Do I Need a Power Steering Flush?

The easy answer is if your vehicle’s owner’s manual says you need a power steering flush at a regular interval, then yes, you need a power steering flush at those particular mileages.  Since most of us don’t regularly look in our vehicle’s user’s manual it seems more likely that your mechanic, or the guys at the local quick lube shop said your vehicle could use a power steering flush.  Today we will talk about why it’s necessary to flush a power steering system, how mechanics determine its time for a flush and the processs of how to flush power steering fluid.

The power steering system in your vehicle is there to aid you in turning the wheels at low speeds.  Today’s vehicles are equipped with larger heavier and wider tires and wheels than older vehicles.  These tires are designed to grab the road to make sure you do not lose traction in a corner or during acceleration.  Without power steering, these road grabbing tires would be extremely difficult to turn without a school bus sized steering wheel, or the help of your power steering system.

Power Steering Fluid FlushThe power steering system consists of a pump usually run by a pulley and belt to the crank pulley on your motor.  This pump pressurizes the power steering fluid which is then carried by a line to a power steering gear box, or a rack and pinion.  The steering gear, or rack and pinion, uses this high pressure fluid to help with the motion created by you turning the steering wheel, making it much easier to turn the wheels.  Once this high pressure power steering fluid has done its work to turn the wheels, it returns through a line to the power steering fluid reservoir near the pump.  Since there is very little motion or friction in the power steering system, the working fluid stays relatively clean and free of wear products.  Unlike your engine and transmission, there is so little wear in the system there is no filter to help keep the power steering fluid clean.

Over miles and time, small amounts of wear products will build up in your power steering fluid.  These wear products are bits of plastic, rubber and metal from inside the system that naturally wear off over time.  As these particles are pushed around in the power steering fluid, they can accelerate wear to many of the seals on components in the system.  Since there is no filter in your power steering system, the only way to remove these small particles is to remove the power steering fluid and add new, clean fluid.  This is called flushing the power steering system.

A good mechanic will recommend a power steering flush at the factory recommended intervals, or when the power steering fluid becomes dark brown or black.  Unless your vehicle gets heavy use like hauling, towing, or extensive idling, the factory recommended interval is usually a very safe interval.

There are two ways you can flush your power steering system:

There first method is to drain and refill the system.  Start by removing the lowest power steering line you can find, often at the steering gear, rack or cooling lines.  Allow the system to drain completely, which may be a while due to the viscosity of power steering fluid.  Once the system is drained, refill the power steering reservoir to ½ full.  As a friend starts the vehicle, add fluid to the reservoir to try and keep it half full.  You may experience foaming or bubbling as the air pockets in the system are pumped to the reservoir.  Once a steady level is reached, top off the reservoir and replace the cap.

Power SteeringThe second way is more difficult but exchanges more fluid and performs a true flush.  Find where the return line leaves the power steering gear or rack to return fluid to the power steering reservoir.  Remove it at the low point in the system.  Have a friend start the vehicle while you add power steering fluid to the reservoir to keep it at least ½ full and another friend watches the now open return line.  Power steering fluid should flow from that open port into your drain pan as the vehicle runs.  Once the fluid running out is clean and obviously new fluid, shut off the vehicle and replace the power steering return line.  Restart the vehicle to remove any air trapped in the system with the cap to the power steering reservoir removed.  Once no more bubbles or foam are in the reservoir shut off the vehicle, top off the power steering reservoir and replace the cap.  Before attempting this procedure, ensure you have plenty of power steering fluid and qualified friends.

IMPORTANT: Any time you are adding power steering fluid to your vehicle, make sure you use the factory recommended fluid.  Many cars take power steering fluid, but many use automatic transmission fluid or a variety of other working fluids that cannot be mixed.

Anytime you are doing a power steering flush, it is a good time to inspect the seals and hoses in your power steering system for leaks.  As a power steering system ages it is possible for the hoses to begin to slowly leak, or seals to wear down, dry or crack.  If any leaks or discovered, even a slow weep or potential leaks, add BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak to the new power steering fluid you add.  BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak is a power leak stopping agent that contains no particulate matter to clog, damage, or wear down your power steering system.  It also is not a petroleum distillate so it will not destroy the seals or hoses if it’s left in your system.  BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak is guaranteed to permanently seal your power steering leaks and can stay in your power steering system preventing future leaks.

BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak

You can purchase BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak at any of our local auto parts retailers:

  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pepboys
  • CarQuest Auto Parts
  • Advacned Auto Parts
  • AutoZone
  • Bennett Auto Supply
  • Prime Automotive Warehouse
  • NAPA

Or you can purchase BlueDevil Power Steering Stop Leak online from the manufacturer by clicking the link.

Pictures provided by: www.mustangmonthly.com and www.2carpros.com

22 responses to “Do I Need a Power Steering Flush?

  1. My high pressure power steering hose in my 02 maxima is leaking. I know the blue devil oil leak works. Will the blue devil power steering stop leak work on my high pressure hose? It is a slow leak.

  2. My power steering pump was recently rebuilt after freezing up and breaking the belts. This is on a large truck ( not pickup ) and at first I could steer the wheels sitting still. After the fluid warmed up it would steer at a stand still. Otherwise it steered ok. We flushed the system only by draining it and took the pump off and unsealed it to find the bolt loose where the spring is. The bolt for the plates came loose also. Still even after all that it doesn`t steer at a stop unless I rev the motor. Mechanic says the return line has low flow. Could the steering gear box be gummed up and is there a simple way to flush it good ?

    1. Alan-

      Thanks for your question about your power steering system. It is possible that when the pump originally locked up it sent debris into the rest of your power steering system that need to be removed. The best way to flush it is by using the manufacture’s recommended fluid. You can try removing the return line from the power steering fluid reservoir and directing it to a drain pan. Have an assistant ready to add more fluid to the power steering reservoir and start the engine and let it idle. Continue to fill the power steering fluid reservoir as it empties and catch the fluid from the return line in a pan. Do this until the fluid flowing out of the return line is clean and bright.

      Unfortunately you cannot use any solvents or cleaners to flush your power steering system or you could damage the seals and internal components of the power steering gear. If flushing the system with clean fluid does not solve your problem, the only solution is to replace your power steer gear as well.

      We hope this helps!

      -BDP

    2. I have a 2006 dodge ram 1500 pick-up and the power steering pump is grinding very loudly and the operation of it is not a very smooth fluid motion. The fluid level is always good however the color of the fluid is pretty dark. The pump is moaning pretty loudly all of the time. I’m wondering if maybe I am going to have to replace the pump before too long. Thanks.

      1. Kevin,

        Thanks for your question about your 2006 Dodge Ram. It does sound like your power steering pump is going bad, probably the shaft bearings. That along with the dark fluid sounds like you might be in for a new pump and fluid flush. If you notice fluid leaking out around the pulley or the shaft, or the shaft starting to wobble, then you should consider changing the pump soon.

        Thanks again for your question!
        -BD Auto Pro

  3. It has been recommended that I have a power steering flush and replace all belts and hoses. What should I expect the cost to be for parts and labor. I have a 97 Altima gxe with 83,743 miles. I am 83 years old and do about 2000 miles a year. Look forward to your reply.

    1. Jerry-

      The parts and labor costs varies so much across the country that it would be impossible for us to give you a proper estimate. There are a lot of different variables that go into what a shop is charging.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

    1. Len-

      A power steering flush should not cause your power steering pump to whine. We recommend checking the power steering fluid level as the pump will often times whine if the fluid is too low or too high.

      Thank you!

      -BDP

  4. I have a 2005 Nissan Titan with 135K miles on it. I had he 100K mile mx done to it at around 110K and at that time I was told I had a leak at my PS hose (didn’t specify which hose) but that it wasn’t critical as long as I monitored the fluid level. topped off the fluid at that time. in the last two years or so (the truck is now my secondary vehicle so I don’t use it that often) i’ve noticed the steering becoming increasingly difficult especially if I haven’t driven it for a while. I checked the fluid level today and noticed that it was still at the cold max. I drove it for about 30 mins and checked it again and it was at the hot max. Its been about 20K miles since I topped it off and the level hasn’t changed. However, the fluid was milky and brown when I checked it the first time and had tiny bubbles when I check the levels the second time.

    I’m told that because water has somehow made it into the system and a purge/flush should clear up all my issues.

    Do you agree?

    1. Nigel,

      That diagnosis does seem correct. It sounds like either a little water got into your system, maybe through the leak point, or maybe the wrong fluid was added and is causing problems. Either way, a flush should clear things up. Make sure you refill your system with the recommended type of power steering fluid and you should be back to normal!

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

    1. Amanda,

      Thanks for your question about your 2003 Rendevous. Based on your description the noise you’re hearing could indeed be a power steering problem. If that is the case, it should get louder as your engine revs up, but when your car shifts it should quite down again until the engine reaches a high RPM again. If the noise gets louder the car goes faster independent of engine speed you may have a bad wheel bearing. For more information about that, check out this article: https://gobdp.com/blog/bad-wheel-bearing/ .

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  5. I have a 2002 ford windstar and I just replaced a water pump ALONE so after a day and a half I got the new one and such and made a critical error by mistakenly place the return for ps onto coolant tank and of course coolant on ps????

    1. Justin,

      Great job on doing the work yourself and catching the mistake. As long as your vehicle didn’t overheat, fixing your mistake should be as simple as flushing both systems thoroughly to remove the foreign fluid and add the correct fluid.
      -BD Auto Pro

  6. i have 1998 Jeep cherokee manual transmission and manual 4WD. due to breakage, whining and difficulty in turning left or right especially at parking, i have my my high power steering hose replaced but not the return hose. however, i can still hear the whining sound even at idle but not much. it gets louder when turning left or right at max. mechanics says my pump is on the way out so i replaced it too. still, the whining sound is there. plus, reservoir is overflowing from the cap after driving it for about an hour or so of driving. what could be wrong?

    1. Emmanuel,

      Thanks for your question about your Jeep Cherokee. The overflowing fluid could simply be due to your system being overfilled as it expands as your drive and the fluid heats up. If you have a new pump and high pressure hose, the whining noise could be an indication that some contamination entered your system when it had a leak causing a clog and abnormally high pressure. The clog could be in the steering gear or in the cooler lines. You could try flushing your system to remove the clog and quiet things down.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

  7. I have a ’94 Jeep Grand Cherokee 5.2L at just over 153k miles, and occasionally on hotter days or if I have been driving for a few hours at a time my power steering will randomly stop working but then it starts working after I turn the steering wheel a few times or start driving again. I am concerned as to whether or not it is my pump or just a clog in the line or a leak. Any ideas as to what could be causing this issue?

    1. Erik,

      Thanks for your question about your 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Based on your description, it sounds like the problem you’re having is either due to a clog somewhere in the system, or an internal failure of your steering gear box that is allowing the warm, less viscous power steering fluid to internally bypass the power side of your steering gear making you lose power steering momentarily. You could try performing a power steering fluid flush to see if that removes any clogs and solves the problem but you may end up need to replace the steering gear box.

      It is possible that the problem you’re having is due to the power steering pump, but that is less likely and would be accompanied by a whining noise or possible your engine belts squealing.

      Thanks again for your question!
      -BD Auto Pro

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