Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

What’s the right power steering fluid

Cardone, the largest power steering pump rebuilder has issued a service bulletin warning about the damage that can be caused by using the wrong power steering fluid. It’s important to note that not all power steering fluids are alike. In fact, despite what you see on bottoles of power steering fluid at the auto parts store, there is no such thing as a “universal” power steering fluid. Some car makers recommend a specific transmission fluid, while others require a power steering fluid that meets a certain specification.

Using the wrong fluid or a universal fluid that doesn’t meet the manufacturer’s specification can destroy a power steering pump. The correct specification is listed in your owner’s manual. Write down that spec and make sure the fluid you choose lists that specification on the bottle. This is critical! Failure to use the correct fluid can result in the damage shown below.

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Damage caused by suing the wrong power steering fluid

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Click on this image to download Cardone’s listing of bame brand power steering fluids and their specs.












In addition to using the correct fluid, all car makers advise against using a power steering fluid with sealers and conditioners. These fluids can clog delicate flow control valves and tiny orifices in the pump and the power steering gear (rack), causing far more damage than you would incur if you just fixed the leak the right way.

As tempting as it may sound, power steering leak sealers and conditioners rarely work. The power steering pump generates upwards of 2,000-psi and no chemical sealer can possibly stop a leak when under that kind of pressure. Seal conditioners simply cause a hardened seal to swell. You may get temporary improvement in leak stoppage, but it won’t last.

Finally, most car makers do NOT recommend power steering flush procedures. This is very important as many shops push these expensive services to improve their profit. Clear power steering fluids will turn dark grey after use. That does NOT mean they must be flushed. If the shop recommends a power steering flush, consult the manufacturer’s maintenance guide before agreeing to the procedure. If it’s not listed by the manufacturer, DON’T do it.

©, 2013 Rick Muscoplat

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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