Did you know that as part of a car's regular maintenance schedule, it's essential that you flush the fluid of your brakes, radiator, transmission, and engine? It's true. You should do that at least every six months, along with your tune-ups and oil changes.
With that said, does your power steering need flushing of its power steering fluid, PSF, or PS fluid as well? If it does, can you use automatic transmission fluid, AT fluid, or ATF for the pump?
Can the ATF ruin the power steering components or do both fluid types have the same characteristics or categorization? Keep on reading because the answers you seek is in this article.
Power Steering Flush and ATF Swap 101
- To Flush or Not to Flush: Power steering fluid is what allows a hydraulic power steering system to work as smoothly as possible. Without the PSF, your power steering will cease to work and you're left with hard manual steering. Other time, this fluid collects sludge and metal particles. This thick grit feels and appears like sand that gets into the pinion and rack seals of your steering wheel, thus ruining them over time. You need to do the power steering flush even though it's not listed as routine maintenance in your manual.
- Flush Occasionally to Avoid It Becoming Compulsory: To keep your car in good condition, you have to flush your power steering system sooner or later. Don't wait until it becomes necessary to flush your power steering fluid. Do it while it's an optional task to maintain its cleanliness. With that said, can you use your transmission fluid as a substitute for your PS fluid? Yes, but not exactly. They're not the exact same thing. You can do it but you won't get optimal results from doing so.
- Power Steering Fluid Has Certain Attributes That ATF Lacks: While the AT fluid and PS fluid are both hydraulic fluids, they're colored and smell different for a reason. The red-colored ATF is sweet-smelling because it contains friction modifiers and detergents. PS fluid is meanwhile clear, amber or pink while smelling of burnt marshmallow due to its friction-reducing additives that cool down excessive temperature buildup. AT fluid mostly cleans out the transmission while PS fluid lubricates the power steering system better.
- Models of Cars That Can Deal with Fluid Swap: If you're in a pinch, you can swap PS fluid and AT fluid with many General Motors and Ford vehicle models. Don't do it with a Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Audi, or BMW though. It can even be on a case-by-case or model-by-model basis. For example, a Lexus LX470 can deal with a swap but a BMW requires the liquid with Pentosin CHF 11S. It depends. Check your car owner's manual for more details. If you can swap the PSF with the ATF for either your power steering or automatic transmission, you will be informed there.