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Many of today’s automobiles employ a hydraulic power assist mechanism to make steering the vehicle a lot easier. Newer cars even come with electric power steering that is so light that you can maneuver the car using a finger. However, since most cars on the road still use power steering systems that run on steering fluid, learning how to replace power steering fluid is a must. Changing this kind of automotive fluid is easy and we’ll teach you how.

Man's hands on a steering wheel

Know When It’s Time to Change

Automotive fluids have a certain lifespan. For example, motor or engine oil needs replacement every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, depending on the type of oil. The same is true with transmission fluid, brake fluid, and other fluids in the modern car.

When it comes to a power steering fluid change, some say that you should replace it every 24,000 miles. Others would say that 100,000 miles is the ideal cutoff. Our recommendation is to check your owner’s manual. It will provide you with the most accurate information as to when you should replace your power steering fluid.

Get Your Materials Ready

The owner’s manual should also give you the specifications of steering fluid you should put in your car. The best power steering fluid should be specific to the brand, model, make, and trim of your automobile. There are some vehicle manufacturers that allow the use of a compatible automatic transmission fluid like those that have DEXRON-III or MERCON technologies.

In addition to the right power steering fluid, you will also need a fluid transfer pump or a siphon. This will help remove all of the fluid from the tank and into a fluid catch can. The process of how to drain power steering fluid also requires a funnel to refill the reservoir. Disposable gloves, goggles, and shop towels are also a must.

Determine the Location of the Reservoir for the Power Steering Fluid

Check your manual again for the specific location of the steering fluid reservoir. In most vehicles, you can see this device along with the other engine accessories. Check the cap of the reservoir. It will have a steering wheel symbol on the top of the cap. If you do not see this symbol, you can read letterings that read ‘power steering fluid only’.

Mechanic checking the power steering fluid

Remove the Old Power Steering Fluid

There are two possible ways on how to change power steering fluid. The first is by using a siphon or a fluid transfer pump. For those who would like to be practical, an ordinary turkey baster will suffice. Remove the cap of the reservoir. Wear gloves and dip one tip of the fluid transfer pump into the fluid. Position the other end of the device over a fluid catch can. Start pumping to remove the fluid from the reservoir.

There will come a point when you will no longer be able to siphon the fluid because its level is already too low. To remove all of the fluid, you will need to push the fluid from the pump to the reservoir. To do this, you will need to turn the ignition key to the “Accessories” or “ACC” position. This will allow you to perform a lock to lock maneuver of the steering wheel without activating the power steering pump. The maneuver also pushes the power steering fluid in the pump into the reservoir. You can then siphon it out.

The second method is by removing the hose that connects the reservoir to the power steering pump. This will completely drain the reservoir of power steering fluid. If you want to learn how to drain power steering fluid in a more efficient manner, this is the method to use.

You will need to raise the front of the car by using an appropriate jack. Support the car by putting jack stands at specific lifting points in the vehicle. Go under your car and locate the power steering pump. Determine the location of the low-pressure hose. This will be underneath the power steering pump. Place the catch pan directly under this section.

Loosen the clamp that connects the hose to the pump. Get ready with the fluid catch can. Expect the power steering fluid to start flowing the moment you disconnect the hose. That is why you will have to wear your goggles for this.

Right after draining the fluid, reconnect the hose to the power steering pump. Get ready to replace power steering fluid.

Pour the New Power Steering Fluid

Get the funnel and place it into the neck of the power steering fluid reservoir. Open the container of the steering fluid or automatic transmission fluid and pour into the reservoir through the funnel. Make sure to pour only the correct amount of power steering fluid. Check the owner’s manual for the information.

You can also check the reservoir itself. In most instances, you will see two lines, MIN and MAX. Fill the reservoir with the steering fluid only up to the level of the MAX. You can also add a stop leak product or a power steering conditioner together with the fluid. This will help maintain the quieter and smoother operation of the power steering pump.

Man pouring power steering fluid

Finish Up

The last step to a power steering fluid change is putting the reservoir cap back on. Turn the steering wheel in a lock-to-lock fashion again and recheck the level of the fluid. If you jacked the car, now’s the time to remove the jack stands.

Crank the engine and let it run for 15 to 20 seconds. Perform the lock-to-lock motion of the steering wheel while letting the engine run. Check the level of the fluid again. Take it for a 10 to 15 minute drive. Make sure to perform turns. Also, take note of the sound coming from the power steering pump. It should have an audible yet soft whine.

Recheck the fluid. If it stays on its MAX level, then you have just completed the whole process of how to change power steering fluid.

Changing the power steering fluid is easy. Follow these steps and you can ensure the continuity of a pleasant drive.

Sources:

  1. How to Change Power Steering Fluid – Family Handyman
  2. How to Replace Power Steering Fluid (with a Drain) – Instructables

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