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How to Change Your Power Steering Fluid

Hands on a steering wheel

Driving isn’t fun (or safe) when you can’t properly handle your car’s steering wheel. Think about all the off-road adventures and tight corning you couldn’t do without a steady grip on the wheel. That’s where power steering fluid comes into play.      

Within the mechanics of your vehicle, there’s a hydraulic system controlled by circulating fluids and pressure, which give your steering wheel the ability to properly turn without resistance. While a lot of modern vehicles use electric powered steering, plenty of cars on the road still have hydraulic power systems with a belt-operated pump that require fluids to keep your sedan, pickup truck, minivan or SUV running in good condition.

Like most vehicle fluids, checking your power steering system from time to time is a great habit for every kind of driver. While you should generally check levels as you would oil (every other gas station visit), most experts agree that a ‘flush’ of power steering fluid is needed once every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. This is where you completely rid your reservoir of old, brownish fluid for a comprehensive cleaning by taking apart the system hoses. 

How Exactly Do I Flush My Car?

So, you’re a confident DIYer who’s ready to tackle vehicle fluid upkeep. Changing out steering wheel fluid is easier than it sounds, and it takes less than an hour! You’ll need some tools and equipment before you get started. Make sure you have Power Steering Fluid, Fluid Transfer Pump, Gloves, Shop Towels, a Car Jack, Jack Stand, set of pliers and Drain Pan. Here is how to change power steering fluid in your car:

Step 1:  Lift Your Vehicle

Using a car jack and jack stands (never perform undercar maintenance without these), raise your vehicle until the front wheels are no longer touching the ground. Find the reservoir under the hood (around the passenger’s side). Remove the cap that features a steering wheel symbol or says “steering fluid.”

Step 2: Unleash The Reservoir

Using a fluid transfer pump or turkey baster, collect as much fluid as possible from the reservoir. Using the pliers, disconnect the low-pressure line from the clip clamps, remove the hose and catch the flowing fluid using a container or drip pan. 

If you have one around, grab a funnel to direct the fluid right into the pan to avoid splashing. Be prepared to get a little messy, and make sure you’re wearing gloves and eye protection. Once fluid levels get low, move the steering wheel from lock to unlock a couple of times, releasing any leftover fluid into the pan. And remember, your engine won’t be running right now, so the wheel won’t want to turn easily.

Step 3: Flush, Flush, Flush 

You’re ready to flush! Drain the reservoir via the return hose then cycle the steering wheel as mentioned above (with the engine off). Then, you’ll reassemble the return line by clamping it tightly. Follow that with a fluid refill until it hits the halfway point and then start the engine. Cycle your steering wheel once again, shut off your engine and repeat these drain steps again. You know where this is going—you’ll reconnect the return line, refill fluid halfway, get your engine started and cycle your wheel for a last time.

Step 4: Back In Business

Top off your reservoir, add the cap and keep the engine running just a bit longer. Double check any missed leaks underneath your vehicle. Remove your jack set-up, and revel in your newfound car maintenance knowledge. You’re all set!

Staying on Top of Steering

Because this fluid operates under extreme heat without built-in filtration, it’s easy for contaminants to linger within the reservoir. So, a full ‘flush’ is needed every so often. You’ll know you’re due for a power steering fluid change when you feel the wheel resisting movement or you hear shrill noises during turning. Or, see if there’s any fluid discoloration, which indicates the solution is burnt beyond use. If you’re looking for a more preventative approach (which we recommend), then consult the recommended schedule in your manufacturer’s manual for an accurate timeline of when your vehicle will require steering maintenance.

If you still feel like this is out of your comfort zone or you’re concerned the issue could be the power steering pump itself, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at your local NAPA Auto Care center for quick, cost-effective maintenance. We offer reliable auto service with accurate diagnoses, whether it is a quick power steering flush or a complete power steering system replacement. 

Keeping your wheel functionality is critical to safe and comfortable driving, and well lubricated power steering systems prevent unnecessary damage or failure. A happy, healthy steering system will keep your control in check and your repair costs low. It’s a win-win for everyone. Plus, after flushing out your power steering fluid, you’ll be equipped to handle any future car fluid maintenance with no problem!

Check out all of the power steering fluid options available on, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA Auto Care centers for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to change power steering fluid, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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