Your car has many fluids, some of which are engine oil, brake fluid, transmission fluid, engine coolant, and power steering fluid. Knowing the color of these fluid types will help you figure out the problem of any leaks from your vehicle. So, what color is the power steering fluid?
Power steering fluid takes different colors, but the most standard ones are red or pink. Most steering fluids are dyed red, but you can find other brands with pink. And in rare cases, manufacturers leave power steering fluid in its original clear color.
Read on as we look at the different colors of power steering fluid and other fluids in your car in detail. Fasten your seatbelt, and let’s take off!
What is Power Steering Fluid?
As the name suggests, a power steering fluid is used in the power steering system. Power steering is a modern system in your car that makes turning the steering effortless. You don’t have to apply much energy to the wheel as it used to a few decades ago. Thanks to this ingenious invention.
The constituents of power steering fluid vary, but it mainly consists of vegetable oil, mineral oil, or synthetic mineral oil. It is also formulated with other additives to reduce friction, offer corrosion protection, and increase temperature and pressure operating ranges.
Power steering fluid is the lifeblood of the power steering hydraulic system. It transfers the torque you apply on the steering wheel to the road wheels. This power steering fluid is ideal for this function because it is incompressible and remains liquid in a wide temperature range.
Like any other hydraulic system, the fluid multiplies the applied force. This means you use less effort in driving your car.
What Color Is Power Steering Fluid?
Power steering fluid is distinguished from other automobile fluids with its red or pink color. It is dyed red or pink in many cases, making it visible within the reservoir container.
However, some manufacturers leave it with its original clear color. Clear steering fluid is uncommon because it becomes difficult to distinguish it from other vehicle fluids.
But if your power steering fluid turns milky, foamy, black, brown, or yellow, it may be contaminated, and time to replace it. Find more details in the next section.
Odd Power Steering Fluid Colors and Their Causes
The standard power steering colors are red and pink. However, that does not mean it will retain this color throughout its service. It can change over time because of contamination or regular wear and tear.
The following are other colors of power steering fluid if it is contaminated or has reached the end of its service life:
Milky or Foamy
Your power steering fluid may turn milky or foamy if water enters the system. It may be caused by a leak, which should be checked and fixed immediately.
Water in the power steering fluid may cause handling problems and corrode parts of the power steering systems. That is why you should get your car checked immediately and replace the contaminated one.
Black or Brown
May turn brown as it ages, and in severe cases, it can be black. That shows it has undergone severe breakdown over time and needs immediate replacement.
A black or brown power steering fluid will overwork the pump. You will also notice the steering wheel becoming stiffer. Replacing the fluid should fix the problem if other system components are functioning.
The power steering fluid can turn yellow if it mixes with the engine coolant. Once again, that can only happen if a leak exists, making these two fluids mix. However, it is uncommon for that to happen.
The contaminated power steering fluid may change the handling experience. You can fix this situation by inspecting the leak before flushing out the yellow power steering fluid.
How Long Does Power Steering Fluid Last?
The power steering fluid lifespan or flush routine depends on the type and the manufacturer. Also, your car maker may recommend flushing the power steering system after a different period.
Typically, you should flush the power steering fluid after 40,000-80,000 miles. Do you notice the wide range? You can solve this by referring to the owner’s manual or information provided by the power steering fluid manufacturer.
What Are Different Types of Power Steering Fluid?
Consider the power steering fluid type before you buy it for your vehicle. The fluids differ depending on the manufacturing process, which gives them varying properties.
The following are the most common types of power steering fluid in the market:
Mineral Power Steering Fluids
Mineral power steering fluids are made by refining petroleum through fractional distillation. Additives are then included to enhance its properties.
This power steering fluid type does not affect the rubber elements and is less expensive than other options. However, it has a shorter lifespan and gets contaminated quickly.
Semi-Synthetic Power Steering Fluid
As the name suggests, a semi-synthetic power steering fluid is a blend of mineral and synthetic fluid. It is characterized by low viscosity, good lubricity, and high resistance to foam formation.
However, semi-synthetic power steering fluid can impact the rubber seals in the system. That will reduce the lifespan of these components.
Synthetic Power Steering Fluid
This fluid is made of petroleum fractions, polyesters, and special additives, making it the best choice for most cars. It does not impact the rubber components and lasts longer.
Synthetic power steering fluid is also resistant to foam formation and flows smoothly in a wide temperature range. Most luxury car brands recommend it because of its excellent properties. However, it comes with a higher price tag.
Universal Power Steering Fluid
As the name suggests, universal fluid is compatible with many power steering systems. It may or may not have additives, but that does not alter its lubricity.
Universal steering fluid can prevent corrosion, reduce sealing leakage, and reduce frictional wear and tear on the components. But you should check viscosity and chemical compatibility before using them in your car.
Colors of Other Automotive Fluids
Power steering is not the only hydraulic fluid in your car. Many other fluids that serve different functions. They differ in color and other properties to make them distinguishable. Let’s highlight them.
Brake fluid is the bloodline of the hydraulic brake system. It transfers force from the brake pedal to the brake pads and multiplies it.
New brake fluid can be amber or light brown. It, however, tends to black with age and condition, which will tell you when it is time to flush it out.
Engine coolant keeps the engine cool by circulating through the pockets in the engine block, absorbing heat in the process. It takes many colors, which can be red, clear, yellow, blue, or green. Check the radiator overflow reservoir to know the color of the engine coolant in your car.
Unlike engine coolant that only cools the engine, motor oil offers both lubrication and cooling benefits. It also circulates throughout the engine block but follows a different path.
New motor oil is usually light brown. But as it ages and circulates through the engine parts, it becomes dark brown and black when dirty. Change it as recommended to keep your engine lubricated.
Transmission fluid lubricates the different moving parts and helps in gear shifting in automatic transmissions. Like all other motor oils, it also ages and breaks down with time.
New transmission fluid has a bright red color, which changes to brown and turns black over time. Black transmission fluid should be replaced. Also, keep your transmission fluid change routine.
Air Conditioning Coolant
Unlike other fluids in your car, air conditioning coolant or refrigerant is colorless. It is also relatively odorless. AC refrigerant works by changing its state from liquid to gas and vice versa.
Washer fluid can be any color, but blue dominates the market. There is no standard color for your washer fluid.
How often should I change my power steering fluid?
You can change your power steering fluid after 40,000-80,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual or manufacturer specifications to be sure about it.
What happens if I drive without a power steering fluid?
Your vehicle will revert to manual steering, but others can lock the steering wheel. That is because the power steering system relies on this fluid. Without it, the system fails, and your car becomes stiff.
What happens if you drive with contaminated power steering fluid?
A contaminated power steering fluid overworks the power steering pump, which can significantly reduce its lifespan. You will also experience handling issues with the steering wheeling feeling stiff to turn.
Can you mix green and red power steering fluid?
No. Never mix red and green power steering fluids because they are designed for different applications. It would be best to stick to the fluid recommended for your vehicle and contact the dealership before you change to a different one.
What is power steering fluid made of?
Power steering fluid can be made of vegetable oil, mineral oil, or petroleum fractions. These are often mixed with additives to improve the properties to match them to their application.
How do you know if you need power steering fluid?
A change in handling is a sign of contaminated or low-power steering fluid. The wheel will feel stiffer to turn, which worsens over time. Inspect the power steering fluid in the reservoir to determine if you need to change it. It should be red or pink. Otherwise, it is time to flush it.
Does the color of the power steering fluid matter?
Yes. The standard color of the power steering fluid is red or pink. Any color change means the fluid is contaminated or old and should be flushed out and replaced.
What does dirty power steering fluid look like?
A contaminated or dirty power steering fluid can be yellow, brown, black, or milky. That depends on what caused it, which can be leakage from others.
Power steering fluid plays a vital role in making handling effortless. It is a component of the power steering system that transfers force from the steering wheel to the road wheel and amplifies it in the process.
The standard color of the power steering fluid is red or pink. Any other variation shows contamination or aging fluid, which tells you when it is time to flush the system. Do that as soon as possible to restore handling.