What’s a Power Steering Flush & Why Do I Need One?

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A Power Steering (P/S) Flush is a preventative service that maintains the “health” of your power steering system. However, it is often overlooked and is one of the most underperformed services.  Although most vehicle systems are listed under a preventative maintenance schedule, P/S flushes are often not included in the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance services. One reason for this may be that the manufacturers looking to sell cars prefer to have maintenance costs appear as low as possible.

However, if the P/S fluid is not flushed periodically, the fluid accumulates sludge and small metal particles over time. These particles accelerate the wear and tear on your power steering system, particularly breaking down the seals and gaskets for the P/S pump and rack and pinion (steering gear).  When I asked our technicians how often they flush the P/S on their own vehicles, four of them said they change it at 30-40,000 miles.  Two other technicians said they flush the system at 60-100,000 miles, or whenever the fluid appears dark.  Even in the literature, there is a wide range of recommendations.  Generally, we will remind you that it is time to flush your P/S fluid when it appears dark and we will check when it was last flushed.

One of our owners and long-time technician, Paul, relayed that he learned his lesson when he neglected his power steering system.  He then had to replace the entire rack and pinion, which can run $1000-$2000 (parts prices vary depending upon the make of car).  Preventive maintenance is intended to do just that- prevent repairs, and/or prolong the life of your vehicle components so that you don’t have major repair bills.  Think about P/S fluid like the engine oil in your vehicle – it breaks down over time, becomes dirty, and loses the lubricating properties that helps your vehicle to steer smoothly.

P/S fluid is a synthetic or oil-based fluid that is part of the hydraulic system in your vehicle’s power steering system.  The power steering system is comprised of the power steering fluid, the power steering pump that creates the hydraulic pressure, and the power steering rack, which transmits the power to the steering mechanisms.  However, many newer cars (since about 2015) are being manufactured with an electric power steering system, including an electric motor, and do not have P/S fluid that requires a flush.  Some have an electric system, but still have hydraulic oil/fluid.  Our service advisors either know which system your vehicle has, or they can look it up for you so you will know what your car requires.

There are signs that tell you when your power steering system is failing. These signs include increased difficulty turning the steering wheel, and/or a whining or groaning noise that gets louder when the steering wheel is being turned.  Also, pay attention to the ground underneath where you usually park your car.  Any reddish, golden, or any color drips or puddles are cause for concern and should be checked out. 

Let our experienced Service Advisors and Technicians at Honest Accurate Auto Service help you keep your car running smoothly and safely by keeping the fluids changed periodically, thereby keeping your major systems healthy over time!

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