Do I Need to Change Power Steering Fluid?

New Power Steering Fluid (left) vs Old power steering fluid (right)

Do I Need to Change Power Steering Fluid?

If you found this page, you’re probably wondering “do i need to change power steering fluid?”. The answer may surprise you.

A power steering flush isn’t typically listed as routine maintenance in cars’ owner’s manuals. Because of this it’s been a debated issue among auto mechanics for many years. Having said that, let’s look at the facts:

Power steering fluid is a hydraulic fluid that transfers power in vehicles with hydraulic power steering. A power steering pump and gearbox, or rack and pinion assembly multiply force applied to the steering wheel inputs. It does so using hydraulic pressure, with the fluid acting as a medium.

Fluid Breaks Down

Like all automotive fluids, power steering fluid gets contaminated over time. As components wear, the fluid will become contaminated with metal and rubber particles. Those particles can damage the power steering pump, and the rack and pinion or gearbox seals, among other components. Heat cycles and years of use also start breaking down the fluid. Power steering fluid isn’t just oil. It’s a hydraulic fluid with additives to maintain viscosity, prevent foaming, and hold the integrity of the oil. Over time, these additives can lose their effectiveness and allow foaming or allow the fluid to change viscosity. This will accelerate wear in your power steering system, which creates more of the contaminants we mentioned above.

The Bottom Line: Do I Need to Change Power Steering Fluid?

Replacing power-steering fluid generally is not listed among the regular maintenance items that should be performed, but we recommend changing it every 30,000 miles or 3 years to keep the system in good shape.

How Do I Know My Fluid Needs Changing?

If you saw the photo at the top of this article, you may have noticed that the new fluid was a clear yellow color (close to beer). The old, worn fluid is darker and more murky. Since you can’t really measure qualities like viscosity and additive effectiveness, the color is a good indicator. Virtually all power steering fluid starts out clear, red, or amber and darkens over time. If it’s brown or black, it’s due for a change.

Ed’s BnB Auto Repair is always ready to help. Give us a call and we’ll discuss your options. You can also use the Book Appointment button to schedule an appointment. 

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