Power Steering Fluid Substitutes

Power steering is a feature that really changed driving after it was introduced. Before power steering was available in cars, drivers had to put a lot of effort into a basic function like steering. 

Nowadays, all modern cars come with power steering. In fact, most young drivers probably have not even driven a car without power steering. 

While the entire power steering system is a little complicated to explain in this article, we can focus on a major aspect of it—the power steering lubricant.

The power steering lubricant is a major component in the power steering system in cars. It is used to create a hydraulic link between the front wheels of the car and the steering wheel. 

By the use of hydraulics, it is possible to greatly reduce the amount of force that is required to turn the wheels, thus making driving much more enjoyable. 

It is perhaps no surprise to learn that running out of power steering can prove to be really dangerous, as it significantly changes the driving dynamics of any vehicle. 

How to tell when your power steering lubricant needs changing

But how can you tell that you are running low on power steering lubricant or have run out of it?

Well, there are a few major signs. If you notice that it is much more difficult for you to turn your steering wheel or if the steering wheel is stuttering, then this can be a sign of low power steering lubricant. 

Another sign of this is hearing strange noises. You may hear a whining squeal when you turn your steering wheel. This is also a major sign of low power steering lubricant. 

So, if you notice these symptoms in an emergency and want to look for a quick replacement for your power steering lubricant, then what kind of options do you have? 

Let’s take a look at the different power steering substitutes and describe them briefly.

Power Steering Types and Substitutes

Different types of power steering lubricants are either mineral-oil or silicone-based. They also contain additives in them, like vegetable oils. 

Let’s take a look at the two major types of power steering lubricants.

1. Synthetic fluid

Synthetic power steering lubricants offer properties like smooth flow even at low temperatures, less friction due to better lubrication, and more. 

The other type of power steering lubricant is universal fluids. Let’s see how they compare.

2. Universal fluids

Universal power steering lubricants contain some special additives. These additives provide benefits of their own, like improved performance and responsiveness. Some universal fluids even have the ability to seal small leaks by themselves and prevent corrosion.

So, these were the two major types of power steering lubricants. Let’s now take a look at the different substitutes for traditional power steering lubricants. 

3. Power Steering Substitutes

So, you’ve just discovered that you have run out of power steering lubricant and don’t have any backups available. Here are all the replacements you can use to get your vehicle back into a driveable state. 

You can use your transmission oil, engine oil, axle oil, or hydraulic fluid as a replacement for power steering lubricant in an emergency. But remember that these substitutes can end up causing damage to your power steering system if they are used in high amounts.

Ideally, you should mix a bit of the replacement fluid into your power steering reservoir so that there is just enough fluid to keep you going. Let’s take a look at the properties for each of these.

4. Using Transmission oil as a substitute

Transmission fluid and power steering lubricants are both considered to be hydraulic fluids. However, there are some differences between the two. 

You should keep in mind that transmission fluids can end up damaging your power steering pump if they are used in high amounts. Transmission fluids like Dexron 3 or Type F are good alternatives.

5. Using Engine oil as a substitute

The engine oil also has many hydraulic properties, but it is higher viscosity as compared to power steering lubricant. So, if you are planning to use Engine oil as a substitute for transmission fluid, then you should only mix a little bit of it with the regular power steering lubricant. 

6. Using Hydraulic fluid as a substitute

Hydraulic fluids are generally a pretty good alternative for power steering lubricants. They are good replacements if the power steering lubricant is running low.

And these were all the different substitutes for power steering lubricants that can be used. 

Of course, these substitutes are not exactly the ideal replacement for a power steering lubricant, but they can be used to top up the power steering reservoir in an emergency. 

They are excellent temporary solutions but can end up causing damage in the long run, so it is recommended to replace them with power steering lubricant when given a chance. 


Can you use any type of power steering fluid?

All automobiles require the use of ATF transmission oil, such as MERCON or DEXRON. Many modern automobiles use a synthetic-based hydraulic oil designed specifically for power steering. At low temperatures, synthetic fluids flow well. These further increase pump life and lubricity.

How do I know what power steering fluid to use?

The form of power steering fluid recommended for your vehicle should be clearly labeled on the PS reservoir or fuel filler cap. The owner’s manual will also indicate the recommended power steering fluids.

How long can I drive without power steering fluid?

You can drive without power steering fluid for a short period of time, but the pump may start to fail after a minute or two.

Can I use palm oil as a substitute for power steering fluid?

Since palm oil exerts sufficient pressure on the steering wheel, you should use it if you get ATF clogged.

Is power steering fluid universal?

Since general power steering fluids may be suitable for certain applications, but some cars require additives, they are not suitable for all applications.

Does it matter what power steering fluid I use?

Of course, this is important. Since each car has clear oil recommendations, you can not use some type of oil in it.

What happens when you don’t have power steering fluid?

If you do not have power steering fluid, your car’s oil pump will run dry. Friction and heat will then increase, which can damage the pump.


In this article, we went over the importance of the power steering system.

We also looked at what purpose the power steering lubricant serves in a power steering system and why exactly it is important. 

Power steering lubricant is important for the functioning of your vehicle’s power steering system. 

If you are running low on power steering lubricant, then there are some signs that you can look out for in order to identify the problem. 

If your steering wheel stutters while turning, feels tougher, or makes a strange whining noise while turning, then the chances are that you are low on power steering lubricant and need to refill the reservoir soon. 

Luckily, there are some oils in your car that you can use in such cases of emergency. 

Things like engine oil, transmission fluid, or hydraulic fluid are good replacements, but it should be kept in mind that they are not exactly ideal for your power steering system. 

If you have to use any of these fluids in your power steering system, then use just enough to fill the minimum amount on the reservoir and replace the fluid immediately when you can. 

Using these fluids for extended periods of time can cause damage to the power steering system of your car. 


Hi, I'm the initiator and writer of this blog. Cars were and will be my first love, and my favorite hobby, that's why I decided to start this blog and write about my discoveries and techniques to improve my cars or repair them.