You must have heard the term power steering thrown around. Power steering, at its most basic, is a system that is built to help you turn and steer with ease as you drive.
If you’re confused about what it means, what it is, and how it works, the following paints a detailed picture of power steering.
How Does Power Steering Work?
Power steering is a complex system integrated into your car that is designed to help reduce the effort taken by the driver to turn and steer the wheel.
Through power steering, the driver is able to have better control and handling of the car while driving.
The system employs engine power and three different types of mechanisms hydraulic, electric, and hybrid models to help the car turn the wheel.
The hydraulic power steering system utilizes a hydraulic pump that pushes the fluid through the system and exerts pressure. The pressure multiplies the user’s input and helps in turning the wheels at the front.
An electric power steering mechanism, however, relies on sensors to read the input and convey the information to the ECU – Electronic Control Unit.
This action generates signals sent to the electric motor that works with other components to turn the wheels as instructed by the driver.
A hybrid model on the other hand comes with the same structure as the hydraulic system. However, instead of relying on a hydraulic pump, the system utilizes an electric pump that is connected to the engine.
Replacing the hydraulic pump makes the system more reliable overall and can deliver better results.
What’s The Point of Power Steering Fluid?
You might be wondering what a power steering fluid is and how it fits into the equation. First of all, the power steering fluid is a reserve that’s usually kept under the hood.
The fluid is another term used to describe the hydraulic fluid responsible for generating pressure through movement. The power steering fluid is generally considered to be a bridge between the steering and the front wheels.
Moreover, the liquid comes with the added benefit of lubricating the many complex components responsible for ensuring steering control.
Steering fluid usually comes in either a red or a light pink/amber color. If it turns dark, it needs to be replaced.
How Do I Know If My Power Steering Fluid Is Low?
Low steering fluid is not easy to catch as the symptoms are not always obvious. You need to be attuned with your car if you want to quickly catch any obvious signs of low steering fluid.
One prominent indicator of low fluid is difficulty during steering. If you’re observant, you’ll be able to catch when it takes more effort to turn the steering wheel.
If you feel any resistance when steering the wheel, the most obvious culprit is low fluid.
Another common sign is a loud whining noise every time you turn the wheel. You might also notice fluid on the garage floor when your car is at a rest.
A way to confirm whether the steering fluid is leaking or not is by simply turning your car on and steering the wheel back and forth. Someone else can pinpoint where the leak is located meanwhile.
What Type of Power Steering Fluid Do I Need?
There are several types of power steering fluids that are available for your use. The following are some of them:
- Automatic Transmission Fluid: Made for vehicles that recommend the use of automatic transmission fluid only in the system.
- Conventional Power Steering Fluid: Non-synthetic fluids that are generally made with conventional base oils.
- Synthetic Power Steering Fluid: Made with synthetic base oils that can provide better protection against rust and oxidation.
How to Check My Power Steering Fluid
Checking your power steering fluid is an easy task. You don’t need to be as widely familiar with the inner component of your car to perform this check.
Here’s everything you’re going to need.
- Recommended Power Steering Fluid
- A Clean Towel
- Your car’s manual
- Paper Towel
- A Metal Funnel
Step 1: Read the Manual
You might get annoyed with this suggestion but reading the manual before you begin messing around with the internal components of your car is not a good idea.
Most car manufacturers include specific information regarding the power steering system that you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
This includes the location of the reservoir, the fluid that you should use, and how to read different fluid level markings.
It’s important for you to go through this information before you begin so that you have a general idea of what you’re doing and how.
Step 2: Find the Reservoir
If you’ve followed the first step, this isn’t going to be difficult for you. Simply observe the reservoir and its cap.
if the cap is loose or if it has a weak seal, you’ll probably find the reservoir wet.
Step 3: Check the Fluid Level
Some manufacturers include a transparent reservoir with etched markings.
In this case, simply measure the fluid against the reservoir and determine whether it needs to be replaced or not.
On the other hand, some vehicles don’t come with a transparent reservoir. In this case, you can use a long pic or a fluid-level dipstick.
When Should You Check Power Steering Fluid?
Most vehicles spot two marking levels: Hot and Cold. It’s not always clear which level marking you need to use.
As the fluid expands when heated, both level markings have different ratings. You can determine which marking to use based on when you last drove your vehicle.
If you haven’t used your vehicle for the last 8 hours, then you should use the cold reading. If not, taking the hot level reading is the most ideal approach to take.
If your car doesn’t have separate marking levels for hot and cold, then your best bet is to check the power steering fluid at normal operating temperature.
This way, the power steering fluid won’t be hot or cold to give an inaccurate reading.
Can You Just Add Power Steering Fluid?
That depends. If the power steering fluid in your reservoir is between MIN and MAX, you really don’t need to add new fluid.
You can use a dipstick and measure it against the MIN and MAX lines written outside the reservoir.
However, you’ll need to add more fluid if it’s below the MIN line while being careful not to overflow it.
You can simply add a new power steering fluid and dilute the older one in it. Just run the system for a while to let the fluid settle in before driving the car.
Although cars usually don’t require a system flush unless specified by the manufacturer, it’s always better to have your power steering pump flushed occasionally.
The power steering fluid is an essential part of the system as it allows you to turn your car around with minimal effort.
Checking it and topping it off when it’s low is a part of the regular process.
By taking care of fluid levels, you can ensure that the components like your power steering system work flawlessly and save up on exuberant repair costs.
Maintaining fluid levels is among the most basic tasks for car owners and is enough to keep your car functional.
We hope that this guide was able to give you a brief overview of the power steering system and teach you how to check the fluid levels to maintain its operations.