A Brief Discussion on Power Steering Fluid Types

The power steering fluid is just as important as the engine oil. True that you don’t need to change this fluid as frequently as the engine. But it still needs to be changed and you have to choose the correct one from various power steering fluid types.

The fluid in the power steering system provides hydraulic assist for a smooth turn of the steering wheel. Types of power steering fluids include mineral or synthetic variations. They contain additives to boost lubrication and prevent plenty of bad things to happen like corrosion and foaming in steering gear and pump.

Power Steering Fluid Basics

Before knowing what kind of power steering fluid to use for your car, a brief discussion on the fluid basics seems inevitable.

The power steering system is crucial in steering a vehicle, and this makes sure that all the components work together smoothly to keep the system responsive. Thanks to this fluid, a driver does not need to exert much physical effort to turn the wheels when a vehicle is moving slowly or stopped.

Silicone- or mineral-based oils are the main ingredient of the power steering fluid. The synthetic version is quite similar to the automatic transmission fluid (ATF), which lubricates some transmission parts and protects them from various deterioration issues.

All power steering systems don’t use the same fluid. So, using the correct type is vital for protecting the system from damage.

Power Steering Fluid Types: A Brief Discussion

Only the hydraulic power steering system uses fluid. Keep reading if you have a car manufactured before the mid-2000s (vehicles produced after that timeframe started to use an electric power steering system that does not use fluid).

Is all power steering fluid the same? No. Otherwise, there would be just one type that would have been used in all makes and models.

How do you know which one your vehicle needs? The power steering reservoir or filler cap should have the name of the required type imprinted onto the surface. The owner’s manual is also likely to contain the name of the recommended fluid.

Using the correct type is necessary to minimize the risk of incompatibility issues and various problems could occur down the road. The worst-case scenario would be a power steering pump failure. So, never add fluid until you are sure that this is the correct type.

How Many Power Steering Fluid Types Are There?

It’s already clear that the types of steering fluid depend on a vehicle’s make and model.

Some models are compatible with ATF. The most popular ATF types used in vehicles are ATF+4, Mercon, Type F, and Dexron. A synthetic-based fluid is another popular choice, and they are specially formulated for the steering system.

So, the variations we get are:


Synthetic fluid.

Synthetic oil a good choice given that your vehicle recommends this type. It flows smoothly at low temperature besides reducing friction in the pump by improving the lubrication. Due to such a smooth operation, the parts in the system last for a long time.

Japanese and European automakers often recommend a unique fluid from their vehicles. Most of these products are high-performance synthetic fluids that meet or excel ISO 7308 and DIN 51 524T3 standards.

Several Japanese car manufacturing brands including Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Subaru, and others require consumers to use power steering fluid especially made for that brand.

The same applies to several German luxury brands including BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, and Chinese luxury automaker Volvo. Many of them recommend using one of the various Pentosin power steering fluid types. However, the fluid specifications often depend on the year and the model of the vehicle.

Universal fluid.

Some power steering fluids are universal and compatible with most power steering systems. These fluids contain special additives that provide various benefits. For example, they improve the responsiveness and performance of the system by reducing the friction and stiffness of the components. They may also have properties for sealing small leaks, preventing corrosion, and reducing the rate of normal wear and tear on all steering parts.

However, before using a universal fluid, check its chemical compatibility and viscosity with the type already used in the system. These properties have to match, or else, the fluid won’t assist the system as it should.

types of power steering fluids
Check the reservoir cap for the correct specifications. (Photo Source: depositphoto)

Can You Use Automatic Transmission Fluid As PS Fluid?

Some vehicles are compatible with ATF but that fluid needs to meet some specifications. You have to choose the correct one from different ATF types.

Using a regular ATF will be suicidal because these fluids contain detergents and friction modifiers, which can damage the hydraulic valves.

It’s always a good idea to use the recommended power steering fluid types. Or else, you run the risk of wearing you several power steering system components.