Can hydraulic fluid be used for power steering?

Older cars came with mechanically-powered manual steering systems. These systems heavily relied on hydraulic fluid to provide hydraulic pressure to the steering system. This allowed drivers to control the direction of the vehicle with less effort.

But modern cars come with electrically-powered steering systems, which are more efficient than their predecessors.

But often I am asked the next question: can hydraulic fluid be used for power steering? The short answer is yes.

So, Can Hydraulic Fluid Be Used for Power Steering?

As I have said above, this is possible. Matter of fact, hydraulic fluid is an important component of a power steering system. It functions to create a hydraulic link between the steering wheel and the front wheels.

That lowers the amount of effort you’ll need to turn the wheels while controlling the direction of your vehicle. Engine power alone is not enough for this steering system.

Notably, there are various types of hydraulic fluids found in a car each of which is used in a specific system on a vehicle;

  • Power steering hydraulic fluid.
  • Brake system hydraulic fluid.
  • Clutch system hydraulic fluid.
  • Acceleration system hydraulic fluid.
  • Suspension system hydraulic fluid.

Power steering fluid is the hydraulic fluid used in the power steering system. As for the brake, clutch, and acceleration systems, these systems normally use brake fluid, clutch fluid, and acceleration fluid, respectively.

Meanwhile and finally, the suspension system uses what we call “suspension fluid.” Just like the power steering fluid, this fluid is system-specific(designed specifically for the suspension system).

Never attempt to substitute your brake fluid, clutch fluid, or accelerator fluid with your power steering fluid. Otherwise, doing so will quickly damage the rubber seals in your brake, clutch, or accelerator systems.

The same goes for substituting those fluids with your automatic transmission fluid.

You see, the power steering fluid and automatic transmission fluid are closely similar. Both are mineral-oil-based hydraulic fluids.

On the contrary, the brake fluid, clutch fluid, and accelerator fluid are not mineral-oil-based. That makes the two categories of hydraulic fluids simply incompatible.

Is Hydraulic Steering Fluid the Same As Power Steering Fluid?

The short answer is yes.

What Can I Use As a Substitute for Power Steering Fluid?

You can use your automatic transmission fluid as a substitute for your power steering fluid if your car’s power steering fluid is reddish or purplish.

You see, the power steering fluid normally has a reddish or thick brownish color. The automatic transmission fluid, on the other hand, is often reddish or purplish.

Notably, some car manufacturers include the same hydraulic fluid for the power steering system and the automatic transmission system.

You’ll find that their cars use automatic transmission fluid both for the AT(automatic transmission) system and the power steering systems.

If that’s the case with your car, you can substitute your power steering fluid with your AT fluid. You can also substitute your power steering hydraulic fluid with two special automatic transmission fluids known as “Dexron” and “Valvoline Mercon.”

Dexron normally has a grayish, brownish, or greenish color instead of a reddish or purplish color typical of the normal automatic transmission fluid.

You may substitute your power steering fluid with this fluid if the steering fluid isn’t reddish or purplish.

Valvoline Mercon, on the other hand, normally has a translucent red color, especially when new. This automatic transmission fluid is very similar to its Dexron counterpart in terms of characteristics.

As such, it can be used as a substitute for the power steering fluid, but only for a short period as it degrades and loses its characteristics faster.


Hydraulic fluid is an important fluid, which some of the most crucial systems of your car hugely rely on. One of these systems is the power steering system, which is arguably the most important system to control your automobile.

Without it, you wouldn’t be able to steer your car, effectively controlling the direction in which it moves.

Now, the power steering system just like the other systems(clutch, brake, accelerator, suspension, etc) relies on hydraulic fluid to function effectively.

It depends on a fluid known as the “power steering fluid.” This fluid is very different from your clutch, brake, accelerator, or suspension fluids.

However, it’s almost similar to your automatic transmission fluid, and you’ll find that, in some cases, you can substitute it with the ATF(automatic transmission fluid) as explained above.

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