Power steering systems are something that most of us take for granted. Many of us usually give our vehicle’s power steering no thought at all, until we experience exactly how difficult it can be driving without it that is.
What is Power Steering?
Patented in 1876 and introduced commercially in 1951, power steering has come a long way and has changed the way that our vehicles operate forever. Power steering systems are typically located on or near the engine and are made up of several different components such as:
- Pressure feeding tubes
- Power steering fluid reservoirs
- Drive belts
- Oil pressure switches
All of these components and more work together to make up your vehicle’s power steering system, which allows you to comfortably steer your vehicle with little effort. Those who have experienced a power steering system failure will definitely be able to tell you just how difficult it is to comfortably and safely steer their vehicle.
How to Check Power Steering Fluid
Power steering systems utilize power steering fluid, which is hydraulic, in order to transmit power to each side of a piston mounted to a rack, thus helping you to turn the wheels with little to no effort. Neglecting to regularly check your vehicle’s power steering fluid puts yourself at risk of losing control of your vehicle.
While functioning, a Power steering pump will have a large amount of pressure always flowing through their transport hoses and power steering systems. If your power steering system has a leak, you will begin to feel a significant difference in how your steering operates. As the reservoir continues to leak out, eventually resulting in an empty reservoir, your vehicle’s steering will be extremely difficult to operate with two hands, never mind only one. Therefore, you should look further into give the proper car care this system deserves.
Maintaining Your Power Steering System
Your vehicle’s manual is the best source out there when it comes to researching information and learning about how to maintain the vehicle. For example, if you were to look up power steering in your manual, you will probably find a visual diagram with specific instructions on where to look and what to look for underneath your vehicle’s hood.
Additionally, the manual will be able to tell you what type of power steering fluid is appropriate for your vehicle’s power steering system. Be sure to take note of other details outlined, such as if your vehicle’s engine should be running or turned off as you maintain the system. It will also explain whether your steering wheel should be turned at an angle or not as you fill the power steering system’s reservoir with power steering fluid.
Locating the Reservoir Cylinder
Given that you have an appropriate amount of lighting, you should be able to spot and identify the power steering system’s reservoir cylinder. As stated earlier, this cylinder is typically located on or around the vehicle’s engine. Your vehicle’s manual will be able to confirm the cylinder’s location and any physical characteristics that can be used to help identify it.
Check Power Steering Fluid Often
Once found you will be able to check the system’s power steering fluid level and determine whether it needs to be replenished or not. In the event that your reservoir cylinder is metal, you will need to locate the dipstick, a metal stalk used to gauge fluid levels within the cylinder. The dipstick is normally attached to the cylinder’s cap, but its location can vary depending on what type of vehicle you have.
Once the dipstick has been located, remove the cap on the pump and dip it into the cylinder. Once you remove it you should then be able to see how much fluid remains within the system, if any. After confirming the power steering fluid level, observe the dipstick and take note of what color the fluid is. It is possible that bits of rubber from the hoses or seals contaminated the fluid, thus rendering it both less efficient and less safe.
Bad power steering fluid will appear brown or black in color, while good power steering fluid will appear clear and/or pink in color.
How to Add Power Steering Fluid to Your Vehicle
- Start your vehicle’s engine and let it run until the temperature gauge reaches the normal operating temperature measurement.
- With the engine idling, turn the steering wheel all the way to full lock, then turn it the other way to the opposite lock. Do this several times before continuing.
- Turn off the engine and open the hood of the vehicle.
- Locate the power steering reservoir. Most vehicles have a white or yellow reservoir and a black cap on top.
- Check the level of power steering fluid within the reservoir. Depending on the type of reservoir you have, you will either need to utilize a dipstick to gauge the level or take a look at the “MIN” and “MAX” lines on the exterior of the reservoir.
- If the level of fluid falls between the MIN/MAX label on either the dipstick or exterior casing, it isn’t necessary to add fluid to your reservoir.
- If the fluid is below the MIN line, remove the cap/dipstick and pour power steering fluid into the reservoir in small amounts. Check the level after each small pour.*
- Replace the cap/dipstick and verify it is sealed tight.
*IMPORTANT: You should never overfill the reservoir with power steering fluid. This is a hazard to both the power steering system and your safety.
Always Consult the Manual
While the procedure to maintain a vehicle’s power steering system is typically universal, there are always exceptions and not all vehicle models will be made the same as one another. With that said, you should always consult your vehicle’s manual to ensure you are aware of the exact type of procedure necessary for your vehicle.
If you lost the manual or have trouble making sense of it, your vehicle’s manufacturer will have it available on their website. If you still feel uncomfortable opening up your vehicle’s hood and making any changes, take your vehicle to your local vehicle maintenance shop and allow certified professionals to perform the maintenance for you.