If you’ve noticed a squeaking or groaning sound when turning your car’s steering wheel, it could be a sign of trouble with either your brake fluid or power steering fluid. The confusion between these two fluids may leave you wondering: Can you use brake fluid for power steering fluid?
In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between brake fluid and power steering systems – as well as whether one can be used in place of another.
What Are Brake Fluid and Power Steering Fluid?
Brake fluid is a crucial component in ensuring your car comes to a complete stop when you press the brake pedal. Without it, the pressure from the brake pads on the rotors wouldn’t be enough to stop the car. Most brake fluids are glycol-based which offers an added benefit of absorbing moisture to prevent corrosion. Plus, it even provides some essential lubrication to ensure your brakes are in tip-top shape.
Power steering fluid
This petroleum-based fluid works to lubricate the metal components, ensuring smooth and effortless operation. It’s responsible for transferring the required pressure from the hydraulic piston to the wheels, making it easy for drivers to maneuver their vehicles. Without power steering fluid, turning the steering wheel would be an arduous task, especially at low speeds.
How Do the Brake and Power Steering Fluids Work?
As you step on the brake pedal, the force you apply is converted into pressure by the brake fluid. This pressure is then transmitted to the front and rear brakes, causing them to engage and slow the car down.
This is why brake fluid is a popular choice for hydraulic braking systems; it cannot be compressed, ensuring that the pressure is consistently transmitted to the brakes for a smooth stop every time.
Power steering fluid
When pressurized, the fluid ensures that the steering wheel can be turned with ease, giving the driver greater control and comfort.
But that’s not all. Power steering fluid also lubricates the system’s internal components, from the hoses and valves to the power steering pump, ensuring that they function precisely as intended.
Without power steering fluid, drivers would feel every turn and movement of the steering wheel, causing discomfort and a lack of control.
Can You Use Brake Fluid For Power Steering Fluid?
No, brake fluid and power steering fluid are not interchangeable because they have different purposes. If you accidentally mix them up, you could seriously damage your vehicle.
Brake fluid is designed specifically for the brake system and is crucial for ensuring that your brakes function correctly. It provides hydraulic pressure to the brake calipers, allowing you to stop your car safely and effectively.
Power steering fluid, on the other hand, is used to lubricate the system’s components and transfer pressure from the hydraulic piston to the wheels.
What Are The Differences Between Brake Fluid and Power Steering Fluid?
Here are a few of the key differences between brake and power steering fluid:
One of the biggest contrasts between the two is their composition. Brake fluid is primarily made up of glycol-based compounds, while power steering fluid tends to be petroleum-based.
While both are important for the functionality of your car, using the wrong fluid in the wrong system can have dire consequences.
Brake fluid, for example, is non-lubricating and not suitable for use in a power steering system. Without proper lubrication, important components won’t be protected and damage can occur. On the other hand, using power steering fluid in the braking system can lead to damage to the rubber parts.
While brake fluid doesn’t lubricate parts in the same way as power steering fluid, it does work to prevent corrosion by absorbing moisture. Furthermore, brake fluid functions to release heat all while maintaining the same viscosity, which ensures that your brakes won’t fail or become spongy due to high temperatures.
Power steering fluid, on the other hand, not only acts as a pressure transfer medium, but it also serves as a lubricant for metal-to-metal parts. In addition, it has the ability to absorb heat while maintaining its viscosity to ensure dependable and effective performance.
What Can You Use as a Power Steering Fluid Alternative?
When it comes to your car’s power steering fluid, you may find yourself wondering what alternative options you have if it runs low. Surprisingly, automatic transmission fluid (ATF) can be used as a temporary solution in many cases.
This is because both your power steering system and your transmission are hydraulic, making the two fluids interchangeable. Manufacturers even advise utilizing both fluids for the same purpose due to their similar composition.
However, it’s important to note that power steering fluid is not used as frequently in automobiles as transmission fluid, resulting in distinct packaging and a higher price point. To ensure you’re not being taken advantage of, consult your owner’s manual to determine precisely what kind of fluid your steering system requires.
Why Should You Not Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid?
Here are a few reasons why you should never use brake fluid for power steering fluid:
- The smell is unpleasant and can make driving uncomfortable.
- Brake fluid is non-lubricating and can cause damage to your power steering system’s components.
- It has a low viscosity that may not be able to handle high-pressure operations in the power steering system, leading to performance issues.
- The glycol-based compound in brake fluid can damage the rubber seals and hoses found in a power steering system.
- Even after being circulated, brake fluid is challenging to remove entirely from the system, which can result in costly damage to the power steering pump, with repair costs ranging from $300 to $800.
- Even if everything seems fine at first, the power steering system may degrade over time.
What To Do If Brake Fluid Has Been Mistakenly Added to the Power Steering System?
If you’ve accidentally used brake fluid instead of power steering fluid in your vehicle, you might be feeling panicked. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This mistake has happened to many drivers. However, it’s important to take the proper steps to fix the issue. If you’re not comfortable with working on your own vehicle, it’s best to get help from a qualified mechanic.
Here’s what you should do:
- Don’t start your car or hit the brakes. By doing so, you’re avoiding brake fluid flow and potential damage.
- Open up the power steering fluid reservoir.
- Drain the brake fluid from the reservoir with a baster, making sure you have a proper container to collect the liquid.
- Lift and support the front of your vehicle with jack stands.
- Move your steering wheel back and forth to allow more fluid to reach the reservoir.
- Keep draining the bad fluid from the reservoir until it’s empty.
- Be on the safe side and remove the low-pressure line, letting the excess fluid flow into an appropriate container.
- Keep turning the wheel to flush out all remnants of bad fluid.
- Add new power steering fluid into the reservoir, repeating the drainage process until the liquid is clean.
- Put the system back together and gently lower your car to the ground.
- Finally, use the appropriate power steering fluid to top off your system.
FAQs about Can You Use Brake Fluid For Power Steering Fluid
Is it OK to put brake fluid in the power steering?
Putting brake fluid in the power steering of your car is never a good idea. Brake fluid is not compatible with power steering fluid, so it can damage the pump and rack.
If you have accidentally added brake fluid to the power steering reservoir, it’s important to immediately drain the reservoir before you start the car or drive it.
What can I substitute for power steering fluid?
If you find that they’re running low, you may be wondering what you can substitute for power steering fluid. In many cases, automatic transmission fluid (ATF) will suffice as a temporary solution. This is because both your power steering system and your transmission require hydraulic fluid to function properly, making them somewhat interchangeable.
Can you use DOT 3 brake fluid for power steering fluid?
The answer is no. If you opt to pour brake fluid into your power steering pump, you could be looking at a hefty repair bill. This is because the power steering pump isn’t designed to handle brake fluid, which can cause irreversible damage.
What happens if you put antifreeze in the power steering fluid?
If you accidentally put antifreeze in the power steering fluid, you could be in for some trouble. Not only can this cause damage to your power steering pump, but it can also affect your steering assembly. The oil in your power steering will turn milky, and steering your car may become difficult or even dangerous.
To sum it up, brake fluid and power steering fluid are not interchangeable. While they may look similar, they have different chemical compositions and serve different purposes. Using a wrong fluid can cause irreversible damage to your car’s components, making it essential that you use the right fluid for each system. Thank you for reading! We hope this article was helpful in answering the question can you use brake fluid for power steering fluid.
I’m Timothy Ballard, owner of a used car dealership in Springfield. I love just about everything automotive, but I have a special place in my heart for trucks. I’m an ASE Certified Master Technician, so I know my way around a car. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling with my family and hiking new trails.