Has a heavy, thick fluid that works to clean power steering system lines. Helps to get rid of debris and blockages that often plague steering systems that aren’t maintained that well.
Takes extra time to work on dirty power steering systems that haven’t been maintained.
Comes in a large bottle that will last for several repeated uses as you maintain the power steering system on a regular basis. Can help stop leaks in troublesome steering lines that don’t respond to steering.
Can’t use to replace the entire fluid line in the power steering system.
Comes in a convenient size with just enough fluid for the occasional top off in the steering lines. Provides a good way to keep the power steering system well maintained without having to replace the entire fluid supply.
Smaller bottle won’t last long for many repeated uses.
Uses a specific formula that works to preserve and protect the power steering system. Can also be used on other engine and drivetrain components such as the pumps, seals, and cylinders.
Doesn’t last as long as other steering fluids available at budget prices.
Lacks the common types of solvents and ingredients that can cause long term damage to a car’s power steering system. Can be used on a variety of car components other than the steering system as well.
Leak stoppage properties of the fluid will require reapplication after a certain period of time.
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If you’re a vehicle owner, you know that a car has many different types of liquid in its systems. Keeping these fluids clean and at the proper operational levels will enable the various systems in your vehicle to run safely and efficiently, as well as last longer. If you forget to check and top off these important fluids regularly, your car could break down. One of those fluids that needs to be monitored is power steering fluid.
If you’re ready to change your own power steering fluid but confused by all the different brands, we at BestReviews can help.
Our shopping guide provides the information you need to make a smart and cost-effective choice.
If your vehicle has power steering – and nearly all of them do now – your vehicle has power steering fluid in it.
Power steering is a hydraulic system. Power steering fluid works with the power steering system pump to make the steering wheel easier to turn. If your power steering system has ever failed or you drive a really old vehicle, you understand the benefits of power steering. Turning the steering wheel without it requires a lot of arm strength.
Power steering fluid consists of a few different types of materials, primarily petroleum products, and can include synthetic oils, silicone-based fluids, or mineral oil.
Like most of the fluids in your vehicle, the power steering fluid gets contaminated with particles over time. These tiny particles often come from the various parts of the power steering system, such as the O-rings. These particles force the power steering fluid pump to work harder to move the fluid through the system. Eventually, the particles can get stuck in the pump, causing it to fail prematurely.
Vehicle manufacturers don’t always provide mileage recommendations for replacing power steering fluid the way they do for motor oil, for example, but you should plan on replacing the power steering fluid roughly every 50,000 to 75,000 miles.
Clean power steering fluid enables the power steering system components to run more efficiently for a longer time. And compared to the cost of replacing a broken power steering pump or rack, power steering fluid is very inexpensive.
Consult the owner’s manual. Some manufacturers recommend that you check the power steering fluid level when the engine is cool. Others recommend checking the fluid when the engine is hot. Check your owner’s manual or the cap of the reservoir to find the best time to check the fluid in your make and model of vehicle.
Find the reservoir. The reservoir that holds the power steering fluid should be easily identifiable under the vehicle’s hood. Most vehicles have large cap on the reservoir clearly marked as for power steering fluid.
Clean around the cap. Before opening the cap, clean the area around it to remove any dust or other particles. You don’t want these contaminants falling into the reservoir.
Your vehicle’s manufacturer might recommend a certain type of power steering fluid to use, and sometimes the recommended fluid costs quite a bit more than other options. Why does one power steering fluid cost more than another?
Original equipment (OE) certified: Some brands of power steering fluid are certified to work with the power steering system of certain vehicle models. You might be familiar with OE in reference to vehicle parts. If you’ve been in an accident, your insurance company may have required OE replacement parts. Fluids can be OE certified, too. The power steering fluid might need to be a certain thickness to match your vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines for its power steering system. Or the product might need to maintain its performance level in certain temperatures. If the power steering fluid is OE certified, it likely costs more.
Third-party fluid: Other types of power steering fluid may not be specifically recommended for your vehicle. These brands are more generic, capable of working in different vehicle models. Some third-party power steering fluid might be recommended to work with all vehicles from a certain manufacturer. Some that aren’t specifically recommended for your vehicle can still provide a minimum level of safe performance for your system. Ultimately, if you want the safest fluid for your vehicle, follow your manufacturer’s recommendation.
If a particular power steering fluid isn’t certified for your make and model of vehicle, it might not provide optimal performance. It could even cause significant corrosion in the power steering system components, leading to eventual failure.
Hiring a mechanic to flush out your power steering system usually costs around $75 to $100.
Power steering fluid is available in many different quantities. You can purchase bottles of 8, 12, 16, 32, or 128 ounces, for example. Most power steering systems require 16 to 32 ounces of fluid, but this capacity varies from vehicle to vehicle.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $0.10 to $1 per ounce for power steering fluid. Larger bottles will typically cost less per ounce than smaller bottles. Brand name and OE certified power steering fluid cost more than generic types.
Beyond the cost of the fluid, you might need to purchase a turkey baster to suction old fluid out of the reservoir. Also position a catch tray beneath the vehicle in case any fluid spills as you flush the system.
If the power steering fluid in the reservoir appears darker in color than you expect, this could indicate it’s time to change the fluid.
If you’re unsure about the location of the power steering fluid reservoir in your vehicle, look for a diagram in the owner’s manual.
If you want to save a bit of money and don’t mind some risk, you can purchase third-party power steering fluid.
If you can replace the oil in your car, you can probably flush the power steering system.
Vehicle manufacturers don’t always provide mileage recommendations for replacing power steering fluid, but you should plan on replacing it roughly every 50,000 to 75,000 miles.
Q. How do I know when it’s time to change the power steering fluid?
A. You can inspect the fluid to see if it has visible particles in it, a surefire clue that it’s time to change the fluid. If you hear a low, almost moaning type of noise when you turn corners, this could indicate the fluid is low or dirty. The power steering system pump also can emit a whining noise if it’s not running efficiently.
Q. How often should I change my power steering fluid?
A. If your vehicle's manufacturer has a recommended mileage for changing power steering fluid, you should follow it. If not, you can change the fluid every 50,000 to 75,000 miles and feel relatively safe. Older vehicles should have the fluid changed closer to the 50,000-mile mark.
Q. What does it mean when the mechanic wants to “flush” my power steering system?
A. This phrase simply means that the mechanic will be removing your current power steering fluid and replacing it with new fluid. If you’re confident in your mechanical skill, you can flush the system yourself.
Q. Can I just pour in some new power steering fluid instead of replacing all of it?
A. Because the power steering system is sealed, it shouldn’t lose fluid unless the system has a leak. If your power steering fluid is low, you can top it off by just adding a bit of fluid as a stopgap measure until you have time to check the power steering system more thoroughly. Just don’t overfill the power steering fluid or the system might not work as efficiently as it should.