to transfer energy to help turn the wheels. Without power steering, it’d much more difficult to turn your car’s steering wheel – and nearly impossible when the car is stationary.
I once had an old truck that lost its power steering system, and turning the wheel required two hands and a lot of muscle.
So, what is power steering fluid? It’s effectively a hydraulic fluid whose primary role is to transfer energy. Although it must protect against wear and oxidation, too.
Synthetics promote formation of a strong fluid film to prevent wear. Plus, they flow readily in cold weather to help silence that annoying power-steering-pump whine on frigid mornings.
Difficulty Steering: If it takes more effort than normal to turn your steering wheel, low power steering fluid is the first thing to check. Insufficient fluid prevents the system from working properly, which you’ll often feel as a stubborn steering wheel.
Steering Whine: If you hear a loud whining or screeching noise coming from under the hood when you steer, particularly if you turn the wheel as far as it goes, it’s likely due to low power steering fluid. Although, it might also be a bad pump.
Fluid on the Ground: Fluid stains on the garage floor under the reservoir or pump are a bad sign. Top off the reservoir, start the vehicle and have someone turn the wheel back and forth while you locate the source of the leak.