To put it simply, yes, you can drive your car without the power steering fluid. However, it is not advisable since it is very dangerous and can cause severe damage. Let us explain.
Moving parts in a machine tend to generate friction when there isn’t enough lubrication. Power steering fluid serves the primary role of easing the steering process by demanding minimal energy from the driver. The power steering system takes away the massive effort you usually need to turn the steering wheel. The little energy you exert is transferred into a hydraulic mechanism that creates enough force to turn the wheel.
However, a major drawback to the hydraulic power steering system is that the power steering fluid deteriorates over time. Heat and friction tend to lessen the amount of power steering fluid in the cylinder. In addition, a leak can quickly drain the cylinder of the liquid.
You lose the hydraulic system’s assistance without power steering fluid, and turning the wheel becomes much harder. Additionally, the mechanical components in the power steering system lose their lubricant. You’ll thus have excess friction in there, resulting in an expensive repair or replacement bill.
How Far is it Safe to Drive Without Power Steering Fluid?
Generally, a small leak won’t adversely affect the performance of the power steering system. However, you need to take any leak seriously. While you may not immediately notice the leak, slight changes in your car’s steering should worry you. You shouldn’t put off going to the garage if you’re vehicle is leaking any sort of fluid, much less power steering fluid.
Steering the car will progressively become more demanding as the leak continues. Keep in mind that the longer you wait, the more you’ll have to pay for damages. Ideally speaking, driving any distance with a power steering fluid leak isn’t safe. If the situation worsens, it can cause expensive repairs and lead to traffic accidents.
What Happens if I Don’t Immediately Fix the Problem?
Eventually, the leak will drain all the power steering fluid. Driving and steering your car will become extremely challenging. Unless you want to move in a straight line, any use of the steering wheel will cause heat and friction, making your situation worse. This scenario, however, is very improbable.
Please Don’t think it’s safe to drive just because your car is still moving. Saving a little time and money can make it so much worse in the long run.
Read More: Is Power Steering Fluid Flammable?
How Do I Tell if My Car Is Losing Power Steering Fluid?
You can tell there is a problem when your car’s steering begins to feel heavier than usual. Experienced drivers can quickly tell the difference without needing further inspection. We have listed some signs to help you identify whether you have a problem:
Steering Becomes Noisy
The hydraulic power steering system uses a special steering fluid to transmit the turning force. This liquid makes for the effortless turning of the wheel. Should you notice noises when turning the wheel, understand that you’re probably losing power steering fluid. Although there can be other causes for this noise, you need to factor in the possibility of steering fluid leakage.
Steering Loses its Usual Smoothness
As your car starts losing power steering fluid, the steering will no longer be as smooth as before. The wheel will likely stutter and respond erratically. You’ll find it increasingly harder to turn your car. As the erratic steering continues, you risk causing an accident. The inaccurate steering coupled with a lack of harmony with your vehicle is the perfect recipe for poor reaction times. Jittery steering is the primary indicator of something wrong with your steering system.
Steering Will Become Tough
Eventually, you’ll find it too hard to turn the wheel. If you ignored the previous signs for some reason, you’d not miss this one. An unresponsive steering wheel makes driving virtually impossible.
Liquid Formation Under Your Car
If you check under your car and find a small puddle, you likely have a power steering fluid leak. Other liquids could be the cue of the leak, but you can’t rule out the power steering fluid. You can confirm it is a power steering fluid if it’s reddish and you see the previously mentioned signs. A leak can be small or big, so it’s always best to check your garage for fluid stains from time to time.
Steering Wheel Locks Up
As with other mechanical systems, your steering system will try and cope with the leak until it can’t. The steering wheel will lock up once the steering fluid wholly drains and friction damages the components beyond repair. Imagine how frightening this scenario would be if you were driving around when your steering suddenly gave up on you.
How Do I Avoid Such Problems?
1. Pay Attention
The best and easiest advice to follow is to pay attention to your car. You need to understand how your steering sounds and feels when the power steering system is fine. After that, check the power steering fluid level. You’ll have to unscrew the lid of the power steering fluid pump to see the level. Regular checks will help to ensure there is enough fluid. Furthermore, you need to check under the car for any leaks. All fluid leaks from your vehicle should cause concern, not just power steering leaks.
2. Seal the Leak
If you notice a small leak, you can use a no-leak or stop-leak additive to arrest it. The no-leak additive is a convenient and effective solution for small-scale leaks. However, you need to have bigger leaks looked at by qualified mechanics. Either way, stop the leak as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
3. Change the Power Steering Fluid Regularly
Power steering fluid degrades over time due to heat and friction. As the liquid moves through the power steering system, it gets hot and loses its integrity. In addition, a small amount of water often finds its way into the system, which changes the characteristics of the power steering fluid. Water also causes corrosion, which further affects the fluid. Some car owners opt to top up the difference with fresh power steering fluid as the fluid levels drop. Although this is a temporary solution, you’ll eventually have a corrosion problem. It is best to drain your power steering fluid entirely and replace it according to the instructions in your car’s owner manual.
4. Stick To the Vehicle Servicing Schedule
You may not notice all the internal problems that may be developing in your car. Your best bet is to follow a regular servicing schedule. Your mechanic and maintenance manual can be your best friends in this scenario. Having a preemptive approach to problems before they occur can help avoid major expenses and serious accidents.
Power steering systems make driving easier and safer. Easy wheel turning allows you to focus on other aspects of driving without worry. The most common power steering system is the hydraulic kind that relies on power steering fluid. Although modern cars have different, maintenance-free power steering systems, none enjoy such a broad market presence.
If you ever notice a power steering fluid leak in your car, you need to fix it immediately. A small leak may not be a problem now, but eventually, it’ll prove costly if you do nothing. While you can drive your car with such a leak, the car will soon prove difficult to drive. Furthermore, the continuous damage to the steering system and danger to your life will cost you too much to warrant such delays.
You can adopt several practices to minimize the chances of a leak and fix the leak immediately. Taking a proactive approach keeps the car in perfect working condition and has manageable operational costs. Better safe today than sorry tomorrow.