Is Power Steering Fluid the Same As Brake Fluid? Fluids 101!

Gasoline and diesel are not the only fluids a car needs to operate. Modern vehicles also rely on hydraulic systems that power parts of the vehicle using liquids like brake fluid and power steering fluid. However, people often wonder about the differences between the two.

Power steering fluid isn’t the same as brake fluid. Power steering fluid and brake fluid have been designed to serve specific functions in your vehicle. As a result, power steering fluid and brake fluid have different properties, characteristics, and ingredients to perform particular operations.

Continue reading to break down the differences and similarities between power steering fluid and brake fluid. I’ll examine what can go wrong with each type of fluid and what you can use in place of them if you’re ever caught in a jam.

Differences and similarities between power steering fluid and brake fluid.

Can You Use Power Steering Fluid in Place of Brake Fluid?

Power steering fluid and brake fluid aren’t precisely the same, although they’re both used in hydraulic systems in cars and they both perform similarly, for different functions. Therefore, you should be able to use power steering fluid to top up the brake fluid in an emergency, right?

You can’t use power steering fluid in place of brake fluid. Power steering fluid and brake fluid have different chemical compositions. As a result, using power steering fluid in place of brake fluid could cause severe damage to the brakes, causing expensive damage or an accident on the road.

Using the power steering fluid in place of brake fluid is a significant risk for little to no reward. If you do this, you’ll likely cause expensive damages to your vehicle that’ll need repairing. You could end up jeopardizing the functionality of your brakes, resulting in a crash that could cause severe injury or death.

As a result, it’s absolutely a bad idea to use power steering fluid in place of brake fluid. Maintaining safety is the number one priority in this situation.

What Happens if You Accidentally Put Brake Fluid in the Power Steering Reservoir?

By this stage, you’re well aware that brake fluid and power steering fluid aren’t interchangeable. Brake fluid and power steering fluid have different compositions and are designed to serve other purposes. So what happens if you put brake fluid into the power steering reservoir by mistake?

If you accidentally put brake fluid in the power steering, it will cause severe harm to crucial components of the power steering, including the power steering pump. However, if you notice you put the wrong fluid in the wrong place before you start the car, expensive damages can be avoided.

If you notice that you’ve put brake fluid in the power steering reservoir and you’ve not yet started the engine, you need to drain the reservoir immediately. Open one of the lines that come from the bottom of the reservoir to drain the brake fluid.

To ensure that all of the brake fluid is removed from the system, rinse the reservoir through with power steering fluid a few times. This will remove any traces of brake fluid that did not drain out when you emptied the reservoir.

Does Power Steering Affect Brakes?

Power steering and brake fluids are different liquids used in separate hydraulic systems. Brake fluid is used to stop the vehicle, while power steering fluid controls the vehicle.  As a result, you’d expect an issue with one system to have little effect on the other.

Power steering does affect the brakes in a vehicle. Power steering systems offer boosts to the brakes when you press the pedal. As a result, when there’s issues with the power steering fluid, it can make the brakes very hard to push and make the vehicle dangerous to drive.

While power steering and brake fluids are kept in separate systems in the vehicle, the systems themselves are connected. Power steering hydraulics assist the brake system. As a result, an issue with the power steering may affect the brakes. This is especially common in diesel vehicles.

What Can Be Substituted for Brake Fluid?

You already know that you can’t use power steering fluid in place of brake fluid. However, is there anything you can use as a suitable substitute for brake fluid if you’re ever caught in an emergency?

Soap and water can be substituted for brake fluid. Soap and water are readily available everywhere, and they’ll cause little to no harm to brake systems as long as they’re only used for a short period. Alternatively, you can use petrol or diesel, but both are corrosive and will harm the brakes.

You should always use brake fluid for your brakes whenever possible. However, if you’ve broken down and lost brake fluid, you can use a mix of soap and water to get you to a garage or home. Once you get home or to the garage, drain the soap and water and refill with the appropriate fluid.

It’s not advised to put soap and water into your brake fluid, as it can cause harm. This tip is only for emergencies, and you should call an expert for help or use brake fluid whenever possible.

What Can Be Substituted for Power Steering Fluid?

Engine oil, transmission oil, axle oil, and hydraulic fluid can be substituted for power steering. However, these liquids will rust or damage the power steering system. As a result, using any of these substitutes will likely cost you a fortune in repairs for damages caused.

Just like with brake fluid, you should only ever use a substitute for power steering fluid in an emergency, and you’ve no other options. Damages to your power steering are almost always expensive to fix, and if the issue occurs while driving, you may lose control of the vehicle.

Will the Emergency Brakes Work Without Brake Fluid?

It seems like a risk relying on brake fluid remaining in your vehicle to stop in case of leaks. What happens if the brake fluid lines are damaged while driving and all the fluid leaks onto the road? Is there any way of stopping the vehicle when the brake fluid is completely gone?

The emergency brakes will work without brake fluid. Unlike the foot brake, the emergency brake isn’t a hydraulic system. As a result, if the brake fluid leaks out from the car, the emergency brake can be used to stop the vehicle.

The emergency brake is also referred to as the parking brake or the handbrake. It works using cables and not hydraulic fluid; it’s an entirely mechanical system that works regardless of brake fluid or power in the car.

Does Power Steering Fluid Need to Be Changed?

Power steering fluid doesn’t need to be changed in most vehicles. Typically, power steering fluid is only changed after an issue has occurred. However, some car manufacturers recommend a power steering system flush every few years as part of servicing the vehicle.

In most cars, power steering fluid is not part of regular maintenance. Instead, drivers choose to change the power steering fluid when they encounter a problem. If the car makes a whining noise as you turn, or the steering has become stiff, these are the primary indicators that the power steering fluid has gone bad.

You can check the power steering fluid quickly in most cars. The power steering reservoir is usually straightforward and visible when you lift the car’s hood. Power steering fluid should be clear; however, the fluid may shift red and still be in good condition.

If your power steering fluid is dark in color, it’s likely gone bad. If you’re in any doubt, consult a mechanic to find the source of the issue and replace the power steering fluid.

Does Brake Fluid Need to Be Changed?

Brake fluid does need to be changed. Brake fluid should be changed every four or five years in most cars. It costs about $100 in most cars to replace the brake fluid. Therefore, the average cost of maintaining the brake fluid in your vehicle is only about $20 a year.

A great way to keep track of your brake fluid is by asking your mechanic to check the brake fluid every time you get your oil changed or your car serviced. The mechanic can check the brake fluid levels in the system and assess the condition of the braking system overall. This ensures that you can safely drive your car with effective brakes.

Final Thoughts

Power steering fluid and brake fluid are both used in hydraulic systems in your car. However, power steering fluid and brake fluid aren’t the same. If you use brake fluid instead of power steering fluid, or the other way around, it’ll cause severe damage to the vehicle. On top of this, damaging either the brakes or steering is dangerous.

It’s essential that you keep track of the brake fluid levels in your car. The brake fluid typically needs replacing every five or so years. Power steering fluid, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be replaced.




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