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The power steering system exists to help you steer your car because, no matter how much you flex in front of the mirror, you’re just not strong enough to control your car entirely on your own. Your car is really heavy, and you need more than just your biceps to turn it left and right. So, that’s where the power steering comes in. I should probably note here that some newer cars have electric power steering that don’t use fluid. If that’s you, then have a nice day. The power steering is a hydraulic system. It utilizes fluid to create extra pressure, and therefore force, that is then applied when you turn the steering wheel. As you turn the steering wheel, the power steering pump pushes power steering fluid through the hydraulic tubes, creating that needed force. As you stop steering, the power steering pump turns off, and the pressure is released. Simple, right? So, let’s talk about the fluid. Over time, the power steering fluid gets grungy. It picks up contaminants as it runs through the system, which makes the fluid dirty. That, in turn, can cause damage to the rest of the power steering system. When that happens - or, ideally, before that happens - you want to empty out the old power steering fluid and add some fresh stuff. And by “you” I mean “a technician,” because let’s be honest, you’re probably not the one to swap out your power steering fluid.
Let me guess. You probably don’t pay attention to scheduled maintenance or spend time reading your owner’s manual. No judgement here. Okay, maybe just a little. Here’s the deal: Scheduled maintenance is preventative maintenance; it exists so that you can have affordable and easy car services that will keep you from having extreme and expensive ones. Can we agree that’s a good thing? Just as you need your oil changed regularly, you need your power steering fluid changed regularly. Now, not nearly as regularly as your oil, but still regularly, before it starts collecting all kinds of contaminants that you don’t want running through the system.
When you get your oil changed, the technician doing the service will usually check your other fluids. Often that means just checking the fluid levels, but even that type of visual inspection can give some clues about your power steering fluid. As the power steering fluid gets contaminated and dirty, it will change in color, and become brown or black. That’s a sign that it’s time to get out with the old, and in with the new. So, if a technician tells your power steering fluid is gross, then it’s probably time to replace it.
Presumably I don’t need to tell you that it shouldn’t be difficult to drive your car. If anything is making it difficult, you probably have an issue. If your power steering fluid needs to be replaced, it may not be doing it’s job well. That means that your power steering system will be compromised, which means it’s going to take more effort from you to turn the steering wheel.
Another thing I hopefully don’t need to tell you: Your car shouldn’t make weird noises. Your car can make a lot of noises, depending on what’s wrong. If the power steering fluid is in need of replacing, you may hear a groaning noise whenever you turn the steering wheel.
Let me ask you a question: Would you rather pay a small amount of money now to fix a small issue, or let that issue damage other components of your car, and pay a large amount of money later to fix a big issue?
If you have some sense in you, pretty sure you’d go with the former. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, then it’s time to get that power steering fluid changed.
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