If you have ever heard a squeaking noise coming from your wheel, odds are you are low on power steering fluid. While this fluid very rarely runs low, it is something you should know how to check and fill. I added it to my series of How To Make Your Car Last Longer because power steering fluid is essential for a smooth steering performance. So let’s get into what it is!
Power steering fluid is what helps you steer smoothly and with little effort. If you recall, older vehicles don’t have power steering which means they do not automatically come back to the middle after a turn. A lot harder to steer, but not impossible. Power steering wasn’t even introduced until Chrysler added it to their line in 1951! If you want, you can read more about the history here, but let’s get back to checking and changing it.
How To Check The Power Steering Fluid
Once you hear a creaking noise coming from the wheel, or your car appears to be more difficult to turn, you want to check the power steering fluid. Just like all of the other fluids I have mentioned before (motor oil, engine coolant, and brake fluid), the power steering reservoir can be found under the hood. It should look more cylindrical than the others and located around the power steering pump. If you can’t find it, refer to your owners manual.
Once you have located the reservoir, check to see if it is full. If you can see through the reservoir, great! Make sure the fluid is near the max line. If you have a metal reservoir, open the top and read the dipstick. Just like checking the motor oil, clean off the dipstick, place it back into the reservoir, pull it back out, and read how much fluid is available.
How To Add Power Steering Fluid
If your wheel is creaking then your dipstick probably isn’t fully covered with the fluid. You might have to add a lot, or you might just have to add a little. You will want to use a funnel to add the fluid directly into the reservoir. Check with your owners manual to see which type of fluid your car needs.
If you are having a hard time finding what line your fluid should be at, read what each line says. Some cars will have a “min” and “max” line, in which case you want the fluid to be just under the max line, (in between the min and the max line is also ok). Other cars might have a “cold” or “hot” line. If your engine is cold, the fluid will sit at the cold line, but if you’ve checked the fluid while the engine is idling or hot, the fluid will be at the hot line.
Most manufacturers will tell you to check the power steering fluid while the car engine is warm. This is because the fluid expands and you do not want to overfill the reservoir. Your owners manual will recommend the temperature your car should be at when adding fluid if you are unsure. Don’t overfill the reservoir with fluid! It could cause serious damage down the road if you overfill the power steering fluid.
When To Change The Power Steering Fluid
Some people say you should check the power steering fluid once a month and have it changed around 50,000 miles. However, power steering fluid is not something that gets used up quickly or needs to be changed frequently. You can check the color of the fluid to help determine if it needs to be changed. Power steering fluid is either clear, amber, or pink, depending on which brand you use.
If you notice the color of the fluid is a very dark brown or black, you have a hose leak or have gotten rubber in the fluid. This needs to be addressed by a mechanic and changed. Leaking hoses are obviously not good and in this case, the fluid needs to be changed, and you probably need a new hose.
While it is unlikely to add fluid or change the power steering fluid, especially with newer cars, knowing where the fluid goes is important. All of the information I have given you in this series (How To Make Your Car Last Longer) is to help enhance the life of your car. Some items should be checked more often than others; And like power steering fluid, shouldn’t be troublesome.
Knowing what to say to your mechanic if you think you have a problem, or knowing the problem and fixing it, are key aspects to making your car last longer. Plus, mechanics love when you know cars. It makes explaining things easier!