On vehicles with hydraulic power steering systems, the power steering fluid should be checked every three months or 3,000 miles. Check the level as well as the condition of the fluid.

Checking the Power Steering Fluid Level

  1. The engine can be hot or cold, but must be OFF.

  2. Open the hood and find the power steering reservoir.

  3. Wipe off the power steering reservoir cap.

  4. Unscrew the cap and remove it.

  5. If the cap does not have a dipstick attached, there will be lines on the outside of the reservoir indicating the MIN and MAX fluid level. Simply look through the reservoir to read the level.

  6. If the cap has a dipstick attached, wipe off the dipstick, reinsert it, and screw the cap back on. Take the cap off again and check the reading (there will be markings for cold and hot levels, as well as when to add).


A typical power steering fluid reservoir. Note the fluid level is right at the MIN mark.

If the level is anywhere between the MIN and MAX markings, or above the ADD mark, you do not need to add any fluid. If it is below the MIN or ADD mark, you will need to add.

  • If the power steering fluid level is too low, air can get into the system and cause noise. Also, the power steering pump is cooled and lubricated by the fluid in the system, which means driving the vehicle with a consistently low fluid level can damage the pump or reduce its lifespan.

  • If the power steering fluid level is too high, excess fluid can spill out of the vent on the top of the reservoir.

Power steering fluid expands when hot, and the extra air space above the full mark is designed to accommodate for this. If you accidentally add too much fluid and end up above the full mark, use a turkey baster (or something similar) to remove the excess.


Power Steering Fluid Condition

  • Power steering fluid is typically clear, golden, or pinkish-red in color.

  • Dirty (dark, brown, or black) power steering fluid should be changed.


Adding Power Steering Fluid
If the power steering fluid level is low, be sure to add fluid but also have the vehicle checked for leaks. To add power steering fluid:


  1. Remove the power steering cap (if you haven't already).

  2. Carefully add a small amount of power steering fluid.

  3. Recheck the power steering fluid level.

  4. Repeat if necessary.

  5. Put the cap back on.

Add fluid in small increments and be sure to check the level between each addition of fluid. It's important that you do NOT overfill the power steering reservoir.

What Type of Power Steering Fluid Should I Use?
The type of power steering fluid you should use can be found in the owner's manual. However, you may find that some vehicles or manufacturers specify the use of automatic transmission fluid for the power steering system rather than actual power steering fluid. This is very common on BMWs, for example.

Note: Although in many cases you can use automatic transmission fluid in place of power steering fluid, this is a one-way street. NEVER use power steering fluid in your transmission.


Get Your Vehicle Serviced if You Notice:

  • Power steering leaks

  • Bubbles or foam in the power steering fluid

  • Excessive noise (whining, groaning, etc.) when turning the wheels

  • Difficulty turning the wheels

  • You need to add power steering fluid frequently (even if you don't see any leaks)