Once again I got the opportunity to assist on an automotive project that I had no experience doing before. I got to help with a power steering fluid transfusion. Power steering is the reason your arms don’t fall of from exhaustion, after doing a three-point turn. Some of you late Gen-Xers and earlier drivers may have experienced this, first hand, like I have. For the rest of you, from Wikipedia:
In automobiles, power steering is a device that helps drivers steer by augmenting steering effort of the steering wheel.
Hydraulic or electric actuators add controlled energy to the steering mechanism, so the driver can provide less effort to turn the steered wheels when driving at typical speeds, and reduce considerably the physical effort necessary to turn the wheels when a vehicle is stopped or moving slowly.
Power steering, along with automatic breaking systems (ABS), are two innovations most of us take for granted today. There are others of course.
Own enough beater cars and you learn about certain parts of vehicles more than you would care to. I remember one occasion where I got schooled on what bad power steering fluid looks like (very generally, dark rust coloring isn’t good, while opaque to clear copper coloring is better).
Originally, I though we’d be doing a full system flush. However, we didn’t have the jacks and some of the other equipment to pull that off. So, following the guide of my automotive sensei, we would be (with the help of YouTube) performing a bit of a power steering transfusion. We would methodically express out of the system the old fluid while adding new fluid, eventually replacing most of the old fluid. For this we needed a few things, including a manual pump, a container for the removed fluid, and some serious upper-body strength, to repeatedly turn the steering wheel from steering lock left to steering lock right, and vice versa.
We also had to be sure to keep track of how much fluid we were removing from the system, and how much we were adding. Too much of a net-negative of fluid, and we’d end up with air in the system. Too much of a net-positive of fluid, and the fluid reservoir would likely erupt once the vehicle reached normal operating temperate.
You can find various methods on YouTube to do a power steering fluid transfusion, but the basic premise is the same. This doesn’t replace your vehicle’s scheduled maintenance for the power steering system. However, if you find yourself in a pinch where you need to buy yourself some time (or cash) before a full system flush, the transfusion method may be a solution for you.