Does power steering fluid ever need to be changed out?

protegextwoprotegextwo Member Posts: 1,265
edited May 2015 in Mazda
I own a pair 2000 Mazda Protege with a little over 35,000 miles on each. I asked my Mazda Service Advisor how often do I need to change the power steering fluid? He said, "never". He said, "that is one of the fluids we top off during normal maintenance". He said, "replenishment is enough"? BTW, the owners manual only suggests checking the power steering fluid every 7,500.


See Also: More Power to Your Steering


  • rayfbairdrayfbaird Member Posts: 183
    I do it every 60,000 miles and add Lubegard
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    This should never need to be topped off.

    Anyway, I just did a suck and refill (syphon out old replace with new) a few times on mine to try and do it the easy way without flushing out all old stuff.
    This is the first time I did it, went 130,000 miles with no fluid change and my fluid also powers the cooling fan (yes, a hydraulic cooling fan) so personally, not sure it ever needs it but I did finally give in. Never replenished it in the first 130,000 though. It does not get used up.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,326
    In my Intrepid's owners manual, I think it states that the fluid should be changed around 50,000 miles. The dealer however, said it wasn't necessary, which surprised me since they tried to pack a bunch of bogus items on and stick me for a 30K service at 25K. My regular mechanic also said it wasn't necessary.

    It's probably one of those things that, if you let it go, it'll probably never fail in the amount of time most people keep their cars. Of course, some people will experience a failure, but I have a feeling the vast majority won't. I did have two cars with failed pumps though... a '68 Dart that I bought with 253,000 miles on it, that had a failed pump, and a '79 Newport that failed around the 240K or so mark. In both cases, they failed due to a leak, so if I added fluid, they'd be good for awhile until they leaked out again. In the Dart's case, I got it sealed about 6 months after I bought it, but then it failed again about 2 1/2 years later, so I just drove it without power steering. Hey, it was a good tricep-builder! About 40,000 miles later, I finally decided to get it fixed, but by that time the pump was so shot I needed a new one.

    With the Newport I got it fixed almost immediately. How do power steering pumps typically fail? Do they usually start leaking, which leads to other problems, or do they just wear out?
  • zr2randozr2rando Member Posts: 391
    To make sure you have no leaking seals, sometimes the barely seep and make things real dirty, your just keeping an eye on it. It does not need to be replaced but I have sucked out the resevoir and refilled it also just to say I did it and to make sure I got any stray bits of initial dust/debris out, but it was probably just overkill,
    just periodically check for hose/seal leaks and you will probably be fine.
  • brucer2brucer2 Member Posts: 157
    It's not a sealed system so there is condensation and water build up in the fluid. If you do drain the fluid you will see that it contains dirt and other contaminents. Also, remember that almost all PS systems have a cooling coil (in front of the radiator), because the fluid can get hot. Changing the fluid helps the seals and hoses the most. Sucking the fluid out of the resevoir and refilling is quick and easy. It is not as through as a full flush, but the 5 minutes once a year is worth it. I put changing/refreshing the PS fluid in the same catagory as changing transmission fluid, brake fluid and coolant: it may not make much difference in the first 7 yrs/100k miles, but it will later.
  • gslevegsleve Member Posts: 183
    Siphoning out the fluid once every two yrs is a healthy thing for the pwr steering rack, you do not want to have to replace this item for it can be quite expensive so in the long run just as you replace the tranny fluid every two yrs siponing out whatever you can from the pwr steering resivoir can only extend the longevity of the unit
  • zr2randozr2rando Member Posts: 391
    Easy, cheap, I'm adding that to the list of regular stuff to drain/refill.....before long we will have to worry about worn out siphon hoses more than lubricated equipment on the vehicle..
    gotta luv it
    see ya
  • 0patience0patience Member Posts: 1,712
    PS fluid should never need to be topped off?
    Well, in theory, that would be correct, but in the real world, you lose fluid, from leaks or from expansion pushing small amounts of fluid out the cap. Over time, fluid needs to be added.
    It is a good preventive maintenance to pull as much as you can out of the resevoir and put new fluid in. The ideal situation would be to flush the system and put new fluid in it. That isn't always possible.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I remember reading an article about using a large, metal case, gas line filter in the return line of the power steering. They mentioned that this was good for those aluminum racks that were notorious for wear. I think they gave up on that hardened aluminum coating. A friend had an Audi 5000 in the late 80's that had a metal mesh basket filter for the steering. He had just bought the car and he took it in for the $400 periodic maintenance. Then he went on a trip and half way there his power steering lamp came on. That is when he found the mesh filter. He cleaned it and everything was all right after that. When he got back he asked the dealer if that was normal. Dealer said those clog up all the time. Dealer didn't have an answer why it wasn't cleaned when it was in for the $400 checkup.
  • bluedevilsbluedevils Member Posts: 2,554
    I'm interested in the siphon method of "draining" and replacing some power steering fluid. I know armtdm has described the type of siphon tool that works well, but I don't remember what he said. Anybody wanna give it a shot? You're speaking to a true layman here, not a handyman.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    there is a universal sort of pump that looks like a fat, short bicycle pump that is used for draining all sorts of hard to reach places... differentials, PS resivoirs, overfull automatic transmissions, etc. we are talking under $20 for the unit. however, remember that it is not nice to be mixing these fluids... dripped if I know what you can flush the pump with, so best to reserve the pumps for single purposes in my humble opinion. no, I haven't ever bought one personally.

    it is also possible to get a reasonable facsimile of a syphoned drainage tool out of the old piece of clean hose that will fit... fill it with clean fluid of the type you will be draining out, pinch both ends closed, put one end at the bottom of the jug you will be draining, put the other end lower than that so it drains into a bottle you can cap and take to the recycling center, and let the other end go. our old buddy gravity will do the heavy work.
  • wtdwtd Member Posts: 96
    I bought a cheap turkey baster at walmart to do this job. It doesn't take long at all to empty a power steering pump with it.
  • loyolaloyola Member Posts: 26
    I use a large plastic syringe with a 6-inch silicon tubing at the tip. You can get the silicon tubing at any fish/aquarium store. Just ask for silicon air tubing. It's green in color.
    Syringe? Well any pharmacy, clinics, hospitals...etc.
    I use it to drain/syphon my power steering fluid, brake fluid and to pump ATF to my differential.
    The tube by itself can be used for bleeding brake lines.

    Hope this helps...
  • leadfoot4leadfoot4 Member Posts: 593
    Can be purchased at most boat supply stores. I purchased one that holds 5-6 quarts of fluid for $50. Yeah, I know that's a fair chunk of change, but it was $10-$12 less than the "designer" car supply houses sell the same unit for.
    I think that you should note that power steering fluid is almost clear when new, but gets really dark within 12-14 months of use. Obviously, something's going on, so to be safe, I change mine every year.
    I do it when I've got the car on the ramps for an oil change. I siphon out the old stuff, top off the reservoir, lift the car slightly with my floor jack, and then start the car and turn the steering wheel back and forth a few times to circulate the fresh fluid. Shut the car off, and repeat the process a couple of times to completely flush the old fluid out.
  • pjksrpjksr Member Posts: 111
    Cabela's has a good one for $42. Go to their site and search on "Marina Pro."
  • jsylvesterjsylvester Member Posts: 572
    On my Intrepid R/T, they included the power steering change in the 15,000 maintenance recommendation. It was about the same cost if I broke out all the items I really wanted separately, so I let them do it. The dealer recommended it only if it was not a leased vehicle. Since I plan on keeping the car until it rots, I did it.

    Take it for what it is worth, but I had never done it before on any car. I'd hate to think how old the fluid is in my 67 Galaxie Convertible!
  • loyolaloyola Member Posts: 26
    When looking at the maintenance manuals on my 92 Camry V6 and 98 Sienna, I found out that I can use Dexron II or III ATF for power steering fluid. Being a big fan of synthetics, I use Redline D4 ATF on both vehicles for p.s. since '98. The best power steering I could find before was the Valvoline brand synthtic blend. I don't know if you can do this substitution on any vehicle. Please check your manual first. That's one less bottle on the shelf for me ;)
  • hengheng Member Posts: 411
    the ps fluid on a vehicle with ~90K miles really looked like melted ice cream so I was tempted. But I was geting rid of the vehicle and it wasn't affecting the power steering boost (yet).

    Surprisingly, other vehicles I had with that many miles didn't have the sludged up ps fluid.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    I have substituted the Amsoil synthetic ATF in my Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Camry (92 also) but could not in my Ford (merc) product. The trany fluid in the Merc is Mercon V which is compatible with the Amsoil ATF (which I use in the tranny) but the PS fluid is not Mercon V it is the old Type F ford fluid. Go figure. I had to buy a quart of that stuff for this unit. There are some PS units that do not use transmission fluid but I cannot rememebr which they are. All of mine are either Dexron II-III or Mercon.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    my 2000 exploder has a rack, first one of those in one of my vehicles. you can get by with a lot in a worm screw steering system, but racks are another matter in several ways. I seem to remember the manual saying you need a special fluid for a recharge, but you can use tranny fluid for top offs. obviously, I will have to find the page, because I can't remember if it was ford ATF recommended, like my old 90 Ranger, or Mercon II, which they don't want in the tranny any more, either.

    almost to the point of having the transmission fluids color-matched to the car with fords :(
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    I used a 10cc plastic syringe with a plastic hose. Couldn't find my bigger ones but it still didn't take that long to drain and fill twice. The little tube got around the baffles to the very bottom.
  • ywilsonywilson Member Posts: 135
    My 2000 Durango was coming up for 60,000 mile service. It says nowhere to change the PS fluid. So, after reading the posts on this site I decided to do it myself. I am not doing it all at once. I just empty the resevoir with a cooking syringe ( wife does not know yet ) and the refill it. I have done this twice this weekend. Saturday morning and the Sunday morning. I drive the car to get the good stuff circulating through the system and then change out more fluid. When I removed the old fluid it was not the bright red that I expected. It was brownish red and showed signs of burning! I am glad I read this particular site to help me maintain my vehicle better since I will have it until it rot's away. I am using the Redline Power Steering Synthetic fluid. I know I can leave this in for longer than the old stuff due to the resistant qualities of the synth.
  • mdeymdey Member Posts: 90
    I have purchased a new rack and three new powersteering pumps over the years. That is enough to know that powersteering fluid, like all hydraulic fluids, needs to be changed occassionally. What takes out the rack is trash in the unit. The only way to get the trash out is to drain it or flush it out.

    My system is to remove the low-pressure return line from the power steering pump (usually a rubber hose with a clamp, not the one with the brass fitting (I have a Chevy, Dodge, and Ford, all look about the same)). I fashion an extension hose with a union. The union also serves to slow down the flow of fluid, which makes the project easier if the fluid isn't flying out of the pump faster than you can put it back in.

    This project takes three people. One person is at the wheel, one is at the end of the hose, and one is at the pump. Start the car, and have the person at the wheel turn it lock to lock slowly. Have another person pour fluid into the top of the power steering pump resevoir. Be fast and have plenty of fluid handy -- I usually have on hand about two gallons of the appropriate fluid. The third person should be at the end of the hose with at least two one-gallon bottles to catch the excess. You'd be amazed at the crud that comes out. Be sure that the power steering resevoir doesn't bottom out. The person at the wheel needs to be ready to shut the car off quickly. And consider putting the front of the car on jacks to make it easier to turn the wheels.

    Kind of messy, but fairly easy. An alternative is to pay the dealer to do it. Most have a special mechanical pump that does the job now. I've paid the local Ford dealer about $70 for this service, and they put in the Type F synthetic (yes, it does exists, but it runs about $20 a quart). Once every 50,000 miles is probably adequate. As I get older, and have a few extra dollars to spend, I've tended to pay others to do the jobs that make a mess. This has become one of them. The only time I've done it myself recently is when I replaced a pump on a 92 Explorer with 130,000 miles at the time. It was my own fault. I didn't flush the system the first time until the pump started moaning.
  • mrdetailermrdetailer Member Posts: 1,118
    When that happens, it really is vile. The fluid doesn't exactly smell like daisies anyway, but when it is burned it has a very distinctive sharp smell.

    I don't understand why brake and powersteering fluid are routinely left out of the maintenence manuals.
  • zr2randozr2rando Member Posts: 391
    looking around in the garage yesterday, I started thinking about this topic, my 99 ZR2 has about 52k on it now. I used a big fat syringe with a tube and sucked out the old resevoir fill and refilled using Valvoline Synpower PS fluid.
    Old fluid was black but did not show any sediment, new fluid was clear.
    Ok, count me in on this one too
    Good Morning everyone!
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    I agree with Mdey that routing the return hose to a waste tank and flushing the system by running the pump is advantageous. The problem of very fast pumpout can be avoided by removing the drive belt and spinning the P/S pump with a pneumatic wrench. On some cars, an electric drill motor can be used for this. I believe two quarts will provide a pretty thorough flush on most systems.
  • opera_house_wkopera_house_wk Member Posts: 326
    Just how do you remove the return hose without getting fluid all over? I can barely get to the hose on mine. Sticking on another hose, having someone else turn the wheel, and hoping they turn the key off fast enough. I've done it that way, but I've matured. Now you want me to pull belts and hook up a drive! I'll stick with the low tech method. Sucking it out, filling, run the engine and turn the wheel. Repeat three times. One quart gets it pretty clean. Drive for a week and let the new detergents have a little fun. Then repeat. Experience has taught me not to remove hoses from plastic nipples without slicing the hose first. They don't break often, but what a pain when they do.
  • 87ranger287ranger2 Member Posts: 13
    I have 213,000 miles on my 87 Ranger. When I bought it new I switched to synthetic ATF in the power steering.
    Over the years i have thought about flushing it but somehow it has never happened. I havent had any problems at all with the steering.
    I just flashed on an interesting fact: I havent even changed the shocks. I think i'l take a look and make sure they are not leaking.
  • mdeymdey Member Posts: 90
    It is messy to flush the system, I'll grant you that. I forgot to mention in my earlier post that you do have to plug the low pressure return port on the pump. I saved a cap from a replacement pump. It lives in the big red tool box.

    By the way, I have found that the low pressure return hose is usually fairly brittle and hard when I pull it off. It usually slides off fairly easy, and I usually replace it (a fuel line hose works pretty well as a replacement).

    spokane: try turning the pump by hand. Trust me, you'll get awfully tired before you move 2 quarts through that pump. That is the method I used to prime the new pump I had to install. It took a lot of turning to get the system primed with fluid. Once it is primed, it is a chore to turn that pump.

    The drill sounds like an interesting idea. Most pumps are designed to receive a 1/2-inch socket drive in the end of the pully shaft. That could work.
  • karlkarl Member Posts: 34
    Power steering fluid can break down over time due to heat, & can adversely affect the pump. I think this is a regular maintenance item, like 1x per year.

    I haven't changed the fluid on any other vehicle but my Jeep XJ Cherokee. On the XJ, there is a hose clamp at the bottom of the p/s fluid reservoir; remove the clamp, and it drains out quite easily. It's a recirculating-ball p/s system though; I don't know if rack-n-pinion systems drain this easily, or if you are forced to suction out the fluid to change it.

  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    Don't forget that MITYVAC provides a very easy and precise means for fluid removal:

    I used my 06810 unit to suction out the power steering fluid supply chamber on a 1996 Chrysler Concorde-- no mess, no fuss, but several dumpings of the little bottle on the unit.

  • rmyers76rmyers76 Member Posts: 34
    I changed my PS fluid for the first time last weekend. I bought a syringe and some length of plastic tubing to remove the fluid. It was slow going but worked just fine.

    I don't think it had ever been changed by the previous owner and I now have 158K miles on the clock. The fluid looked like syrup - very dark. I refilled the reservoir, started the vehicle and moved the steering wheel around to circulate the new fluid. I drained the reservoir another time to remove more of the dirty fluid. After the second drain and fill, the fluid looked much better than the original stuff although it is still not very clean looking. I think its the best I am going to do without pumping out the entire system.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    I have a recent episode that answers the original question in the affirmative. The rack in my 1996 Chrysler Concorde became noisy when very cold, and remained that way from start up until warmed up. A friend in the parts business checked factory bulletins for me, and they said this is not uncommon, and is not dangerous, but is admittedly irritating. The cure is replacing the rack ($500.00?) My friend recommended a power steering additive that I decided to try. I evacuated out the old fluid with my Mityvac unit and replaced it with the additive and fresh fluid. The irritating noise upon cold weather start up is significantly reduced. Of interesting note, the additive label said that the effect of mixing it into regular power steering fluid was the conversion of that fluid into the equivalent of Honda power steering fluid.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    how many other car makers endorse using Honda power steering fluid? the marketer did a really lousy job of selling themselves here. if they were able to say that using Gritto X4379-plus in your PS pump not only met auto makers standards, but raised temperature resistance and cured cancer in white lab rats, that would be a more compelling claim.
  • acuraowneracuraowner Member Posts: 57
    I would assume that it was an attempt to sell to the Honda crowd too. Honda owners can only use Honda spec fluid (which is sometimes hard to find), even the Valvoline Synpower PSF is not approved for Honda systems.

    The only place I have found Honda approved PSF is at Wal-Mart and of course the dealership.
  • cynthiagcynthiag Member Posts: 63
    I never thought about changing the power steering fluid, though I'd have my mechanic check it and top off if needed, though I did change my transmission fluid at regular intervals of about 1-2 years.


    Power steering never had so much as a tiny problem, transmission was just about to fail at 198,000 miles when I traded it in Thursday.

    This of course makes me wonder whether it really is a necessary thing to do. I guess every once in a while can't hurt, but mightn't really help either.

    The car in question was a 1985 Toyota Camry.

  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    In the never ending quest to find the better way, I put together/constructed a reservoir jar for my Mityvac bleeding system. It is a quart Mason jar which now has two tubes coming out of it, through the cap insert. This will allow me to draw out all the power steering fluid from any typical reservoir with out having to repeatedly empty the small plastic vessel that comes with the Mityvac.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    did that Mason jar start out with pickles in it, or 'lightnin' ;)

    clever enough use
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    I was leafing through an Eastwood catalog and saw a kit for $30 that would allow the use of Mason jars by substituting a plastic or hard rubber lid insert for the metal one that comes with the jars. I decided to make one for a little less... >;o/
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    and let's all be careful :-D

    seriously, not a problem, I once slammed a hunkajunk together to spot-texture a spot on a wall about the same way. it even worked for a few seconds, enough to texture over a crack patch good enough to fool visitors. then the top blew off, and textured me :( if I had used a Mason screw-on jar, that wouldn't have happened.
  • celicawidgetcelicawidget Member Posts: 1
    well, this is the first time i have looked at my ps levels since i bought my celica 2 months ago and it was well near empty. I thought people said that psf wasn't supposed to burn or run out? how do you think mine was so low? any thoughts?

    also, there is a cap on the side of my resevior, it is shaped like the radiator cap but it is like the size of the entire side of the resevior. it is at an odd angle so i haven't been able to see if it is labled anything. any clues on that either?
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    double check the resivoir location in your manual, including the proper method for reading the level, to be sure you're not misreading the level on a new car. if it's low, have the dealer top it off.

    it's not unusual for individual cars in a production run to have one or another fluid a bit low. watching an assembly line run if you get the chance is kinda cool... for instance, Ford Twin Cities has a semicircular rack of a/c charging stations cycling overhead... spin the hoses onto the a/c ports and stand back -- vacuum, oil, fill, and test is a 2-minute job. every once in a while, a charging station is nicht gut, and a truck will get a deficiency card under the wiper, and somebody will have to tweak it before delivery.

    since you have a new car, that's probably the cause if the PS fluid is really low, an automatic gizmo choked in filling it. dealer prep is supposed to find and fix these things, but 5 to 10% of everything built has something screwed up. that's what warranty is all about.
  • tntitantntitan Member Posts: 306
    Used a turkey baster and sucking it out of my 2000 Accord was so easy it only took about 20 minutes to drain, refill drive a few miles and repeat the process again. For less than $3 and 20 minutes I see no reason not to do this at least every 30K.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    You make a good point. If the job is quick and relatively clean, why not do it as a maintenance item-- 30K or so intervals. The turkey baster is potentially more messy than using a suction device made for automotive fluids, but a steady hand may make it tolerable. Be careful what you choose for fluid. I'm sure you're aware that the newer cars have fluid qualitative requirements, and not just any fluid goes in just any reservoir. Honda fluid is quite specific.
  • tntitantntitan Member Posts: 306
    I did use the Honda Power Steering Fluid. The power steering fluid is so accessible on my Accord that the turkey baster wasn't even messy and it only took a couple of minutes to drain using it.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    I jury-rigged a Mason jar inline on my Mityvac unit. Next time I go for emptying any sort of fluid reservoir, I'll test it out. Hope I don't break the jar! >:oÞ
  • mcalcankillermcalcankiller Member Posts: 6
    Come on! What's it cost to siphon off about 1 pt of power steering fluid? 50 cents? Gimme a break! It never ceases to amaze me that folks will spend $30K on a car and debate the merits of extending fluid changes on all the car's vitals. Fluid changes are cheap!

    I got into a long dissertation with a dimwit that changing fluids was cheap..........until I realized an old saying:

    PENNYWISE................+ POUND FOOLISH!

    My dad paid dearly for his mechanical ignorance and I do a lot of my own maintenance. Plus in a weird way maybe I possess the "spring Cleaning Fever" women do: its satisfying for me to check the car over and know its clean. Its cheaper to err on the too frequent changes than too long. Cars cost so damn much that I do what I can to keep mine running.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    auto fluids generally also attract gunk out of their systems by design, not just the oil. why circulate the crud back into the ends of the steering rack? -- dump it regularly into the recycling bucket at your parts store and celebrate.
  • fleetwoodsimcafleetwoodsimca Member Posts: 1,518
    And a good suction pump can make the job less daunting.
  • rubicon52rubicon52 Member Posts: 191
    I used a $2 baster from the grocery store. My PS fluid reservoir has a small opening (about 1/2" diameter) so I cut a 4" piece of plastic drinking straw, slit the end of the drinking straw (so the tip of the baster would fit in the slitted end) and taped around where the baster tip fits into the straw. Worked great on 2 cars. Thinking about repeating the process after the new fluid mixes with the old.
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