Power steering fluid is an oil-based fluid and like all fluids on your vehicle, it deteriorates over time. The power steering system has many rubber seal, o-rings, and lines that will also slowly deteriorate.
Dirty fluid or contaminated fluid can cause these rubber components to fail prematurely. Most manufacturers recommend servicing the power steering fluid every 15k to 30k miles.
However, this may vary per manufacturer. It is recommended to follow the maintenance schedule to help prolong the life of your vehicle as many manufacturers vary from one another.
Cost of Flushing the Power Steering Fluid
Most maintenance power steering flush costs will vary by location. The cost of fluid is dependent on whether it’s the manufacturer’s brand or aftermarket.
The labor is dependant on how the service is performed; whether inline flush machine or drain and fill service. Most shops including dealerships use a fixed rate for power steering flushes. This means that it doesn’t matter what make and model vehicle you have; the price is the same across the board.
As always, labor rates and parts costs may vary by location of service and whether or not there are any maintenance specials at the time of service.
At independent shops that use a flushing machine, you can expect to pay between $90 and $150 for the power steering fluid change cost. If these shops utilize “cleaners or flushing additives”, the cost can be $25 to $50 more depending on how detailed the flush they are performing.
At independent shops that perform the drain and refill style of fluid exchange, the cost can be between $50 and $100 depending on how many times they drain the system, as well as their labor rate.
At the dealership, if a flushing machine is used, the price can range between $125 and $200 depending on how intensive the flushing machine is. Using conditioners, cleaners or other types of chemicals can drive the price up.
Most manufacturers do not actually recommend the use of any additional chemicals to be used in the power steering system even though your local dealer may use them. Always ask if the dealership is using factory fluid as some dealerships will use aftermarket fluid to make their prices more comparable to aftermarket shops.
At a dealership that uses the drain and refill method, the price can range from $75 to $125 depending on how many times they perform the drain and refill. If the fluid is factory fluid, the cost can be on the higher end as opposed to if they use aftermarket fluid to stay competitive.
Many times at the dealership, they offer maintenance packages for the different intervals of service. These packages usually come with a discount, but the price can be quite large depending on the number of fluids to be serviced during that interval.
More About Power Steering Fluid
Before vehicles had power steering assist, the driver had to physically turn the wheels through mechanical shafts and gears. Since the early 1900s, hydraulic power steering was created and used to assist the drivers with the heavy forces needed to turn the wheels. Hydraulic power steering is the most commonly used power steering assist system.
The hydraulic system consists of a power steering pump, steering gearbox, reservoir, and lines to transport the fluid. The power steering pump is ran off the drive belt on most vehicles and the pump creates the hydraulic pressure needed to provide steering assist through the steering gearbox – sometimes referred to as a rack and pinion.
Although steering gearbox is used interchangeably with rack and pinion, they are actually two different styles of steering. On older trucks, they used a gearbox that moves a set of steering rods to move the wheels.
A rack and pinion is the more commonly used steering gear on modern vehicles and it consists of a rack gear and pinion gear that moves side to side to turn the wheels. Rack and pinion is usually just called a rack for short or steering rack.
Most manufacturers are turning away from hydraulic power steering systems by turning to electric motors to aid in assisting the driver with power steering. Vehicles that are manufactured in 2015 and newer, especially cars, will likely have an electronic power steering rack and pinion. These electronic racks do not use fluid so there is no need to service them during maintenance intervals.
Power steering fluid is essential to the hydraulic system. The pump creates pressure which helps turn the wheels for the driver; making it easier to steer.
Steering is especially difficult during parking lot maneuvers as the vehicle is not moving very quickly and the weight of the vehicle is causing more force to be used to turn the wheels.
What is a Power Steering Flush Service?
Almost all repair facilities are capable of servicing the power steering fluid in your vehicle. The standard practice is to flush the system while the vehicle is running as the power steering pump pumps the fluid through the system. Some shops will use a machine that is hooked up inline with the system and as the new fluid is pumped in, the old fluid is captured by the flushing machine.
Other places may just drain the power steering system and fill it up with new fluid. Usually, this procedure will be done multiple times to attempt to remove as much old fluid as possible but is less effective than the inline flushing machine.
The inline flushing machine will use more fluid and the labor is also more as the system needs to be disconnected for the machine adapters to be installed. The drain and fill style exchange uses less fluid and also less labor-intensive.
What to Expect for Your Service
Most power steering flush services will take 45 minutes to an hour to be performed if using a flushing machine. If using the drain and refill method, the service can take 20 to 45 minutes depending on how many times they drain the system.
During the flush service, the technicians will likely look for any leaks in your system that may be present. A leak in the system can cause components to fail prematurely if they are starved of fluid. The fluid not only provides the pushing force for the hydraulic system but also lubricates the pump and rack.
Swollen hoses can be a sign of fluid contamination and can cause premature ruptures. A large leak will leave your vehicle with no power steering assist. This can become a safety concern as the steering will become stiff and hard to steer.
Checking the drive belt is also another component that is regularly checked. A cracked belt or a weathered belt can snap which would cause both the power steering pump and the alternator to lose their functions.