Most of the vehicles out there need different kinds of fluids for a smoother performance. They are also great for maintenance purposes as well. Among those fluids, the most confusing ones are the brake fluid and power steering fluid.
The reason for that is they are pretty similar. Does that mean you can use brake fluid in power steering? This is where the confusion begins.
That’s why I will go through a detailed overview of Brake fluid vs. power steering fluid here. This will not only answer your question, but you will also get the reasoning.
Without wasting any further time, let’s get started with it.
Table of Contents
Brake Fluid Vs. Power Steering Fluid
While both brake fluid and power steering fluid are lubricants, they aren’t meant for the same purposes. There are several differences between them. But first, let’s take a look at them individually.
As you can guess from the name, brake fluid is the lubricant you use for your braking system. It works on the hydraulic brake and clutch. Aside from being a lubricant for the movable parts of your vehicle, it also works as a protective agent for the details. It puts an anti-corrosive coating on the parts so they are not exposed to corrosion.
What this fluid does is that it works as an amplifier for the braking force of your vehicle. For the general components, you will see silicone, mineral oil, and glycol-ether.
Related: Signs of Low Brake Fluid
Power steering fluid
Similar to the brake fluid, a power steering fluid is also a lubricant. But it works on the power steering system of your car. The purpose of using power steering fluid is to give your power steering system an optimized performance. As a result, you will get more control over your steering wheel.
The fluid has got great resistance towards oxidation. Using the liquid gives the rack and pinion of your vehicle the proper support it needs. So, it works great as a car maintenance product.
Related: Power Steering Fluid Color
Differences between the Brake fluid and Power steering fluid
Now, the similarities of these two fluids are pretty evident. They are both hydraulic fluids, they both function as lubricants, and they are both used for vehicle maintenance and performance enhancer. However, in terms of usage, they are different in many ways.
First of all, they are used on different parts of your car. You use brake fluids on your braking system to give you a better experience with braking. You use power steering fluid on your power steering system to optimize its performance.
Another difference is in their purpose or functionality. At the same time, the brake fluid is all about powering up the braking system to make it much more effective. The power steering fluid is meant for optimizing the performance rather than enhancing it to give you better control over the steering.
There is also a difference between them based on the components used in making them. The brake fluids are made up of mineral oil, glycol-ether, or silicon. At the same time, the power steering fluid is an oil-based fluid.
The last difference between these fluids is in their compressibility. While brake fluids are incompressible primarily because of the higher boiling point, the power steering fluid is compressible. Power steering fluid tends to have a low freezing point which gives it that compressibility.
Because of these differences, you can’t use the brake fluids in your power steering system or vice versa. Now, if you are wondering what the effect of these differences on the components is. Let’s take a look at that quickly.
What happens if you use brake fluid in power steering?
Well, you will not get the same functionalities from the different fluids. Since brake fluids enhance the power of the braking system, they will not have any impact on the power steering system at all.
There are some repercussions of using brake fluid in the power steering system, aside from this ineffectiveness.
- You will have a tough time removing brake fluid from your power steering if you put it in. So, you will either have to take it to a professional, or you have to go through that sweaty process to get the fluid out. Also, you can’t drive while the brake fluid is in the steering system.
- There will be a pretty bad smell from your steering system. Not only that, your steering system will not function properly, which is why you can’t drive your car during this time. It’s not like your car won’t run, but it will impact steering, and that’s always a risky thing to go through.
- Using brake fluids on power steering may cause the rubber seals to swell up. This can result in creating leaks in the system that can be fatal to the performance of your car.
- If you keep the brake fluid inside the power steering system for a long time, then the repairs you have to go through will cost you a lot. And it won’t be something worth it at all.
- Lastly, in the worst-case scenario, long-term damage can also be done in your car. Your power steering system can completely break down, and you may need to replace it. This will cost you a lot of money, and you surely don’t want that to happen.
As you can see, the results you get from using brake fluid in your power steering system are indeed not something you would wish to have. That’s why even if you might have heard you can use brake fluid in power steering, don’t ever try doing that.
Now, for those who might have already done that, don’t worry too much. You can do some things if you have accidentally used brake fluid in your power steering system. Let’s take a look at those.
What to do if you accidentally added brake fluid to power steering?
The first thing to do if you have accidentally added brake fluid is not to panic. Because when you panic, you can do a lot of things wrong. Let’s take a look at the procedures you should follow when you add brake fluid to your power steering-
- Now, if you have added brake fluid, then don’t start up your car right away. When you start up your car, it gets mixed, and it’s harder to remove the brake fluid after that.
- Assuming that you have started your car after adding brake fluid, you can try out flushing the whole system. There are several ways of doing that.
- You can use a turkey buster to flush out the brake fluid from your steering system. Or you can also use a fluid pump to get it out of the system.
- Another way of removing the fluid is through detaching the return line that goes on the primary side of the steering pump. This also flushes the brake fluid out of your steering system.
While doing this, you have to keep the line straight and direct it towards a bucket to store the fluid coming out of it. To speed up the process, you can also tilt your car by cranking the tires sideways.
- At the same time, you can start pouring power steering fluid into the reservoir to ensure that all the brake fluid is coming out of the system. Because when you fill the system with power steering fluid, there will be no space for the brake fluid there.
It’s not necessary to do this if you are sure that you are getting all the brake fluid out usually. You can fill it up with power steering after cleaning up the system entirely as well.
As you can see, it can get pretty hectic to get the brake fluid out of your system. However, the whole thing is much simpler if you haven’t started your car. So, if you by chance put brake fluid in your steering system, then never start up your vehicle without removing the fluid.
Related: Can I drive without power steering
All in all, you should never put brake fluid in power steering in the first place. Yes, you can remove it, but what’s the point of doing so.
Also, if you have already done it, make sure to get it out as quickly as possible. Because now know the use of brake fluid vs. power steering fluid isn’t the same. And you can’t use them in place of one another.
Simon graduated with a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Degree. He has over 20 years of servicing experience in both Japanese and German car dealerships. He now acts as a freelance mechanic’s instructor for local schools.