How to Flush Your Power Steering Fluid
How to Flush Power Steering Fluid
Flushing power steering fluid refers to the process of circulating the fluid in an automobile's steering system in order to assure proper operation. At slow speeds, power steering allows you to easily turn the big, heavy wheels on your car — as long as you have enough steering fluid. The procedure is not difficult, and with a little knowledge, even someone with a minimal amount of experience in mechanics can perform this task on his or her own.
Knowing When to Flush Power Steering
Check your owner's manual for the recommended power steering flush schedule.Your power steering system is actually remarkable at staying clean. That said, over time natural wear and tear will cause bits of rubber, plastic, and dirt to enter the fluid, and this can cause problems to the entire system if the fluid is not flushed. Each car has it's own suggested interval after which you should change the fluid, so look up your model's time frame.
- For high-end cars, you should consider replacing the fluid every 35-40 thousand miles.
Check your power steering fluid reservoir monthly to check for leaks.Your power steering fluid level should barely change from month to month. If it is changing, then you likely have a leak and should bring your car to an auto shop as soon as possible.
- Your reservoir usually has a labeled cap or a picture of a steering wheel. If you are having trouble locating this semi-transparent plastic tank, check your owner's manual.
Check the color and consistency of your power steering fluid.Open the reservoir and use a flashlight to peer down into the fluid. The consistency, color, and smell will tell you whether or not you need to change your fluid:
- Flush your fluidif it smells burnt, looks dark brown or black, and/or has shiny, metallic bits in it.
- Refresh you fluidif it is darkly colored, your owner's manual recommends it, and/or if you do frequent towing or high-weight driving.
- Your fluid is fineif is is lightly colored, dark without metallic bits or chunks, or was replaced in the last two to three years.
Bring your car to the mechanic if you hear a whining or moaning noise when turning.This could be the sign of more serious, and expensive, power steering problems. The sooner you take care of the issue, the easier and cheaper the repair will be.
Flushing your Fluid
Lift the vehicle using a jack and assure that the front wheels are raised to a sufficient height, allowing you to slide easily under the car.Since you will be rotating the steering wheel, jack stands are recommended in order to allow free movement of the tires.
Locate and remove the catch tray under the power steering system.Some cars will not have a catch tray. If confused, check your owner's manual. If there is any fluid in this tray it likely means you have a leak and should bring the car into a mechanic.
- Place a disposable pan right under the location of the catch tray to capture the fluid as you flush it.
- If you are extra car savvy, make sure you disconnect the line that goes from the power steering rack to the reservoir. While not strictly necessary, this will remove more fluid and lead to a better flush.
Drain the power steering fluid by disconnecting the low-pressure hose from the steering pump at its lowest point.There will be multiple thin (1/2-1" thick) hoses running from your power steering. With your pan ready underneath, unhook this hose and drain the old fluid.
- Be ready for the fluid to flow as soon as you unhook it. Gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves are recommended.
Unscrew the cap to the power steering reservoir and add roughly 1/2 the manufacturer's recommended amount of power steering fluid.In order to fully flush the system, you'll need to remove the air bubbles and push out the rest of the fluid in the hoses. Fill it roughly halfway before moving on.
Turn the car on and add more fluid, keeping the reservoir half full.It is often easiest to have a friend turn the car on while you pour. You want to keep your eyes on the draining fluid as well as the current level of the reservoir. When the draining fluid is clearly new fluid, shut the car off.
- Have your friend turn the wheel back and forth as you pour. This will help remove air from the lines.
- The fluid will likely bubble as you fill it. This is good, as it represents the air being flushed from the system.
Reattach the power steering line after you turn the car off.Power steering fluid is not thick, so it should not be hard to close the line up once you're done working. Once the fluid is flushed, shut the car off and reattach everything how you found it.
Fill the reservoir up to the recommended level and close it up.Once you've got the air out and the line closed, fill up the reservoir to the recommended level.
Start the engine and rotate the steering wheel from one locked position to the other for five minutes.Listen for a buzzing sound which indicates that there is air trapped in the system. Continue to turn the steering wheel until the fluid is properly circulated throughout the system, releasing any remaining air.
Turn the car off and top the reservoir with more fluid.More likely than not, your fluid level will seem to drop after you test the steering wheel. This is because fluid is being drawn out of the reservoir and into the lines. Top off the reservoir with more power steering fluid to finish the job.
Verify that the steering wheel is operating properly when the vehicle's weight is on the tires.Turn the car on and turn the steering wheel back and forth. Ensure that the wheels can turn like normal. If they don't, bleed the system again and refill it.
Refreshing Your Fluid
Recognize that flushing power steering is not necessarily essential.Many owner's manuals never even mention steering fluid, and despite the urging of some mechanics, there is growing disagreement that a full flush is really needed for most cars.If the fluid doesn't smell burnt and there are no metallic bits in the fluid, you can get by with a simpler "flush."
- If your fluid is dark or you are losing sleep worrying about your car, this simple procedure will refresh your fluid for the foreseeable future.
Locate the power steering fluid reservoir on your engine.This is usually labeled with a steering wheel icon on the cap.
Mark the current level and condition of the power steering fluid.Note the color and consistency of the fluid. If it smells burnt or has bits of metal in it, you'll need to do a full flush of the system. Note the current level of the fluid.
Use a turkey baster to suction the old fluid out of the reservoir.This will take some time, and you will not get everything, but this is a simple and easy way to get old fluid out without a complicated flush.
Refill the reservoir to its prior level with fresh fluid.This simple procedure will protect your car, cheaply, and is just as effective a method as a full flush if you have no other problems. The power steering system is, relatively speaking, rather clean and simple. Unlike other fluids, like oil, the power steering system doesn't even need a filter. This quick "refresher" is likely all you'll need to do to keep your wheels turning easily.
- Many cars don't even recommend changing this fluid — you'll be ahead of the game if you even do this.
Repeat the process a few weeks later to fully refresh the fluid.Drive the car around, recirculating the fluid, and repeat a few weeks later if you want a full "flush." This won't get everything out, but more than enough to keep your car running happily.
QuestionWhat if I accidentally put a little water into the power fluid reservoir?Hunter HutchinsonCommunity Answerf it's a small amount. then there nothing to worry about. If it is a large amount (milky, creamy, watery consistency), you need to replace the fluid. If there is too much water it will dilute the fluid so it cannot lubricate or pressurize the way it needs to, and the water could rust your power steering system if it stays in the reservoir too long.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I get water out of the system? The fluid is milky and foamy.Hunter HutchinsonCommunity AnswerYou have to flush the entire system to make sure you get rid of the water. If the water has been circulating through your system too long, it could have begun the rust process. You need to flush your entire system ASAP or you could lose power steering.Thanks!
QuestionIs it okay to start my engine while the low pressure hose isn't attached? I think the pump may fail while running dry.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, you can start the engine while the low pressure hose is disconnected. Watch the reservoir fluid level and keep it full while the engine is running. After flushing, reconnect the hose. Closely monitor the fluid level after restarting the engine and driving, as more air may be introduced using this method.Thanks!
QuestionI believe I located a hose leak in the reservoir from the you-hose to the main reservoir, can I change it without draining the system if the fluid is fairly clean?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerA certain amount will inevitably drain when you change the hose. It wouldn't be strictly necessary to fully drain the system. Just keep in mind that the fluid is dirt cheap and you'll be getting messy anyway.Thanks!
QuestionIs it okay to use transmission fluid in place of power steering fluid? I have had a couple of shops tell me this recently.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSome mechanics use automatic transmission fluid (ATF) when the specified PS fluid is not available. Hydraulic power steering systems (in vehicles made prior to year 2000) have sensitive rubber oil seals that need the right fluid. ATF can weaken oil seals because ATF is not an oil but a mixture of various chemical compounds containing a large number of additives. In case ATF is used in your car, flush and replace it with the specified PS fluid as soon as possible.Thanks!
QuestionI made a mistake and drove 30+ miles after topping off the power steering fluid with brake fluid. Will flushing it out now save the day?Hunter HutchinsonCommunity AnswerIf you haven't had problems with it yet, then yes, change it out ASAP. If you are already hearing creaking and experiencing trouble turning, it might be too late. If it's too late you'll need a new pump and hoses at minimum.Thanks!
QuestionIf I install a new power steering pump, do I still need to flush the system?Hunter HutchinsonCommunity AnswerIf you are going to install the pump, you might as well flush the system so your pump can start off with fresh fluid instead of old, used fluid.Thanks!
Some mechanics use a fluid extractor method. Does this work or should I run the vehicle while the return hose is draining and I'm refilling the reservoir?
To flush power steering fluid, use a jack to lift the vehicle's front wheels so you can slide underneath. Next, remove the catch tray under the power steering system, disconnect the steering pump hose, and drain the old fluid into the tray. Fill up the reservoir halfway with fresh fluid, then turn on the car and continue adding fluid, keeping the reservoir half full as it drains. Once new fluid is draining through the hose, shut the car off, reattach the steering line, and fill up the reservoir!
- During the air purging process, it is imperative that you don't overfill the reservoir. Filling it to the midpoint between the minimum and maximum levels is ideal.
- For safety purposes, be sure to wear suitable clothing and protective eyewear when performing this operation.
- It will generally take six separate cycles to complete a power steering fluid flush.
- Since vehicles vary concerning year, make and model, it is always advisable to consult your owner's manual regarding the specific details of any maintenance procedure.
- Performing a power steering fluid flush on a predetermined schedule is an integral component in preserving the functionality of your vehicle.
- If, after you've flushed two quarts of fluid through the system, you still hear a buzzing when rotating the steering wheel, you may need to remove the fluid reservoir in order to expel all of the air.
- Always dispose of any purged fluid in an environmentally responsible way.
Video: Absolute BEST Method To Flush Power Steering Fluid!!
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