Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid? (Explained)

Can you use brake fluid for power steering fluid? Most vehicle owners would like to know the answer to this question, especially when they run out of power steering fluid and brake fluid is the only thing available.

This article explains why brake fluid cannot be used for power steering fluid and other related topics such as alternatives that may be used for power steering fluid.

This article also explains what would happen if you use brake fluid for power steering fluid, the cost of fixing car problems that spring up from using break oil as a substitute for power steering fluid and lots more.

Let’s begin!

What is Power Steering Fluid?

The function of the power steering fluid is to create a method to put pressure on the hydraulic piston to make the vehicle’s wheels turn with less difficulty.

Power steering fluid also plays the role of a hydraulic liquid. Instead of having any effect on the brakes, the performance of the steering is boosted as it makes it easy to turn the steering with little effort.

Older vehicles are not made with a power steering pump; hence, turning the steering wheel requires significant force when the car is not moving.

One of the main components of power steering fluid is silicone, synthetic base or mineral oil.

This suggests that the power steering fluid has more similarities with transmission fluid than brake fluid.

Also Read: Transmission Fluid Colors & What They Mean

What is a Brake Fluid?

Brake fluid is a brake lubricant that converts force into pressure and increases the braking force of a vehicle. Brake fluid works on the hydraulic system, which has its foundation in the non-compressible attributes of liquid.

The manufacturing of brake fluid is held to high standards. The requirement for brake fluid production is determined by many regulatory bodies, including The International Standards Organization (ISO standard) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE standard). Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards – DOT standards are the most common.

Also Read: Is Brake Fluid Flammable? (Why You Should Be Careful With Them)

What Is the Difference Between Power Steering Fluid and Brake Fluid?

Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid

Due to their use of pressure, both brake fluids and power steering fluids seem similar. However, they are made up of different components that work perfectly in their system.

Years ago, these oils may have had more similarities; hence, using one in place of the other did not have much effect. However, this is not the case now.

No matter how cold or hot the weather is, the power steering fluid maintains its viscosity and lubrication.

Brake fluid works well for decompression, removing moisture, lubricating, and reducing heat.

It is recommended to use power steering fluid for the power steering system and brake fluid for brakes only.

Using brake fluid for power steering fluid could result in leaks, excessive deterioration, or breakdown of the power steering pump.

Sometimes, brake fluid can be used in emergencies in place of power steering fluid. This can be done because they are both hydraulic oil.

Nonetheless, take out the brake fluid after the emergency and use the power steering fluid, which should be used initially.

However, do not use power steering fluid for brake fluid as this might create brake-related issues when you want to stop the vehicle.

Also, the tubes and rubber seals would erode in the long run when they come in contact with power steering fluid. Heat transfer issues may also occur.

If a wrong fluid is used in an emergency, it must be drained after the emergency.

What Happens if I Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering?

Putting brake fluid in a power steering system can destroy the vehicle’s power steering system’s rubber hoses, seals, and gaskets.

It causes the brake line to leak and swell, and it also causes other components of the power steering system to melt completely.

It could also cause power steering failure. It should not be forgotten that when the power steering system is filled with brake fluid, system issues will begin to affect the vehicle in a short time.

A small amount of brake fluid added to the power steering reservoir, on purpose or not, will, without doubt, cause serious problems for the vehicle.

Use brake fluid for the brake system alone. In case of emergency or when brake fluid is added to the power steering by mistake, take out the brake fluid as soon as you get out of the emergency.

Using brake fluid for power steering fluid also causes problems with the vehicle’s brake and steering pump.

This is because brake fluid has alcohol as a major component, while the steering pump requires a lubricant like the power steering fluid, which is a petroleum-based product.

Having brake fluid in the power steering system can be very dangerous to the vehicle. Particularly when brake fluid has gone through the entire steering system as it becomes more difficult to clear out.

When brake fluid stays for too long in the power steering system, it causes more damage to the system.

This results in expensive damages, especially when brake fluid stays for long and is not drained on time. As a result, the power steering becomes slow.

In addition, the corrosive nature of brake fluid will make the metallic surfaces of the power steering system get worn and damaged faster than normal, causing a huge reduction in the durability of the power steering system.

A total failure of the power steering system should be anticipated if brake fluid is used as an alternative for power steering fluid.

This also applies to the brake system; even a little power steering fluid should not be added to the brake fluid reservoir to avoid brake-related issues.

Also Read: Transmission Fluid Leak When Parked (Causes & Solutions)

What If I Accidentally Poured Brake Fluid Into Power Steering Reservoir?

Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid

Pouring brake fluid into the power steering reservoir will damage the power steering system.

If the brake fluid is accidentally added to the power steering system, it is necessary to cleanse the system carefully by draining out the brake fluid. Below is a quick guide on how to do this.

PS: Work on the power steering only when you are confident and comfortable working on cars, even if it is a personal vehicle.

  1. Do not drive or start the vehicle. This will stop the brake fluid from going into the power steering system, which will control the damage that could be done. If the vehicle is not turned on, the brake fluid added to it will remain in the power steering reservoir.
  2. gently open the power steering reservoir and use a turkey baster to remove as much brake fluid as possible. Getting another vessel for the brake fluid being removed is advised.
  3. In case you do not feel comfortable doing the work personally, engage the services of someone with more knowledge about cars to assist in carrying out the following procedures:
  4. Lift the car off the ground by Jacking up the vehicle to allow the front tires to leave the ground, then move the steering controls around to enable the front tires to go from one side to another. More fluid will show up in the reservoir.
  5. The turkey baster should be used to take out the remaining fluid from the reservoir.
  6. After this, the low-pressure hose should be disconnected, and its content drained out.
  7. Move the steering around to drain out more fluid.
  8. Fill the reservoir with new power steering fluid and allow it to drain out of the system into a container.
  9. This should be done 3 times.
  10. Resemble all components and put power steering fluid into the power steering reservoir.

To be more careful, let a mechanic flush the system one more time.

If a vehicle has a brake fluid in the power steering, allowing a mechanic to flush out the oil is better as he recognizes and fixes any damage that might have been done.

Also Read: Can You Drive Without Power Steering? (Answered)

How Much Will It Cost to Fix Problems Caused by Putting Brake Fluid in the Power Steering Reservoir?

The level of damage done will determine the amount to be spent on repairs, and this depends on the amount of brake fluid put in the power steering system and if it has circulated through the system.

Some price ranges are provided to give a glimpse of the amount that could be spent. These prices are mere estimates and may differ based on the vehicle, personnel, and location.

Putting brake fluid in the power steering system requires flushing the bad fluid and replacing it with the new and correct fluid.

If the car owner cannot do it, a minimum fee of around $69.99 will be required. The cost depends on the amount of power steering fluid that a particular vehicle uses.

To fix the rack seals of a power steering, the entire system has to be taken apart by the mechanic. By doing this, the cost of labor required to do the job increases. To total sum for labor and parts may cost about $600 to $1,000.

Replacing a single hose that includes labor and parts can be done at a price range of $388 to $512.

The absence of lubricant creates an issue that affects the pump, the average amount to be spent on replacing the pump should be from $459 to $659.

Also Read: Where is the Power Steering Reservoir Located?

What Can I Use as a Power Steering Fluid Alternative?

Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid and Automatic transmission fluid by composition are closely related to the level that some producers advise that can be used interchangeably.

Vehicles use a very small quantity of power steering fluid than transmission fluid; due to this, manufacturers usually repackage and advertise the fluid at a different price.

Nonetheless, to identify the trick, going through the owner’s manual will help discover the exact type of fluid required by the vehicle’s power steering.

Lastly, price variations are of little importance; whether bought at a gas station, from a local supplier, or on Amazon, there is usually a wide range of transmission, engine, power steering, and brake fluid.

Hence having a reserve in the car trunk is not a terrible idea.

Can Power Steering Fluid Be Used for the Brakes?

It is known that brake fluid cannot be used for power steering fluid; however, can power steering fluid be used as a substitute for brake fluid?

If you guessed and your guess is NO, then you are right.

Brake lines have rubbers that are not made to withstand oil with large petroleum compositions like the power steering fluid.

Swellings will be noticed immediately after the seals come in contact with the power steering fluid, and this can cause the brake line to get blocked.

A single step on the brake lever is good enough to circulate the contaminated fluid throughout the whole brake system.

Upon the addition of the power steering fluid, the brake system fails in no time.

The only way to fix this problem is to dismantle, drain, and replace the old rubber hose.

Frequently Asked Questions – Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid?

What Can Be Used as a Substitute for Power Steering Fluid?

Axle oil, engine oil, transmission fluid, or hydraulic oil can be used as a substitute for power steering fluid in cases of emergency. However, using this substitute in large quantities can damage the power steering system.

What Happens if You Put Brake Fluid in Power Steering?

Using brake fluid in place of power steering fluid significantly damages the gaskets, rubber hoses, and power steering seals. It makes them swell and puncture or completely dissolve them. This will make the power steering fail.

Can You Use Dot 3 Instead of Power Steering Fluid?

No, you cannot use DOT 3 instead of power steering fluid. using DOT 3 brake fluid instead of power steering fluid can damage the power steering system

Can You Use Dot 4 Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid?

No, you cannot use DOT 4 brake fluid for power steering fluid. Brake fluid will make the seals in the power steering swell. Brake fluid in the power steering system also damages hoses, steering rack, and power steering pump.

Can I Use Water Instead of Power Steering Fluid?

A small quantity of water will cause less harm. A lot of oil in vehicles absorbs a little amount of water as time goes on. They can endure that water gets everywhere. However, this does not suggest that you can use water instead of power steering fluid. Using water instead of power steering fluid is a not good idea.

Can I Put Motor Oil in My Power Steering?

Oil with common or exact composition with Dexron (R) works well with the power steering. Using engine oil in power steering systems is seriously condemned. However, many power steering systems do not risk being damaged if engine oil of a small quantity is used as they have chemical similarities with the power steering fluid.

Can You Use an Automatic Transmission Fluid for Power Steering?

Yes, you can use an automatic transmission fluid for power steering. ATF may be used as an alternative in the power steering system. Mercon and Dexron are types of ATF. Artificial power steering fluid is produced in laboratories and is not petroleum-based oil.

Is Transmission Fluid the Same as Brake Fluid?

No, they are not the same. Though the transmission and brake fluid are requirements of a car, this is the only thing they have in common. They are made up of different components; they work on different parts of the vehicle and differ in how frequently they require change.

Conclusion – Can You Use Brake Fluid for Power Steering Fluid?

For whatever reason, do not use brake fluid as an alternative to power steering fluid.

There is the possibility of damaging the power steering pump considering the abundance of power steering fluid, always select the appropriate and recommended fluid for a vehicle.

Scott Greene is a seasoned automotive technician for over 5 years and has been deep into advanced automotive diagnostics for a couple of years. He Loves writing about Automotive Diagnostics and Repair, Trouble codes, Buyer guides for various car parts and accessories, and lots more. 

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