One of your truck’s hardest-working mechanical components is the power steering. After all, it helps make driving more comfortable and assists you in tight turns. Plus, it’s also a safety feature. Since it makes steering easier and smoother, it allows you to react quickly to hazards on the road.
Given its importance, it’s always critical to have your power steering in tip-top condition. This means keeping an eye on the fluid level, but sometimes, you might have a leak. Moreover, you might not have access to power steering fluid. In this situation, many drivers turn to creative solutions, which might not be ideal.
Table of Contents
- Can you substitute motor oil for power steering fluid?
- What is power steering fluid?
- What are some traits of power steering fluid?
- What are the types of power steering available?
- What can you use to replace the power steering fluid?
- Closing thoughts:
Can you substitute motor oil for power steering fluid?
You should not substitute motor oil for power steering fluid. The main reason to avoid this is the difference in viscosity. Using motor oil instead of power steering fluid will cause leaks and damage over time.
Power steering fluid and motor oil have different viscosities. Also, its viscosity, combined with the steering system design, helps prevent leaks. Plus, it can provide some lubrication at a given density and temperature.
On the other hand, engine oil has the primary role of lubricating the internal components at very high temperatures. To do this, it has a specific viscosity that allows for the best performance. In most cases, it’s different from that in power steering fluid.
All these factors mean that if you put motor oil in your power steering system, you’ll be subjecting it to adverse conditions. These can lead to leaks and damage in the pump and your entire steering system.
If you add motor oil to your vehicle by accident, the damage won’t happen immediately. In fact, the car can operate for some time before components wear out.
People tend to believe that there’s no problem doing so. Yet, in the long run, the bill can be expensive. So, what can you do if you don’t have power steering fluid? Let’s find out.
This article will discuss what you can do when there’s no power steering fluid around. Plus, we’ll answer if you can substitute motor oil for power steering fluid.
What is power steering fluid?
When you turn the steering wheel in your vehicle, gears send a force from the steering column to the wheels. Older cars and trucks only had a mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the wheels. So, turning required plenty of strength.
As technology progressed, manufacturers added a pump that amplified the force you exerted. So, turning the wheels required less work, which made parking and driving a breeze.
The pumps use a fluid, hence the name hydraulic power steering. You guessed it, this fluid is called power steering fluid, which is vital for your vehicle. It helps steer the wheels and provides lubrication. If you run out of it by any chance, you could risk seizing your hydraulic pump, which could lead to accidents.
What are some traits of power steering fluid?
Fluids in your vehicle all have defining traits that make them ideal for their job. One of the most essential characteristics of any of these is viscosity, usually called weight. Remember that this doesn’t refer to how heavy the fluid is but how dense it is.
In the case of power steering fluid, it’s denser than braking fluid but lighter than motor oil. Moreover, since it has to send a hydraulic force to the steering system, it needs suitable viscosity.
The steering system won’t reach as high temperatures as the engine. So, a fluid such as motor oil can safely operate at hotter conditions, while the power steering fluid cannot. The same applies in reverse, and this will be vital later.
What are the types of power steering available?
There are three main power steering fluid types, each with a specific function. They are as follows:
- Automatic transmission fluid (ATF): the transmission fluid also works as a power steering fluid. This is the case in most automatic cars, as the entire system is connected. In these vehicles, you must use ATF fluid. Vital components such as the transmission and power steering depend on it.
- Synthetic power steering fluid: this is a more recent fluid that has come into the market. It’s entirely made in a lab and works in specific conditions. It’s usually the hardest to replace, as more modern cars use it, which could be more sensitive to changes.
- Non-synthetic power steering fluid: this is the most essential power steering fluid and is currently the least used. It can work in ATF vehicles, but you should check factory guidelines.
Now that we’ve seen the different power steering fluid types let’s answer the big question. Can you substitute motor oil for power steering fluid?
What can you use to replace the power steering fluid?
Suppose the situation is critical, and you must use a replacement fluid. In that case, you should use engine oil with the closest viscosity to your steering fluid. Remember that your system can plug up, as it’s not the ideal density.
So, as soon as you reach your destination, you should flush the steering system and replace the fluids.
The ideal procedure is to prevent the urgent need for such fluids. You should check for leaks if your vehicle is low on power steering fluid. Seals within the pump or hoses can sometimes wear out and cause significant leaking.
This is an easy power steering fix that can prevent further damage. You should also check your levels regularly to ensure that your vehicle is in excellent driving condition.
At the same time, if you are losing power steering fluid, then you should carry a reserve supply in your vehicle. That way, if you’re running low, then you can top it off and carry on. However, if conditions are extreme and all you have is another type of fluid, using it is at your own risk, as we’ve seen it could be dangerous.
Power steering is vital for your safety. Also, as it helps lubricate and drive the wheels, it’s a hard-working component.
So, keeping the power steering system in top condition is vital. Also, at the same time, using the correct fluid is necessary.
There’s no safe replacement for power steering fluid, but sometimes you might run out. So a lot of people ask whether you can substitute motor oil for power steering fluid. The short answer is no, you can’t.
In fact, doing so might be risky. However, there are other ways of ensuring your vehicle’s top condition. These include preventive maintenance and carrying the right replacement oil. We hope that this article helps you gain the knowledge to ensure that you’re always driving in the safest way possible.