Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid?

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Can you use brake fluid for power steering fluid? This is a question most persons want to know about especially when they probably have used up their power steering fluid and now what they have available is the brake fluid.

And so they want to know if they can use brake fluid instead of power steering fluid.

On other occasions, some have accidentally used brake fluid in place of power steering fluid and are wondering if there are consequences attached to this error. Before we go into details, let’s look at the difference between the two fluids.

It can be quite nightmarish to be out of power steering fluid especially at the worst moment. Power steering fluid is extremely essential for every vehicle and needs immediate replacement whenever the level drops too low. However, what should a vehicle owner do whenever they run out of power steering fluid? Can brake fluid be interchanged with power steering fluid in such a circumstance?

Related Article: Best Power Steering fluid and to use for your car

Can you use brake fluid for power steering fluid

The fluid used for brakes is quite different from the fluid for power steering. So, does it require a total flush out of the fluid wrongly used for the right one? Is the mistake going to cause the power steering to become problematic? Or is the mix up going to cause major damage?

Differentiating Brake Fluid from Power Steering Fluid

What is a Brake Fluid?

The main function of brake fluid is to absorb moisture in the system. It is a glycol-based fluid which also helps to dispel heat from the system. Note that unlike power steering fluid, brake fluid is not a good lubricant. Brake fluid is used for the static brakes. It has a cylinder on the primary side and also on the secondary side.

What is Power Steering Fluid?

Power Steering fluid functions as a lubricant between two metal surfaces in contact with each other. It is a petroleum-based fluid that acts as a pressure transfer medium. Power steering fluid is mostly used for dynamic steering. It has a pump on the primary side and the cylinder on the secondary side.

Difference between Brake Fluid and Power Steering Fluid

From the above comparison, you can notice seeming distinction between the two fluids. Prior to the advancement in power steering fluid could be used in place of power steering fluid. The fluids began to improve in quality and composition with evolution in technology, with the developers creating it for a detailed purpose.

Therefore, it is suitable to use only power steering fluid for power steering, and brake oil for brakes as all the automobiles give the finest performance by doing so. Though in some dire cases, where there is no other alternative, brake fluids can be used as power steering oil; but it should be a once-in-a-blue-moon thing.

Brake fluid should NEVER be used in power steering because this system requires fluid with a high boiling point. However, you can interchange power steering fluid for brake fluid occasionally, since both are hydraulic fluids.

Also Read: How to Find a Power Steering leak and symptoms

can you use brake fluid instead of power steering fluid

Points to Note If You Add Brake Fluid in Power Steering

·         You should understand that using brake fluid in power steering is a dangerous situation, hence consider the situation critically.

·         The seals used in the brakes can be damaged by petroleum oil. Adding brake fluid in power steering can cause the rubber seals to swell because it creates many complications. Also, brake fluid melts paint from the surface.

·         You have to immediately flush out everything from the reservoir immediately you notice you used the wrong fluid. This would be easy on the grounds that you have not started your car. However, it can be quite difficult to remove or extract once you’ve started your car because the two fluids are already mixed up.

·         Use a turkey baster to remove the brake fluid from the reservoir. Alternatively, you can separate the return line from the steering on the pump on the primary side.

·         You can keep that line in a bucket until the reservoir gets empty. Another thing you can do is to crank your car engine on a starter for a few seconds.

·         When the pump is empty, you can recouple the whole system and fill the reservoir with the right fluid.

·         After this, run your car forth and back twice or more. This is to help flush out all the air from the system.

Are there Penalties of Pouring Brake Fluid into Power Steering?

If you mistakenly pour brake fluid in power steering, there could be some consequences including:

1) Difficulty to extract the fluid from the system once it is circulated.

  • 2) The swelled up effect in rubber seals would be amplified, causing leakages in it

3) The resulting smell from the mix-up is offensive and affects the working of power steering.

  • 4) It could result in expensive damages if you fail to immediately remove the brake fluid from your system.

5) Even though your power steering is not immediately affected, it may affect it in the long run

Fluids you should use in the Power Steering

There are two major kinds of fluids you can use for your car’s power steering:

  • Power steering fluid
  • Automatic transmission fluid (ATF)

There are so many heavy-loaded vehicles on the roads that require smooth steering to properly guide the wheels. Also, car accessories are becoming more complex with the innovation in technology. Power steering systems now hard to service like those complex systems.

Based on these reasons, people use power steering fluid or automatic pressure transmission fluid to ease friction, corrosion, wear, and resistance in the power steering system.

The power steering system has a pump, which is powered by a car engine. This pump helps to deliver the high-pressure power steering fluid to the steering gear. When you turn your steering, the power steering fluid aids the wheels, making it easier for the driver to manoeuvre the steering. The kind of power steering fluid you should use depends on the material composition of your power steering system.

Safe Alternatives of Power Steering Fluids

Different power steering fluids come with different chemical composition, so it is best to know the safe options to use to avoid issues developing in your vehicle. It is even worse to use brake fluid as an alternative for power steering because it has different chemical composition. The chemical makeup of brake fluid includes:

  • 60-90% solvent
  • 5-30% lubricant
  • 2-5% additives

Automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is the most commonly used power steering fluid that is patronized by most vehicle manufacturers. ATF consists of:

  •    85-90% base oil
  •   10-15% additives

The course of choosing a compatible automatic transmission fluid can be problematic because using the wrong type can cause major damage to the transmission. Automatic transmission fluid has exact additives, viscosity, and friction coefficient, so they all vary.

There are numerous types of transmission fluids, the best type to use in your vehicle includes:

1. Dexron

Dexron transmission fluid comes with a greenish, greyish or brownish colour. Initially, the sperm whale oil was used as a friction modifier by the Dexron fluid. However, the importation of sperm whale oil was barred, leading to a reformulation. Dexron transmission fluid has a green, grey or brown colouring which is different from the red and purple colouring of ATF. There is now various Dexron transmission fluid including Dexron II, Dexron IID and Dexron IIE, Dexron G, Dexron III G, Dexron III H, Dexron IV, Dexron VI.

2. Mercon

Mercon transmission fluid is also suitable for use in power steering. Variations on this type of fluid includes: Mercon CJ, Mercon H, Mercon Ford, Mercon V, Mercon SP.

How to Change Brake Fluid

Every car owner should endeavour to regularly change brake fluid. The boiling point of Brake fluid decreases over time since it absorbs water from the air. If left unchanged, it leads to poor or no braking at all. Regularly change your brake fluid to ensure the brake system is functioning efficiently.

How to add brake fluid

Before you add brake fluid, check the level to ensure it is between the MIN and MAX marks on the reservoir. Consult a qualified mechanic if the brake fluid level is under the MIN mark.

Before adding brake fluid, you should note that this is not usually necessary since there is no brake fluid consumption. You should be informed that worn brake linings or a leak from the hydraulic system could point to low brake fluid. Avoid adding brake fluid if the brake fluid reservoir is empty or if your brake pedal goes right to the floor.

The brake system may have a leak, so avoid using your vehicle until the problem has been fixed.

How to add power steering fluid

The power steering fluid reservoir is usually on or near the engine in the engine compartment. To ascertain the fill level, you can wipe the reservoir with a clean cloth. There is no steering fluid consumption, the level on the reservoir should be between the Max and the MIN mark. Note that there may be a leakage in the system if the fluid level is under the MIN mark. Consult a qualified mechanic to fix this.

Endeavour to change the fluid occasionally to keep your steering system in a good state.


Ensure you check the level of the power steering fluid on a monthly basis to see if it still contains the right amount of fluid.

Also, ensure you instantly extract the brake fluid from the power steering system whenever you mistakenly use the fluid wrongly. Though it may not create an instant complication, it always has a long-term effect if left unchecked.

I hope this article has answered your Querry “can you use brake fluid for power steering fluid”?

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