Informational Guide

How To Check Power Steering Fluid (For All Cars)

Follow this easy guide for checking it yourself at home, no special tools or expertise needed.

The modern car relies on power steering fluid to operate the steering system smoothly. If the fluid is low, you will have problems steering the car, which is why you must know how to check power steering fluid.

We will review the steps you need to know.

Power steering ensures that the driver doesn't need to put forth a lot of effort when steering the car. There are two main types of power steering fluid.

Synthetic fluid

Synthetic fluid, just like synthetic motor oil, reduces friction and improves lubrication. For the most part, European and Japanese automakers are going to recommend this type of fluid. You will also need it if you drive a German luxury brand.

Universal fluid

Most power steering fluids are compatible with a variety of systems. These contain special additives to improve responsiveness and reduce friction. However, not every driver should use a universal fluid. Instead, check what your manufacturer recommends.

Can ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) be used as an alternative for power steering fluid? Some vehicles might be compatible with the ATF, but you would need to choose the right one. Otherwise, you are going to damage the hydraulics with the included friction modifiers and detergents.

How To Check Power Steering Fluid

Signs of Low Power Steering Fluid Levels: When to Check

Difficulty turning

The most common symptom that you should learn to check your power steering fluid is when the wheel becomes more difficult to turn. This problem might start subtly and get worse over time. However, if left unchecked, it could result in a loss of power steering.

Squealing noises

Listen for a whining or squealing noise as you turn the wheel. If you hear that sound, you might have low power steering fluid. Air begins to circulate through the system when there isn't enough fluid, which is what causes those sounds.

Vibrating/jerky steering wheel

As you drive, the steering wheel should remain steady. If you start to notice any unusual vibrations or shaking, you might need to top off the fluid. Additionally, the wheel should never jerk to one side or the other. Pull over and check the system whenever you notice these symptoms.

Leaking fluid

At worst, you might notice that the power steering system has a leak, which is causing your lower fluid levels. If you notice that the tank is completely empty, you should learn how to check for a power steering fluid leak and repair it right away.

How often should power steering fluid be changed? The power steering fluid doesn't need to be changed at every tune-up. Instead, you should regularly check the levels, but only change it once every two years or 75,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Need to determine vehicle issues? Check out our guide on car diagnostic tools here.


How To Check Your Power Steering Fluid Level (A Mechanics Guide)

How do you check power steering fluid level? Follow these steps to get started.

Find the power steering fluid reservoir. This spot will vary based on what vehicle you drive. Typically, it's a small container that is clear and contains a black cap. You might also see marks on the outside of the container that indicates whether the fluid is at the MIN or MAX location. If you can see this readily, make sure the level is at the appropriate spot.

If you need to use the dipstick, you will check the fluid just like you check motor oil. Remove the cap. Wipe off the dipstick using a shop rag. Put the cap back on and allow it to sit for a few seconds. When you remove the cap a second time, you will be able to check the levels. There might be a "Full Cold" or "Full Hot" mark, so make sure you look at the right one.

If you need to add fluid, now is your chance.

Checking Power Steering Fluid For The Most Common Models
  • Suzuki Swift 
    If you want to know how to check power steering fluid in a Suzuki Swift, look for a separate bottle. It might come from the pump and V-belt, and it contains a filling cap that says steering fluid on it. Once you find the right location, follow the steps outlined above.
  • 2013 Dodge Charger 
    Learning how to check power steering fluid on a 2013 Dodge Charger is a little different because the reservoir and power steering pump are one unit located at the right front wheel well. To get to it, you must take off the right front wheel.
  • Nissan Altima 
    It's simple to learn how to check power steering fluid on a Nissan Altima. Just look at the gauge attached to the reservoir cap. Your fluid level should be between the MIN2 and MAX1 lines.
  • BMW 
    Suppose you want to know how to check power steering fluid on a BMW e46. Simply locate the power steering pump on the driver's side of the engine bay. This is the location you will find the power steering fluid reservoir.
  • Honda Accord/Odyssey 
    Learning how to check power steering fluid on a Honda Odyssey is fairly identical to figuring out how to check power steering fluid on a Honda Accord. The fluid reservoir will be found on either the right or passenger's side inner fender well.
  • Toyota Corolla 
    You can learn how to check power steering fluid on a Toyota Corolla. Most often, the reservoir is located on the driver's side, closer to the firewall. It should contain a round cap that's marked "Power Steering."
How To Check Power Steering Fluid Level

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Do you check power steering fluid with the engine on or off?

Most often, it's recommended that you check the power steering fluid after running the engine for a few minutes. However, you should check your owner's manual to find out what the manufacturer suggests.

Can you drive with no power steering?

While it can be difficult to do, there's nothing stopping you from driving without power steering. However, doing this for long periods of time without fluid could cause damage to the pump.

What happens if you overfill power steering fluid?

When you overfill the power steering fluid, it can leak and lead to foaming, which reduces the longevity of the system. Additionally, as the fluid gets hot, it might force its way beyond the reservoir.

What happens if you don't change power steering fluid?

Without the proper amount of lubrication, the internal components and seals can start to fail. This deterioration would cause a leak, which could damage the rest of your steering system, which includes the pump.

How much does it cost to replace a power steering fluid?

Depending on what type of vehicle you drive, you might spend between $75 and $150 for power steering fluid replacement. As with your regular tune-up costs, you can reduce the expense by doing the job yourself.


Conclusion

You can learn how to check power steering fluid at home. With our simple steps, you are on your way to protecting your valuable power steering system and avoiding costly repairs down the road.

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