When it comes to keeping your vehicle safe and running well for a long period of time, using a good fluid is vital. The best fluid will help you steer easier, as it adds power behind your steering wheel. Here is everything you need to know about replacing the fluid, along with the 10 best options you can buy.
Power Steering Fluid Buyer’s Guide
image source: flickr.com
Power steering fluid is vital to ensure your car’s power steering system works right, as this hydraulic fluid keeps the system lubricated for balance and helping with pressure. It’s often either mineral oil or silicone based, and it helps you steer your car with little effort using electric or hydraulic actuators to control the amount of energy from the steering mechanism, making it easier to turn the wheel.
The color can vary from clear to yellow to pink. If your fluid is another color, such as a dark brown color, the fluid is contaminated and you should change it. This is often a sign on a clog in the pump, and you need to fix the problem immediately to prevent the contamination from spreading to the entire system.
It’s important that you buy the right fluid for your car, otherwise there could be negative consequences on your vehicle’s power steering pump and its overall performance. The type of fluid you buy may depend on:
- The make and model of your car
- Your car’s power steering unit
- The reason you’re purchasing the fluid
There are also different types of fluid. Some cars require automatic transmission fluid (ATF), and many different types of cars run on a universal fluid. Many newer models need synthetic fluid, which tends to flow better during cold temperature months. Japanese and European cars, for example, will typically use high-performance synthetic oil.
The type you need will vary based on the type of material your system is made from. Universal fluid works fine on many cars, but others need a unique additive to protect against corrosion and lubricate the pump and seal to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
To know which type of fluid is right for your car, you should consult your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations in the owner’s manual. You can also look at your filler cap, as some manufacturers will specify which fluid is right for your car directly on the cap. Using the right fluid is very important, and there can be serious compatibility issues if you attempt to use the wrong fluid for your car.
In fact, if you don’t use the right fluid, you can cause power steering pump failure. This may become a costly repair quickly when you could just perform regular maintenance to prevent the outcome.
Why You May Need to Replace Your Power Steering Fluid
Proper vehicle maintenance requires replacing the fluid. If you don’t replace the fluid when you need to, you could wind up with way more problems, like the total shutdown of your entire power steering system. The darker the fluid appears, the more likely it needs to be changed soon.
When to Change the Fluid
Unlike engine oil, you don’t need to change your steering fluid often. Some manufacturers may not even recommend an amount of time or servicing period to change this fluid. However, particles will build up over time that can wear down the steering pump or gears.
Regularly checking your fluid levels is a good idea to prolong your car’s steering system and prevent future expensive repairs. A good rule of thumb is to replace the fluid every 100,000 kilometers or 5 years, whichever comes first. Experts say to change the fluid between 24,000 and 100,000 miles.
The recommended intervals of time differ based on your vehicle, so you can always check the manual or contact your dealer for more information.
If your car has another problem, you may need to change the fluid sooner. Any issue that causes your car to overheat can also cause the fluid to oxidize in the high temperatures. If the fluid is red, it’s beginning to oxidize and it’s time to change the fluid quickly before it turns gray and then black.
Another common sign you seriously need to change the fluid is a burning smell. This means the fluid has been damaged by the heat and may lead to other problems. If you also notice any debris or other particles in the fluid, change it immediately. Particles in the fluid is often a sign that the seals are degrading, and this can lead to leaks in the system. If one of these tiny particles made it into the system, the damage could be serious.
Likewise, if you hear any noise coming from the pump, which moves the fluid into the system, change the fluid. Impurities in the fluid can make the pump’s job more difficult and you may notice your car takes more effort to turn when you’re traveling at low speeds or the wheel may tug against your when you attempt to turn.
image source: pixabay.com
How to Check the Fluid Level
Check out the owner’s manual instructions on your vehicle if you’ve never checked the fluid in your car. Checking the fluid level is pretty straightforward. Follow these steps:
Locate the fluid reservoir cylinder, which is typically located near the pump or pump hoses. It should have a clearly labeled cap and be created from plastic or metal.
If your cylinder is translucent, it may have a scale that clearly displays the maximum and minimum fluid levels inside the reservoir.
Open the cylinder, even if you can see the levels through your cylinder, to check out the smell and color of the fluid. Look for any debris that could be harmful.
If you can’t see through your cylinder, use a dipstick to check the fluid levels. Dip sticks are often attached along the underside of the cap to ease the process, and the markings on the list will show you the minimum and maximum fluid levels when you dip it into the fluid in the reservoir. Some even show ideal levels for when the car is hot, or running, or cold to ensure an accurate reading.
Some vehicles require the engine to run for a small amount of time while you turn the steering wheel in either direction, with the car in idle, to gain an accurate reading. The owner’s manual will notify you if this is the case for you.
If the fluid is low, check for leaks immediately. As long as there are no leaks and nothing wrong with the fluid in your system, you can top off the fluid and replace the cylinder cap. If there are issues, you’ll need to address them before moving forward rather than risk damage to your car.
Most fluids come ready to use. As long as there is nothing wrong with your current fluid and the seals have no leaks, you can simply add the fluid into the reservoir. Pour slowly and check how full the level is as you pour. When fluid heats up, it expands. So, make sure you don’t overflow the reservoir with fluid.
If you do have a problem with your fluid such as seal degradation or corrosion, flushing the system is highly suggested. Before you can replace the fluid, you need to deal with any issues you find under the hood and remove the old fluid completely.
Some fluids will come with something called power steering leak fix, which revitalizes the seal and supports the entire steering system. Check the owner’s manual or ask a trusted mechanic if you aren’t sure if a type of fluid is okay with your car.
Some vehicles and types of fluid may also require you to completely replace the fluid rather than refilling it. Again, the owner’s manual and direction on the fluid you purchase will give you a better idea if this is the case for you. If you need to completely replace the fluid, follow these easy step-by-step instructions from Advance Auto Parts.
Always use gloves and eye protection when handling fluid. Limit your skin’s contact with the material, and always clean up after you’re done. To dispose of the fluid, you may find a recycling center near you that accepts hazardous material like automotive oils.
Top 10 Best Power Steering Fluid Options
Now that you know how to use power steering fluid and why you would need to replace it, here are some of the top options available.
Designed for all Honda models and Honda steering systems, this synthetic fluid drastically reduces your risk of damage from using fluid created by other manufacturers. The bottles come with 12-ounces of fluid, and you can top off your fluid levels or flush your entire system with only three bottles. Using three bottles versus one large container reduces the weight you need to carry, making refills easier.
If you have a small Honda vehicle, this is the perfect steering fluid for you. Keep a bottle around for emergencies or flush the entire system. However, you should never use this fluid in extremely cold temperatures and beware dropping the bottle because it doesn’t come with a grip handle for easy pouring.
Made with a specially blended formula for Mercedes Benz systems, this fluid is designed to be used to top off your fluid levels or completely refill the reservoir. It keeps the system clean, controls wear and tear or problems that could come up from oxidation or foaming, and helps the systems stay quiet. Overall, this fluid will improve the longevity and performance of your Mercedes.
The fluid is easy to use and comes ready to install with modifications. However, you need to be careful when pouring the fluid from this bottle, as it doesn’t have a handle to help you handle it properly while pouring fluid into the reservoir.
Genuine Ford XT-5 QM MERCON-V
To allow for added fluidity during cold temperatures, oxidation resistance, and great shifting characteristics no matter the weather, Genuine Ford manufactured this hydro-processed based fluid using special additives for boosted performance and a high viscosity index. It protects against gum, foam, sludge, or lacquer, keeping them from forming in your car, and one bottle is often all you need.
What makes this fluid really unique is that it comes in a red color to help you tell if you have a leak, and it’s recommended for use in Ford, Mercury, and Lincoln vehicles that typically need Mercon fluid. It may also be suitable for various industrial applications. Plus, it has a handle for easy, slip-free pouring.
5 out of 5.
Genuine Nissan Fluid Electric
Crafted for Nissan vehicles, this steering fluid will stop any squeal noises while preventing corrosion, wear and tear, and oxidation from causing problems in your system. You can even use it for foreign and domestic motors, and it’s formulated using a stabilizer and detergent to cut down on the valve, rack, or bearing wear. It will even prevent your seals from hardening or shrinking.
The only downside to using this fluid is the price. It’s expensive to buy one bottle for the price you can get three bottles of other fluids on this list.
5 out of 5.
Pentosin Hydraulic Fluid CRP
Pentosin’s CRP hydraulic fluid, unlike other fluids on this list, is safe for use in any type of weather. Extreme conditions won’t stop you from refilling your fluid with this brand, and a synthetic blend is a high-performance option designed to keep your steering system and hydraulic system safe. Plus, it helps control shock, hydro-pneumatic suspension, or central locking systems as well.
This fluid works for a wide range of vehicles, and you can use it from temperatures of under 40 degrees Celsius to over 130 degrees. However, you need to be careful when pouring to avoid slippage. The can doesn’t have a pouring straw either, so you’ll want to use a funnel.
4.5 out of 5.
Red Line 30404
Red Line is often used anywhere manufacturers call for automatic transmission fluid, and it fills the requirements for many types of cars such as Mitsubishi, Nissan, Mazda, Porsche, and others. It even works for units that need synthetic or petroleum blends. It protects against normal wear and tear, foaming or evaporation, and thermal breakdown.
Plus, it’s heat resistant to prevent issues from high temperatures or boil over if you fill the reservoir too full. Many different types of cars can use this fluid, which makes it perfect if your household has multiple cars from various manufacturers. However, it shouldn’t be used in cars where ATF is recommended.
4.5 out of 5.
Prestone is high-quality oil that’s fortified with special additives like stop leak to reduce fluid loss and avoid leaky seals. It revitalizes dry, shrunken, or hard seals, and it also contains inhibitors designed to protect metal parts against corrosion or wear. Protecting the pump and your car’s other parts are vital, and this fluid is perfect for older cars with leaky seals.
Created for a wide range of cars, Prestone works with Ford, GM, Chrysler, and most vehicles that weren’t manufactured in the United States. However, it’s not suitable for use in some types of Asian vehicles.
4.5 out of 5.
Royal Purple MAX EZ
A great option that works well with other types of fluids, Royal Purple will improve the lifespan of your steering unit. It comes with additives to preserve your steering parts, and because it works with many other types of fluids in various vehicles, you don’t need to find an exact fluid match for your car. Plus, it works in cold weather and the bottle offers grips to pour easily.
4 out of 5.
Lucas Oil 10823
One of the best universal fluids available, Lucas oil improves your steering flexibility, reduces both stiffness and friction, and reduces normal wear and tear in the system. Steering parts such as the seals, pumps, valves, cylinder, and opinion should live a long and healthy life, and it’s compatible with multiple types of systems. It even stops fading or foaming during high-performance situations.
This Amazon listing comes with four 12-ounce-bottles of the fluid, each of which is lightweight. You can use Lucas in any type of car, whether your system runs on petroleum or synthetic as well.
4 out of 5.
A great deal for the price, you can buy a large bottle of this fluid for under $5. It’s formulated to stop leaks and adds a conditioner into the mix to keep the system clean and running smoothly. Pumps will stop squeaking and your car will run quieter and smoother, and it works for most factory recommendations.
4 out of 5.
How We Chose Our Ratings
Honesty and accuracy are important to use, so to find the best power steering fluid available on the market today, we scoured customer and expert reviews. Each of the fluids listed above is proven to work well, and some even have additives to keep your car running safely for years to come.
Featured image source: pixabay.com
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