You can effortlessly turn your steering wheel thanks to hydraulic pressure. Hydraulic power can almost feel like a superpower, you perform a simple movement and hydraulic power takes on the rest — ie. turns a 4,000-pound car.
That being said, hydraulic power has a kryptonite — air bubbles. Air has no place in a hydraulic system, the simple reason being air can be compressed while fluid cannot.
You might have air trapped in your power steering system if your steering is making noises (similar to the sound of an angry cat) and becoming more laborious to handle.
If that sounds like your car, you need to flush and bleed your power steering to remove air bubbles and get your steering back to 100% again. Here’s what you need to know.
Check the power steering fluid
Before starting, check your power steering fluid to see if it needs to be changed. If it wipes clear or near clear, it’s probably still good. If it is dark and your steering is not as smooth as normal, then you probably need to flush and bleed the system.
Gather your materials
- Power steering fluid
- Car ramp
- Tire blocks
- Drip pan
Make sure you check your owner’s manual to ensure you purchase the right power steering fluid for your vehicle. It will also show you where your reservoir and return line are located.
Put car on a ramp
Put your car on a ramp with tire blocks behind the rear wheels before you begin flushing and bleeding the power steering system. You want to take away any added pressure on your front end. If you do not have a ramp, you can leave your car on the ground, but make sure it remains in park with the emergency brake engaged. Do not, under any circumstances, lay under the car when it is running.
Fill the reservoir
Refill the reservoir with new power steering fluid while the engine is off. Use a funnel to prevent spills. The added fluid will cause bubbles to form (this is normal).
Flush the system
With the engine still off and the key in the ignition to prevent the wheel from locking, turn your steering wheel all the way to the left and then all the way to the right. This step will push out excess fluid and trapped air. Use a screwdriver to loosen the return hose clamp and disconnect it. Place the drip pan under the area to catch the old fluid.
It’s handy to have someone help you so that you can watch the power steering fluid level. As the fluid runs through the system, the reservoir will diminish. Continue adding more as needed until the fluid runs clear. Clear fluid indicates the old fluid has been flushed out.
Reconnect the hose. Add more fluid as you continue to move the steering wheel from the right to left locking positions. When the reservoir maintains proper levels, reconnect the return hose.
Bleed the system
It’s vital to bleed your power steering system before you drive your car. If you skip this step, you risk damaging your vehicle’s engine. Place your reservoir cap on loosely so that the power steering fluid does not seep out. Start your engine and remain in park. Turn your steering wheel right and left to the locking positions. Repeat four to five times, or as much as needed, until you bleed out all the air.
Continue to add fluid as it drops until it maintains the correct level. When it does this, you will know all the air is gone. Wipe away excess or spilled fluid with the rags.
Following these simple steps on how to flush and bleed your power steering system will save you time and money; however, if you aren’t comfortable flushing and bleeding your power steering, it’s a good idea to find a reputable mechanic.