Power-steering fluid is the hydraulic fluid that helps to transmit power in power steering.
Over time, the seals, O-rings as well as internal power-steering components will wear out. When they break apart, they contaminate the power-steering fluid, which forces the power-steering pump to work harder (having to pump little chunks instead of just fluid) and eventually results in a breakdown.
Power steering fluid is an integral part of a vehicle’s power steering pump operation. Power steering fluid is housed in the power steering pump reservoir, and performs different types of functions like-
Lubricate Power Steering Pump
One of the main aims of power steering fluid is of lubricating the power steering pump unit which is the housing reservoir that stores a vehicle’s power steering fluid. It also helps in pressurizing power steering fluid and propel it through the entire power steering system.
Lubricate Power Steering Gear Unit
Along with lubricating a vehicle’s power steering pump unit, power steering fluid performs another vital power steering system function of lubricating the power steering gear unit. The power steering gear unit is the part of a power steering system that meshes with the vehicle steering rod mechanism that ultimately helps to move the vehicle’s front tires.
Provide Hydraulic Pressure
Power steering fluid, after being pressurized as well as pumped by the power steering pump, flows throughout a vehicle’s power steering system, providing the hydraulic, or fluid, pressure important to operate the mechanical components of a power steering system.
Reduce Power Steering System Friction
Power steering fluid helps to lubricate and oil the mechanical parts of a power steering system. Like any other mechanical system with numerous meshing parts, a power steering system has a lot of linking parts that work together and ultimately cause friction. Power steering fluid helps to minimize this friction, which in turn decreases the power steering system wear.
Reduce Power Steering System Temperature
Along with lubricating a power steering system, power steering fluid also serves to reduce the operating temperatures of the power steering gear unit as well as power steering pump which is two of the more critical heat-producing parts of a power steering system.
Symptoms of Low Power Steering Fluid:
If your power steering is making all kinds of noise, especially when you are moving slowly, like in a parking lot, just check the fluid level in the power steering reservoir.
Jerky or Jumpy Power Steering
Sometimes your steering wheel might feel jerky as you try to turn it smoothly from one direction to the other. This will be most noticeable in the parking lot while moving slowly or not at all.
Hard to Turn the Steering Wheel
As power steering systems lose fluid, they start to work less efficiently. Eventually, you’ll start to feel the difference on the steering wheel end, which will make it much harder to turn the wheel than it normally is.
If it sounds like cat fighting (or cats mating) under your hood whenever you turn the steering wheel, you might need to check your power steering fluid.
Puddle or Stains Under the Vehicle
If you notice a puddle under the vehicle in your usual parking spot, it could very well be the power steering fluid. Although any number of liquids might be the culprit, power steering fluid is a prime candidate.
HOW TO CHANGE POWER STEERING FLUID
Check your owner’s manual or repair manual for the fluid’s specifics. You need to use a power steering fluid or automatic transmission fluid (ATF) that is meeting the manufacturer specifications.
• Then, find the power steering fluid reservoir or power steering pump, located with the engine accessories. Look for a cap having a steering wheel symbol or reads something like “Power Steering Fluid Only” and remove the cap.
• Use a jack to lift the front of the vehicle till the front wheels are off the ground. Put jack stands underneath the vehicle.
Wearing gloves, just siphon the fluid out of the reservoir to your catch can using a fluid transfer pump or turkey baster.
Once the fluid level in the reservoir is too low for effective siphon, get in the vehicle and turn the key to accessories. This helps the steering wheel in turning but does not activate the steering pump. Turn the wheel lock to lock (all the way left, then all the way right), and the pump will help to push more dirty fluid into the reservoir. Siphon it out to the catch can.
Repeat Step 5 until there is no fluid left to be removed. Use shop towels for cleaning up any drips.
Optional: For a complete drain (a power steering fluid flush), get under the vehicle and start looking for a rubber hose connected to the power steering pump. Use pliers for removing the clamp, pull down the hose and let the rest of the fluid drain into your catch can. This can get messy, so make sure to have the towels nearby.
Put the funnel into the power steering reservoir neck.
Put in the power steering fluid. Use only as much as the owner’s manual recommends, and ensure not to overfill, as it will leak out while driving. Optional: Add the recommended amount of power steering conditioner/stop leak. This extra step makes sure of quiet pump operation.
Put the back cap on and turn the key to accessories. Turn the wheel lock to lock once again. Check the fluid and add as much fuel as required. You might able to see bubbles here. It is just the air in the system which is coming out. It’s a good sign; unlike brake fluid, power-steering lines will not have to be bled to purge air bubbles.
Remove jack stands and set the vehicle on its tires.
Start the engine and run it for about 15 seconds, again turning lock to lock. Check the fluid level to make sure air has bled from the system.
With the reservoir full, go for a five-minute drive around a few blocks, take several turns and listen for power steering pump whine. Check the fluid one last time. If it’s at the “Full Hot” line on the dipstick, you are good to go. Just remember to check for leaks in the next day or two.