In 1951, an invention had wholly radicalized the automotive industry. With the introduction of the Chrysler Imperial came the first-ever power-steering vehicle.
In practice, this serves as a mechanism to aid the driver by reducing the effort it takes to turn a steering wheel. Ever since then, companies have started including this system by default. Hence, today’s drivers don’t know how it would’ve felt to handle steering while before.
Also, many new drivers wonder if the power steering fluid is flammable? Unfortunately, the short answer is yes. However, the power steering fluid doesn’t have high flammability compared to other liquids like ethanol or gasoline.
A better term to describe power steering fluid is ignitable. Power steering liquid has a flashpoint of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, flammable liquids usually sport a flashpoint of 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence, that term is not fit for the power steering liquid.
Yet, this invention has more peculiarities that should interest any driver. For example, can the power steering fluid leak? To provide context, we set out to examine the ins and outs of this essential part of your vehicle.
What Is a Power Steering Fluid?
A hydraulic fluid connects the steering wheel to the vehicle’s front wheels. In turn, the liquid makes it so you can easily operate the wheel.
The power steering fluid also helps keep specific mechanisms such as pistons and valves lubricated. This lubrication helps to ensure that the power steering works efficiently.
How Many Types of Power Steering Fluid Are There?
In most cases, the type of fluid depends on the model of the vehicle. The three common types of power steering fluid are:
- The first is the automatic transmission fluid – the same type of fluid used in the automatic transmission
- The second is the synthetic power steering fluid. This type of fluid goes into a specific model or engine. Hence, you’ll find synthetic power steering fluid in the newer car models
- The last type is the non-synthetic, mineral-based oil power steering fluid.
Dangers Associated with Power Steering Fluid Leaks
The power steering fluid rests in a reservoir under the vehicle’s hood. If one were to overfill this reservoir, it could result in leakage of the power steering fluid. That’s why motorists devote extra attention to preserving a moderate level of this fluid. At the same time, they don’t want to risk checking firsthand if the power steering fluid is flammable.
What Happens if I Spill Power Steering Fluid?
Naturally, the engine compartment will turn into a mess if there is a spillage of the power steering liquid. In addition, foaming may occur. Due to the slightly corrosive power steering fluids, this foaming can result in the early corroding of some mechanisms and components.
However, when a vehicle starts, the engine begins to heat, leading to the expansion of the power steering fluid. Next, several issues may appear within the vehicle. For example, the drive belt may start slipping, the air conditioner might malfunction, and you may find it hard to steer.
In extreme cases, the power steering fluid spills over on the hot surfaces inside the engine. This can lead to power steering fluid burn. If this comes to pass, the power seeing fluid will play the role of a fire hazard. Therefore, if you do spill power steering fluid, it would be best to clean the engine compartment before it overheats.
Does the Power Steering Fluid Produce Smoke Under the Hood?
One reason the smoke is coming out from under the hood is a spill or leak of power steering fluid. When the power steering fluid is spilled, the danger arises as the engine compartment begins to overheat.
If power steering liquid leaks on heated engine parts, the liquid expands. This expansion can cause havoc inside the engine compartment. Also, the power steering liquid can burn on a heated car engine. Hence, you might notice smoke coming out from under the hood. If you don’t act promptly, the spillage may result in a fire. So, the best strategy would be to switch off the car to inspect the damage and clean the engine compartment as much as possible.
Which Car Fluids Are Flammable?
A car comprises a series of mechanisms and machines, such as the steering system and the exhaust system. They need to work in unison so you can freely use the vehicle. Hence, they each require a specific fluid to function efficiently. The level of flammability of these fluids varies depending on their flashpoints. Generally, a fluid with a flashpoint higher than 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit is more combustible than flammable. Some of these fluids include:
This type of fluid lubricates the different components of a car’s gearbox. This helps to ensure that the transmission system works appropriately. Transmission fluid has a flashpoint of 302-383 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that the fluid isn’t flammable. However, it can result in a fire if it heats to a temperature above 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
The engine oil essentially prolongs the lifespan of the engine. So, it plays a role in lubricating, cleaning, cooling, and protecting the engine from corrosion. Engine oil has a flashpoint of 419 degrees Fahrenheit. As such, it isn’t a flammable car fluid.
Brake fluid has a flashpoint of 210-375 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this is on the lower side, the brake fluid is overall flammable. This is because of the components in the brake fluid which support burning. The most common brake fluids feature either glycol, silicone, or ethyl. Therefore, this flammable content will feed into the fire as soon as it comes to contact with it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Power Steering Fluid
As power steering fluid is imperative for your vehicle’s optimal performance and functioning, it is essential to regularly check its condition. Some of the most common questions on power steering fluid are:
1. What color is the power steering fluid?
Generally, the power steering fluid is clear or amber. If you find that the power steering fluid in your car is dark brown or even black, then it might be time to replace or flush it.
2. How do I know when my car needs power steering fluid?
One of the signs that the level of the power steering fluid is low is when you hear sound upon attempting to turn the wheel. So, take note whenever your steering wheel starts producing sounds. Other signs include the presence of stains under the vehicle and when it’s suddenly difficult to move the wheel.
3. How do I check the power steering fluid in my vehicle?
Suppose your vehicle uses a power steering system. In that case, it is essential to check the level and condition of the power steering liquid frequently. You need it optimal as it affects the functioning and the condition of your vehicle. This process is relatively easy to follow:
- Look for the power steering system in the engine compartment of your vehicle. Usually, the power steering fluid reservoir is close to the power steering pump.
- Open the reservoir and check the level of the power steering fluid. If the fluid is too low, consider adding some more power steering fluid. However, it would be best not to overfill the reservoir. That might lead to a power steering fluid leak.
There are many different aspects and components that should work together for the car to function and work at its best. Therefore, motorists should make a conscious effort to check the different parts and fluids of the engine. It is crucial to take the necessary measures to prevent any mishaps.
The question of “is power steering fluid flammable?” is a common dilemma that new drivers face. To reiterate, yes, it is flammable and sometimes even a fire hazard. Therefore, you should remain mindful of your surroundings whenever handling power steering fluid.