If you’re a beginner DIYer looking to save money on auto repairs, one of the easiest tasks you can do is check your power steering fluid level.
I’m John Cunningham, a qualified and experienced mechanic. In this blog post, I’ll show you clear and concise steps on how to check the power steering fluid level in most vehicles, as well as a basic overview of how the power steering system works.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Check Power Steering Fluid Level
Before we dive into the steps, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Safety first: Testing of power steering fluid is usually done while the vehicle is running, so be careful of where you palace your hands and be careful of loose clothing such as hoodie strings; they can get caught in pulleys. Ensure the car is parked on a level surface.
- Check the owner’s manual: The location of the power steering fluid reservoir may vary depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Check if the manufacturer recommends engine running. Refer to the owner’s manual for specific instructions.
- Wear safety glasses: Power steering fluid is usually clear or amber-colored and can cause eye irritation. Protect your eyes by wearing safety glasses.
Just before we jump in, it’s worth noting not all cars have hydraulic power steering. In fact, electric steering systems are now more common, a point worth noting if you’re having trouble locating your hydraulic power steering reservoir.
If you do have electric power steering and your steering feels heavy, you’ll need a code reader to find the fault code, which will be logged in the onboard computer.
Ok, let’s get started!
Step 1 Locate the power steering fluid reservoir
The power steering fluid reservoir is usually located near the power steering pump.
It’s typically a small plastic or metal container with a dipstick or a fill line on the side.
Step 2: Check the fluid level
Remove the cap or dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag. Then, reinsert the dipstick or cap and remove it again.
Check the fluid level against the fill line or dipstick markings. If the fluid level is below the fill line or dipstick markings, add more fluid.
Note some vehicles may have “Hot” Min and Max and “Cold” Min and Max markings on the dipstick. These relate to the oil temperature when tested. For example, power steering tested before the car is started is cold fluid, so cold markings should be used.
Conversely, the Hot Min and Max marks should be used when the fluid is hot.
Step 3: Add more fluid if necessary
If the fluid level is low, add power steering fluid until it reaches the fill line or dipstick markings. Use a funnel to avoid spilling fluid. Be careful not to overfill the reservoir, as it can cause damage to the power steering system.
Basic Overview of How the Power Steering System Works
The power steering system is a hydraulic system that uses a pump driven by a belt connected to the rotating crankshaft, which pressurizes the power steering fluid.
This pressurized fluid is then sent to the power steering gear, which helps turn the wheels more efficiently and requires less input effort from the driver.
The power steering system includes hoses, belts, and other components that work together to make steering easier.
Common Power Steering Issues and Solutions
One of the most common power steering issues is a leak. If you notice power steering fluid on the ground or under the hood, it’s a sign of a leak.
The solution is to find and fix the leak. The most common areas for leaks are the power steering pump, hoses, and the power steering gear.
Power Steering Drive Belt Issues
Another common issue is a worn or loose power steering drive belt. This can cause noise and difficulty in turning the steering wheel.
The solution is to inspect the belt for wear or damage and replace it if necessary.
Q: How often should I check my power steering fluid level? It’s a good idea to check your power steering fluid level once a month, especially if you notice any symptoms such as noise or difficulty in turning the steering wheel.
Q: What type of power steering fluid should I use? Refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended type of power steering fluid for your specific vehicle. The oil type is sometimes marked on the fluid reservoir cap.
Q: Can I drive my car if the power steering fluid level is low? Driving your car with a low power steering fluid level is not recommended. This can cause damage to the power steering pump but, more importantly, is a safety issue as it requires greater effort by the driver to make steering adjustments.
Q: When should I change my power steering fluid? Changing the power steering fluid every 50,000 to 100,000 miles is recommended. However, you should always refer to your car’s owner’s manual for the recommended interval.
Q: What are the signs of low-power steering fluid? Low power steering fluid signs include difficulty turning the steering wheel, strange noises, and a steering wheel that feels stiff or unresponsive.
Checking your power steering fluid is important, and checking regularly ensures you spot issues such as fluid leaks and can hopefully get them repaired asap. Remember running a power steering pump without fluid will damage the pump, and it can be spendy to buy and fit.
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- About the Author
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John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. He’s been a mechanic for over twenty-five years and has worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Land Rover, and Jaguar dealerships.
John uses his know-how and experience to write fluff-free articles that help fellow gearheads with all aspects of vehicle ownership, including maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting.