Power steering fluid is essential to keep your car in top condition and make turning the wheel a sinch.
Without power steering fluid, your steering wheel may feel tight, or in extreme cases, you may lose steering ability completely!
In this article, you’ll discover what color is power steering fluid and how it can tell you more about the state of your car’s system than you realized. You’ll also get to know some common types of power steering fluid, and the answers to related FAQs.
This Article Contains:
- What Color Is Power Steering Fluid?
- 4 Types Of Power Steering Fluid
- 5 Power Steering Fluid FAQs
Let’s get to it!
What Color Is Power Steering Fluid?
Red is the typical color for power steering fluid, though it’s not the only color.
Leaking power steering fluid could be dangerous for the driver of the car. But even if you don’t see a red puddle under your vehicle, the color of your power steering fluid can be a clue to different things — especially if the steering starts to feel wieldy.
Here are some of the colors your power steering fluid could be:
1. Red, Pink, Or Clear
Usually, the power steering fluid will be red. However, some manufacturers are known to alter the color of their steering fluid.
If you open up your power steering reservoir and the fluid is pink or clear, don’t panic! Your manufacturer decided to use a different power steering fluid color.
One possible reason could be that the transmission fluid is also red. A different color for power steering fluid would make troubleshooting a leak in the system much easier for a car owner or mechanic.
2. Milky Or Foamy
If your fluid looks milky or even foamy, water has made it to your power steering system, and that could affect your handling.
It’s usually nothing to lose your head over, but to be safe, you should have your car checked as soon as possible. Water in the power steering fluid could indicate a leak in another part of your system.
3. Black Or Brown
If your power steering fluid has degraded to this degree, your car has been through the wringer and hasn’t seen new fluid in a while. A brown or, in extreme cases, black power steering fluid color is a sign of really old fluid.
Your steering pump will have a tough time working with the old fluid, and your steering wheel probably feels stiff. The moment you replace your steering hydraulic fluid, you should feel a marked improvement in your car’s handling.
If you have a coolant leak in your engine bay, some of that coolant may make its way into your power steering reservoir and yellow the fluid. It’s uncommon yet entirely possible.
Even though it’s not a major cause for concern, the differences in viscosity between the fluids may affect your steering ability. The contaminated fluid should be flushed to ensure minimal damage to your power steering system.
Now you know which power steering fluid color means what.
But what are the different types of steering fluid you can use in your car?
4 Types Of Power Steering Fluid
Let’s dig deeper into the types of steering fluids:
1. Mineral Power Steering Fluids
This is an inexpensive power steering fluid made with refined petroleum and some other additives.
Its main benefit is that it doesn’t negatively impact the rubber in your steering system. However, these inexpensive fluids tend to form foam and aren’t as long-lasting as more premium fluids.
2. Semi Synthetic Power Steering Fluid
Semi synthetic power steering fluid is a mixture of synthetic and mineral substances. It’s almost a fantastic automotive fluid option with low viscosity, providing good lubrication, and is resistant to forming foam.
We say ‘almost.’
Unfortunately, these power steering fluids still degrade the rubber in your steering system.
3. Synthetic Power Steering Fluid
Synthetic fluid is the ideal fluid for your car, provided the manufacturer of your car recommends it. Adding the wrong fluid won’t play nice with your steering pump.
Synthetic fluid is made of refined petroleum fractions, polyesters, and polyhydric alcohols. Its strengths are its low viscosity, resistance to generating foam, and long lifespan to keep the miles rolling.
4. Universal Power Steering Fluid
The universal is an all-rounder fluid that makes life easier for every car owner. It’s compatible with nearly any power steering system, provided the viscosity is the same as the fluid currently used in your car.
A universal power steering fluid has extra additives that help seal a power steering fluid leak and prevent corrosion as well as wear and tear on your system!
Got more questions?
Let’s unravel some power steering FAQs.
5 Power Steering Fluid FAQs
Here are answers to a few power steering-related questions:
1. How Do I Know My Power Steering Fluid Needs To Be Replaced?
The most alarming way to tell if your fluid is on its last leg is if you hear odd sounds (whining noises) coming from your wheels or your power steering pump.
You may also notice your steering isn’t as smooth as it used to be with fresh fluid, and turning the wheel requires effort. If that’s the case, it’s more than likely your power steering fluid is overdue for a change.
If you check the fluid reservoir and notice brown, milky, or yellow fluid, it’s time to flush the system and add new fluid!
2. How Often Should I Change My Power Steering Fluid?
Every 50,000 miles or 5 years.
Depending on how and where you use your vehicle, your power steering fluid could need changing more often.
It’s a good habit to check your power steering fluid along with the other vehicle fluids at every oil change interval.
3. How To Check Power Steering Fluid Levels?
Here are the easy steps to check your power steering fluid level:
- Check the owners manual for service information.
- Locate the power steering fluid reservoir in your engine bay.
- Check the fluid level is above the minimum threshold (or below the maximum if it’s leaking). Some vehicles have hot and cold markings on their power steering fluid reservoir because steering fluid expands with use.
Use the hot marker if the car has been driven recently to check for low power steering fluid levels and the cold marker if your car hasn’t been driven for 8 hours.
- If you have low power steering fluid levels, top off with fresh fluid recommended by the manufacturer. Triple-check and make sure it’s not the wrong fluid before you add it.
- Close the lid, and you’re good to go!
4. My Car Is Leaking Fluid. What Is It, And Should I Be Concerned?
If your car has any fluid leaking, you should immediately get to the bottom of the fluid leak.
Inevitable leaks and spills are normal after filling up a fluid reservoir. Some fluid leaks (like that from your steering rack or motor oil leaks) are more severe.
How can you know which automotive fluid is leaking?
We sorted them by color for you:
- Red: Transmission fluid leak or steering fluid leak
- Light yellow: Brake fluid leak
- Orange: Automatic transmission fluid (such as Dexron II or Dexron III) or rusty coolant leak
- Pink, yellow or green: Coolant leak
- Blue: Windshield fluid leak
- Brown or black: Engine oil (motor oil) leak or old steering fluid leak
- Clear: Water or gasoline leak
5. What Happens If I Drive Without Power Steering Fluid?
When you turn your steering wheel, you turn the steering gear in your steering gearbox. Your power steering pump pressurizes the hydraulic fluid to help you turn your steering wheel.
If you’re low on hydraulic power steering fluid, you’ll experience one or more of the following:
- You’ll hear knocking sounds from the wheels and steering wheel
- Your steering wheel will feel tight and parking will be more difficult
- In extreme cases, you’ll experience a loss of power steering or steering ability completely
Knowing what color your hydraulic power steering fluid should be will help you catch a power steering fluid leak or some other related problem before it gets out of hand – and possibly save your life!
It’s also important to know which type of fluid is best suited for your car to ensure optimal durability and performance. It doesn’t matter if you drive a Range Rover or a Toyota Camry – every car deserves proper TLC.
Still not confident about the different types of power steering fluid?
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