Replacing the power-steering fluid is not usually listed as a maintenance item for most cars and trucks. You may have read that it’s a good idea or heard a mechanic give you a pitch for it, though. The question is: Should you do it?
Well, it’s a matter of interpretation to some degree. The truth be told, power steering fluid does age. When it is new, it is usually a clear-ruby color similar to many cough syrups. As time goes on, usually many years, the ruby color turns darker as small amounts of dirt and other contaminants become suspended in the fluid. To many mechanics this indicates that the fluid is old and should be changed.
However, bear in mind that transmission fluid, which is similar to power steering fluid, become darker as it ages also and that does not necessary mean that it should be changed. In fact, most cars and trucks recommend that transmission fluid be changed after a certain mileage is reached, not because it has become darker. Another point to consider is that some manufacturers do not recommend changing the transmission fluid in their cars ever. It simply isn’t necessary.
So back to our original premise, should you change your power steering fluid? There are two things we can suggest. First look in your owner’s manual and see if it is recommended (it probably won’t be) and second, call your local dealer and ask if they recommend it.
Normally all that an owner needs to do to keep the power steering system up to snuff is to check the fluid level in the power steering reservoir. If you can’t find out where the reservoir is, consult your owner’s manual or look online. Generally power steering reservoirs have a stubby plastic “dipstick” on the filling cap or the container is translucent so you can see the level. You also should check to see what type of power-steering fluid is required. The manufacturer may call for a specific type of fluid instead of a generic type found at hardware and automotive parts stores.