Steering Clear: Why, When And How You Should Have Your Power Steering Fluid Replaced

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Much like the human body, the modern car requires various fluids to run smoothly and reliably, and making sure fluid levels are adequate and uncontaminated is vitally important for your vehicle's long term 'health'. However, while most motorists know the importance of maintaining oil, coolant and brake fluid levels, fewer motorists are fully aware of the importance of the fluid in their vehicle's power steering system. This fluid is essential for your vehicle's manoeuvrability and should be inspected and replaced on a regular basis.

Why should you have your power steering fluid replaced regularly?

Power steering fluid is an integral component of any power steering system, as it serves three functions at once.

Firstly, it transmits hydraulic force as it is pressurised by the system's integrated pump, applying pressure to the rack and pinion of your steering system as you turn the wheel and making steering much less laborious (particularly in wide, heavy vehicles). Secondly, the high heat conductivity of the fluid allows it to draw heat away from moving parts, preventing damage and deformation of vital components that can be caused by overheating. Thirdly, the fluid lubricates moving parts to prevent damage caused by excessive friction.

Unfortunately, the combined stresses of pressure and heat cause your power steering fluid to degrade over time, reducing its lubricating and heat-conducting properties and undermining the effectiveness of your power steering system as a whole. As a consequence, your steering fluid should be replaced at frequent intervals; the length and distance between these intervals will depend on the fluid you use and the recommendation of your vehicle manufacturers.

When should you have your power steering fluid replaced?

Under ordinary circumstances, replacing your fluid when recommended by fluid/vehicle manufacturers is generally enough to keep your car steering smoothly. However, there are a few circumstances in which your fluid should be replaced early:

After power steering repairs: ‚ÄčIf parts of your power steering system have recently been repaired or replaced, the removal of the damaged parts may have caused metal particles to 'shed' and become suspended in your fluid supply. These metal particles badly undermine the lubricating properties of your fluid.

After steering fluid leaks: A power steering fluid leak is a troublesome problem, but one that can usually be repaired relatively easily. However, as well as letting precious fluid out, the leak may also have allowed water and other contaminants into your remaining fluid supply.

After vehicle overheating: If your engine has recently overheated, some of this heat may have affected your power steering fluid. Excessive heat causes the individual components of your fluid to separate and become less effective.

How should you have your power steering fluid replaced?

Flushing and replacing your power steering system's fluid supply is a relatively simple task as far as essential vehicle maintenance goes, and you can tackle the job yourself if you have a modest amount of mechanical knowhow. However, having your fluid supply replaced by professionals specialising in power steering maintenance and repairs is always the safest option. This is particularly true of new vehicles, as any warranties on your car may be voided by amateur repair and maintenance work.

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