It’s common to see automatic transmission fluid (ATF) used in place of power steering fluid (SF), but is this safe? In order to understand this better we have to know the functions of these fluids in both the power-steering system and transmission system. Any vehicle with a hydraulic power-steering system needs power steering fluid. It works with the power steering pump to make turning the steering wheel smoother. Although the power steering fluid has its unique properties, but there is a reason why ATF remains popular. We will compare the various properties of these fluids to fully understand why they are both important.
The automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is a red colour liquid while the power steering (PS) fluid is clear, amber, or pinkish. Both of them are hydraulic fluids. But, the biggest difference is ATF contains detergents and friction modifiers. The detergents filter grease and dirt that may go into the power steering system and damage the pump and steering rack’s hydraulic valves. The friction modifiers, on the other hand, keep the excessive heat buildup of the valves and pump in check.
The power steering (PS) fluid also reduces the friction between various components in the system and excessive temperature build up. Its other jobs are providing hydraulic pressure to the system’s components and lubricating the steering’s pump and gear unit.
Can a power steering fluid be used for the transmission? It depends on the make and model of the vehicle. Some people don’t see any problem with it while others are completely against it unless it’s an absolute emergency. The transmission fluid is for cleaning and friction. Being gluey and heat-resistant in nature, it enhances friction between components in the clutch pack for better grips. On the contrary, the PS fluid is mainly for lubrication and reducing friction between various parts in the power steering system.
Using transmission fluid ATF is often a better choice for the power steering system because of its cleaning properties. With the ATF, there really isn’t any need to flush the power steering system for dirty oil regularly.
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