The direct answer to your query “can you use brake fluid for power steering” is No, and I mean this in absolute terms.
Power steering topped with brake fluid is a poisoned chalice. Each fluid is intended for different purposes. Any mismatch can cost you the life of your engine, and ultimately, your car gets damaged.
Despite their apparent similarity, let’s establish the difference between brake fluid and power steering fluid.
In case you accidentally add – and this had happened to me before – a brake fluid to power steering, I’ll show you what to do. But in the interest of your vehicle, try as much as possible to avoid a deliberate or accidental mixture.
What Is A Power Steering Fluid?
Power steering fluid is a kind of lubricant used in steering to provide smooth pressure to the hydraulic piston for easy and convenient turning of the wheels.
Your car needs a hydraulic connection between the front wheels and the steering wheel in order to cause a reduction in the amount of pressure you exert in turning the wheels.
The power steering wheel is also responsible for lubricating the moving components within the steering system. Overall, it helps to reduce wear and tear, friction, and corrosion.
What Is A Brake Fluid?
As the name suggests, brake fluid is a type of chemical solution within a car’s hydraulic braking system that helps to augment the force your foot makes on the brake pedal. The force on the pedal will, in turn, return as pressure to the brake rotors to help bring the car to a stop.
Stopping your car, especially on a steep road, will be extremely difficult and require more than the foot’s force without the brake fluid. Overall, because of its chemical makeup, the brake fluid has loo compression power and so will not dissipate heat, lubricate or remove moisture.
Power Steering Fluid Vs. Brake Fluid: What’s Similar And Different?
Let’s take an overview of the similarities and differences between the two types of automobile fluids.
How Is Brake Fluid Similar To Power Steering Fluid?
- Both are great lubricants that are intended for different purposes.
- Brake and power steering fluids operate on the principle of pressure generation.
- They are manufactured to provide high lubrication and viscosity They both work in a hydraulic system.
- They are responsible for fluidity and smooth engagement of the moving parts of the braking and power steering systems.
- They are chemical solutions made from a composition of additives and solvents.
How Is Brake Fluid Different From Power Steering Fluid?
|Power Steering||Brake Fluid|
|Colour||When new: Light yellow When aged: amber or brown||When new: Pink, amber, or yellow When aged: brown or black|
|Corrosive Power||Very corrosive and caustic. Capable of removing your car paint||Not corrosive or caustic|
|Compressability||Low compressability||Higher compressability than brake fluid|
|Health||Not too good||Excellent fluid|
|Pressure-Force Conversion||Convert force into pressure in the braking system||Provides lubricate the power steering pump.|
|Secondary Function||Prevents braking system corrosion||Gives pressure to the power steering system|
|Chemical Composition||Additives: 2%-5%; Solvent: 60%-90% Lubricant: 5%-30%||Additives: 10%-15%; Base oil: 85%-90%|
|Chemical Use||Uses Alcohol-based chemical: Glycol-Ether||Uses Petroleum-based chemical|
What To Do If Brake Fluid Mixes With The Power Steering System
Here are a few steps you can take to separate the brake fluid that you mistakenly added to your car’s power steering. But here’s something you must note: you can only use a separation method if you haven’t started your car.
But if you’ve started it, you’ll need to flush out the entire powering steering system. This is because the two fluids have already mixed together.
Materials and tools needed include a fluid pump or turkey baster and a reasonably sized bucket.
The following are the methods you can use to get rid of the brake fluid from your power steering reservoir:
- Step 1: Clean up the reservoir.
Method 1: Open the reservoir and remove the brake fluid using the fluid pump. Alternatively, you can disconnect the power steering pump return line from the base side.
Method 2: direct the return line towards the buck to collect the dripping fluid. Make sure the reservoir is empty. Another way of doing this is to lift the car and turn the tires from one side to another. This will help to clean the entire system.
Method 3: You can also add fresh power steering oil to the reservoir and use it to flush out any brake fluid as you the return line empties out the fluid from the reservoir.
- Step 2: Reconnect the return line and refill the reservoir with fresh power steering oil. Make sure it gets to the fill line.
- Step 3: Replace the steering fluid tank seal and turn on the car for a few minutes. This is to ensure that no air is left in the entire system.
- Step 4: Take out a few minutes to inspect the fluid level. Make sure you check for fluid leaks, strange squeals or noise.
How Much Will It Cost To Fixing Brake Fluid-Damaged Power Steering?
There’s no cast-in-stone answer to the question. It all depends on the extent of the damage the brake fluid had caused in the power steering system. Other factors to consider include your vehicle model, the cost of parts, labor cost, local mechanics, and your location.
While a DIY procedure will save you a few bucks, hiring a professional technician will do a neater job and help clear every doubt that some brake fluid is left.
On average, flushing a brake fluid using a DIY method will cost about $70; meanwhile, fixing the rack seals of the power steering system will require uncoupling the entire system.
The cost will automatically increase and you may be looking at something in the region of between $500 to $1,200. If the hose is damaged, you may have to replace it and this won’t cost anything less than between $400 and $550, plus labor cost.
Now come to imagine that the power steering pump is damaged! You’ll need to prepare as much as $450 to $700. These estimates do not include taxes and fees and these depend on your state of residence.
1. Why Can’t I Use Brake Fluid For Power Steering And Vice Versa?
Let me start with this interrogative analogy: Aren’t the shoes made to be worn on the leg and not on the head? Also, the brake fluid should be used for the braking system and the power steering fluid for the power steering.
But beyond the analogy, there are four reasons why I strongly recommend that you shouldn’t use the brake fluid in place of the power steering and vice versa.
- Damage Steering Pump: First, if the brake fluid gets into the power steering system, it can cause damage to the steering pump. Typically, the power steering pump is designed lubricated by petroleum-based fluid and not an alcohol-based product on which the brake fluid is based.
- Rubber Seals Swell: On the flip side, a mixture of power steering fluid with brake fluid can cause the rubber brake seal to swell and leak.
This is due to exposure to petroleum. The overall consequence of leaking brake fluids is that the paint on the surfaces will dissolve, leading to braking issues.
- Brake Fluid Can Strip Car Paint: Thirdly, the brake fluid is caustic. It can cause the paint on the surface of the brake to be removed. If the car paint strips off, it may cause serious aesthetic damage and cost you extra expense.
2. What Type Of Fluid Can I Use For My Power Steering System?
The power steering system requires two types of fluid: the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and power steering fluid. However, make sure your car manufacturer recommends the use of ATF for your power steering.
The question “can you use brake fluid for power steering?” may become redundant in the face of my in-depth explanation above. The direct and simple thing to say is that you should use only brake fluid for the braking system and the power steering fluid for the power steering system.
This way, you can avoid the breakdown of the car and overall engine degradation. Besides, you won’t have to worry about leaks or excessive wear and tear that often results from the incorrect use of fluid.
The entire power steering pump or braking system can shut down if you don’t use recommended fluid for the right component. I hope I have been able to respond to your question.
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