Most vehicles, with the exception of some hybrids and electric, have a hydraulic power steering system that allows the driver to turn the wheel without exerting great effort. The power steering system consists of different parts: a rack and pinion attached to the front wheels, a piston within the rack and pinion that is driven by pressurized fluid from the power steering pump that helps turn the wheels, and a reservoir containing the liquid mounted on the pump or installed at a distance for easier access. (In case there is not enough liquid, turning will become more difficult, and both the pump and the rack or pinion can be damaged because there is no liquid to soften them.) Therefore, it is important to frequently check the levels of the power steering fluid and add it when necessary.
Step 1. Find the reserve deposit
In case you have difficulty turning the steering wheel or the steering wheel makes a shrill noise from the steering wheel when you turn it, the power steering fluid may be low. The power steering fluid is usually in a reserve reservoir next to the power steering pump or located further away connected with hoses from the pump and must be clearly labeled. The tank can be made of plastic or metal.
In case you cannot find the deposit, consult the user manual. Although the reserve of the power steering is usually in the same place in most of the vehicles, the most modern can have it in another place to save space
Step 2. Check the power steering fluid level
If the reserve tank is made of transparent plastic, you will be able to see the liquid level inside the tank. If it is made of metal or the plastic is not transparent enough, you can check the level of the liquid with the dipstick that is usually attached to the cap.
- In some vehicles, the power steering fluid level can only be accurately checked after the engine has been running for a short time, and sometimes you will also need to turn the steering wheel in both directions while the vehicle is idling.
- In some vehicles it is possible to find graduations on the dipstick or on the tank both for the hot level when the engine has been running, and for the cold level after it has been off for a period of time. On other vehicles there may be minimum and maximum lines for acceptable fluid levels. Make sure to compare the power steering fluid level to the correct mark.
Step 3. Observe how much dipstick is covered by the power steering fluid
In case you are using a dipstick to check the power steering fluid level, first wipe off any excess fluid from the dipstick when you first remove it from the reservoir, then push it in as deep as you can and finally pull it out. again.
Step 4. Examine the color of the power steering fluid
The color of a good power steering fluid is usually clear, amber, or pinkish.
- If the color of the power steering fluid is brown or black, it has probably been contaminated by rubber particles from the connecting hoses, seals or O-rings. If this happens, take the vehicle to a mechanic to see if any of the components of the power steering system need to be changed along with the fluid.
- The power steering fluid may appear darker than it actually is. If you have any doubts, look at the color of the power steering fluid stain on the rag or paper towel with which you cleaned the dipstick. In case the stain is the color that the liquid is supposed to be, it means that it is not contaminated.
Step 5. Add power steering fluid as needed for the correct fill level
In case the vehicle has the tank with graduations, it is possible to add fluid constantly until you reach the correct hot or cold fill level. In case you check the level with a dipstick, add the liquid progressively to avoid overfilling the reserve.
- Be sure to use only the power steering fluid that is recommended for your vehicle because it will have the correct viscosity (density) for your vehicle's power steering system.
- Manufacturers do not recommend using transmission fluid instead of power steering fluid. There are many different types of fluids, and using the wrong fluid can cause failure of the power steering as well as its seals.
- Be careful not to overfill the power steering system. It is usually better to fill the system a little less than overfill, as the power steering fluid expands when it warms up and does its job. If you fill the tank completely and try to drive the vehicle like this, the pressure from the expansion may start to cause problems and require more expensive repairs.
Step 6. Change the reservoir cap
Depending on the make of the vehicle, you may have to press or screw the cap into place. Make sure it's tight before closing the hood.