Troubleshooting Power Steering Fluid: 2 Common Problems

The importance of power steering systems

man driving car
The power steering system is one of the most critical components for the safety of your vehicle. It makes it possible for you to turn your car’s steering wheel. If it were to go out in the middle of you driving, you would lose control over your vehicle, resulting in possible injury to you or others.
One of the most essential parts of this critical system is the power steering fluid. Hydraulic and electro-hydraulic power steering systems rely on hydraulic fluid for energy and lubrication to run. If it goes bad or runs out, you’re in trouble.

Electric power steering systems have no fluid.

Electric power steering (EPS) systems replaced the hydraulic power assist with an electric motor, which means there’s no hydraulic fluid to worry about. EPS has become popular with manufacturers over the last decade because of energy efficiency, fuel economy, and lack of complexity.
If your vehicle has an electric power steering system, it’s likely the cause of failure would be the motor, electronics, or torque sensor.
For those with vehicles still running on hydraulic or electro-hydraulic power steering systems, here are two issues you might have with your power steering fluid and how to fix them.

1. Power steering fluid wear

Hydraulic and electro-hydraulic systems use fluid to create hydraulic pressure, which assists the driver’s steering input. Over time the constant use, high pressures, and temperatures break down the power steering fluid’s lubrication abilities, i.e., it gets old and dirty.
If your car has been too responsive while driving, the wheel is too hard to turn, or there is a grinding noise during sharper turns, then contaminated power steering fluid might be the issue.
Insufficient lubrication causes wear and tear, leading to corrosion due to abrasive metal in your vehicle’s system. Once this happens, you need a power steering service to replace the old, contaminated fluid with new, clean fluid. This process restores the power steering system so you can be back on the road and running smoothly.

2. Power steering fluid leak

Constant high pressure affects all parts of the system. These include the power steering pump, hoses, rubber seals, and gasket. If you see fluid underneath your engine or a decrease in your power steering performance, you can check the fluid levels in your power steering fluid reservoir.
If you do have a leak, you need to find the source of it and get it sealed as soon as possible. We advise taking your car to a professional to get this done.

How to check your power steering fluid reservoir

Your power steering fluid reservoir is under the hood, but the location depends on the make and model of your vehicle. It is usually labeled “power steering fluid.”
hand opening power steering fluid resevoir
  1. You will know if the fluid is old, contaminated, and ready to change if it is dark and smells burnt when you open the reservoir.
  2. There are indicators for “MIN” and “MAX” levels outside the reservoir to tell how high or low your fluid is. The cap might have a dipstick attached to it, and in that case, you can wipe it clean and reinsert it before taking it back out to check the power steering fluid levels. The measurement of the dipstick will tell you if your power steering fluid is too low or spilling over.

Steering fluid maintenance

To avoid potential dangers, like losing control of your steering wheel, you should get your power steering system serviced every 30,000 miles.

Preventive maintenance such as a power steering system service that cleans and exchanges old fluid for new will keep your power steering system clean and operating correctly. Also, periodically adding a conditioner/maintainer in between services will ensure optimal performance during the fluid’s lifespan.

We offer the BG Power Steering Service to do just that. If you’re concerned with your hydraulic or electro-hydraulic power steering system, you can find a BG distributor using BG’s shop locator to ask for a check-up.


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