Can You Use Transmission Fluid in the Power Steering?

by James Rada, Jr.

Maintaining your car can be tricky at times. Forget universal belts. Everything has its own specifically designed belt. If something goes wrong electronically, then you could be in trouble. Then there's oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid and windshield washing fluid. They're all different and they all seemingly have different purposes. While it may not be apparent in your owner's manual, power steering fluid and transmission are virtually the same thing.

Transmission Fluid

Clean transmission fluid is red, but as it works through your car's transmission, it turns darker and maybe even orange. If you're having trouble accelerating, it is probably a fluid problem and could be because the car is leaking transmission fluid or the fluid level is low. Check the transmission fluid levels while the engine is running. Transmission fluid reservoirs are usually marked by a colored dipstick with a ring handle.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid allows you to easily change direction in your car. The fluid is usually clear, though it will turn red or brown over time. If your car is making whining sounds when you take sharp turns, it may be time to check the power steering fluid level. The reservoir is usually on the driver side of the engine. Check the fluid level with the dipstick while the engine is turned off. If you need to add fluid, don't overfill or it could spray over the engine when it gets warm.

Interchanging the Two

Some cars (Fords) use transmission fluid in the power steering because the fluids are essentially the same thing---hydraulic. Transmission fluid has a dye added so that it can be identified when checking for a leak. However, some cars (Hondas) require a special power steering fluid. Check your owner's manual to make sure there are no cautions against using transmission fluid for both the transmission and power steering.

About the Author

James Rada, Jr. was a newspaper reporter for eight years and earned 23 awards from the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association, Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists, Maryland State Teachers’ Association and CNHI. He also worked for 12 years as a marketing communications writer, earning a Print Copywriter of the Year Award from the Utah Ad Federation. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.