Intro: How to Replace Power Steering Fluid (with a Drain)
Video tutorial on how to change the power steering fluid on your vehicle if it’s equipped with a drain plug. Just like any other fluids in your vehicle, power steering fluid also needs to be changed as it does break down over time losing it’s lubricating, heat transfer, and power transfer efficiency qualities. Some power steering systems use a form of hydraulic fluid and others will use an automatic transmission fluid. Some vehicle’s never had the fluid replaced which greatly increases the risk of components failing in the system which can be very costly to repair. As for maintenance intervals, this does depend between manufacturers, but as a generalized figure it should be at around every 60,000km/40,000miles or every three years. Old or worn power steering fluid can cause problems besides premature failure on system parts which includes a whining pump, hard steering, and generating more heat.
- new power steering fluid
- drain pan
- socket set
- rubber gloves (used in the video is Permatex Black 5 mil Nitrile Disposable Gloves #08184)
- ramps or jack and jack/axle stands
- seal/gasket for drain plug
When opening the reservoir, older fluid may appear to be a darker color and can also smell burnt. Fresh fluid is normally a bright red, but this will depend between manufacturers as I have seen some green as well. First you will need to determine what type of fluid your vehicle takes along with the capacity of the system. Ensure the vehicle has reach operating temperature so the fluid will drain easier.
Elevate the vehicle safely, either by jacking up your vehicle and using axle stands or with the use of ramps. Located the drain plug and clean the area around the plug. Place a drain under the area and then remove it using the required tools. For this vehicle, an allen head socket is required. Sometimes you maybe required to loosen the power steering reservoir cap to allow air into the system for draining. I would recommend wearing rubber gloves for this procedure as it allows for easy clean up, especially when we’ll need to operate the steering wheel in a moment. DO NOT start the engine when replacing the fluid to push fluid out of the system. Depending on the design of your system, you maybe required to elevate the rear of your vehicle so it sits somewhat level. Carefully turn out steering from lock to lock right and left which will help push the remaining fluid out of the system.
Next taking a look inside the reservoir, most vehicles are equipped with a filter. Filters can be cleaned, replaced, or left as is. Sometimes you can purchase a filter separately, other vehicles such as the one I am working with will require a new reservoir as it's one assembly.
Before reinstalling the drain plug, they normally are equipped with some form of a gasket which will need to be replaced or can be reused. Replace the gasket if needed, if reusable, inspect for any damage and replace if it is damaged. Wipe off both the plug and sealing surface where the drain plug is installed. Reinstall the drain plug and torque to the correct specifications.
Refill the system with the new fluid with the engine off. You will notice bubbling in the reservoir which is perfectly normal. With the engine off, turn the steering to full lock right and left which will push air from the system. Keep an eye on the fluid and add when needed. Continue this until the fluid level has stopped dropping. DO NOT drive the vehicle without bleeding the system as you do risk damaging the pump, but it can be removed off the ramps or from being elevated. With the engine running, leave the cap on but loose just to prevent any fluid from bubbling out. Turn the steering from lock to lock right and left about four times each way or until all the air has been bleed out of the system. Some vehicles may require more than a few times. Keep an eye on the fluid and add when needed. You will notice the fluid cavitating which is perfectly normal. This will eventually disappear once the air is gone and may take a few minutes. Turn the wheel, it should turn smoothly each way, and the pump should not whine if it’s still in good condition.