Can Automatic Transmission Fluid Be Used as Power Steering Fluid – Similarities and Differences

It is likely that you are acquainted with transmission fluid and power steering fluid if you are the owner of a car or if you have a passion for automobiles. Both of them, at first look, seem to be pretty similar to one another.

Transmission fluid and power steering fluid are not the same things at all. They are tailored to serve distinct functions and exhibit unique characteristics. Transmission fluid lubricates the transmission gears to make shifting a more seamless procedure, while power steering fluid makes it simpler for drivers to operate the steering wheel.

In this post, we will go into detail regarding what distinguishes transmission fluid from power steering fluid, and discuss “can automatic transmission fluid be used as power steering fluid”

What is Transmission?

Transmission is sometimes referred to as the gearbox. It is an essential component of our automobiles that enables us to shift gears and take pleasure in driving.

Without a gearbox, there would be no way to transfer torque in the correct manner. The gearbox is an essential component in the process of transferring the rotational energy produced by the crankshaft and transforming it into torque.

There are two types of transmissions: manual, in which the driver is responsible for shifting gears, and automatic, in which the shifting is handled by the gearbox itself. Manual transmissions are more common. However, the latter is going to be the primary focus of our attention in this article.

In automatic transmissions, we use automatic transmission fluid, often known as ATF. This fluid is essential to ensuring that the vehicle responds appropriately to the inputs provided by the driver. This fluid moves throughout the system and ensures that the gears change smoothly.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is a kind of hydraulic fluid that lubricates the gearbox. Because of this, gear transmissions may be carried out without any grinding occurring between the system’s internal components, making them smoother and more effective.

The gearbox may wear down over time because of friction, and gear transmissions might feel janky and rough if the transmission fluid is of bad quality or if there isn’t enough of it.

Transmission fluids often have a very long shelf life. In most cases, you won’t even need to worry about changing them over the lifetime of your automobile until you see evidence of degradation in the gearbox or fluid.

Transmission fluid may be broken down into a few primary categories, which are as follows:

Manual Transmission Fluid

This transmission fluid is used in almost all manual transmission systems, which need the utilization of a clutch as well as a gear in order to facilitate manual shifting. Recently manufactured manual transmission cars are moving away from using it in favor of automatic transmission fluid due to the added advantages offered by the latter.

It is deeper in color, such as brown, and has a greater viscosity compared to fluids used in automatic transmissions. It is recommended by the vast majority of technicians that you change the fluid in your manual gearbox every 30,000 – 60,000 miles (50,000 km – 100,000 km).

Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)

ATF is used in automatic transmission systems. This fluid, in addition to delivering the advantages of lubrication, also assists the automatic transmission system in shifting gears with the help of hydraulic pressure. Additionally, it has a cooling effect, which prevents temperatures from rising to unsafe levels.

When compared to fluid for manual transmissions, its viscosity is more similar to that of a thinner liquid, and its color is somewhat more pinkish than red. However, manufacturers have just lately started producing their own hues, such as green and blue, in an effort to differentiate their wares from those of competitors. It is suggested that automatic transmission fluid (ATF) be changed every 60,000 – 100,000 miles  (50,000 km – 100,000 km).

What is Power Steering fluid
Shutterstock licensed image

Synthetic Transmission Fluid

Typically, automatic transmission fluid (ATF) is manufactured in a laboratory via a series of chemical processes to produce this kind of transmission fluid. It oxidizes less commonly, degrades more slowly, and offers users a host of additional advantages, in addition to being superior as a lubricant.

What is Power Steering?

A power steering unit is mechanical equipment that may be found in both vehicles powered by internal combustion engines and electric motors.

The purpose of the power steering system is to make the chore of turning the steering wheel more comfortable. Steering wheels that do not have power steering are particularly challenging to manipulate, and driving a vehicle that does not have a power steering system may be exhausting over a period of time.

Power steering was first developed in the 1950s but remained a luxury feature until recently, when it began to replace manual steering as the industry norm.

The power steering fluid is quite important in this regard. But might you utilize the fluid from the gearbox in the power steering instead? In order to provide an appropriate response to this inquiry, we will first need to investigate the nature of the power steering fluid. Because we won’t be able to determine whether these two fluids are compatible with one another if we don’t know what a power steering fluid is and what its qualities are.

Power Steering Fluid

The power steering system requires its own special kind of hydraulic fluid, which is referred to as power steering fluid. Because of this technology, less effort is needed to move the steering wheel, which is particularly helpful when the vehicle is stopped or moving at slow speeds.

You’ll probably be able to recognize the difference between the two if you’ve ever driven an older vehicle that didn’t have power steering. To our good fortune, practically all modern automobiles are equipped with a power steering system.

The fluid’s job is to serve as a hydraulic conduit so that the system may apply force on the front tires to make it simpler for the driver to move the vehicle. This makes turning the vehicle easier overall. The fluid also has the added advantage of lubricating all of the components that are a part of the system, which enables those components to perform effectively and to survive for a longer period of time.

When it comes to its outward presentation, power steering fluid most often has a light red, orange, or pink color. It is suggested that you change the fluid in your power steering system every 5 years or after 75,000 kilometers, whichever comes first.

Key Differences and Similarities

To begin, it should be pointed out that transmission fluid and power steering fluid are, for the most part, completely distinct from one another. They vary in their duties, their qualities, and the goals for which they were created. However, automatic transmission fluid, or ATF, is a specific kind of transmission fluid that is similar to a power steering fluid.

The fact that both of them are hydraulic liquids is what makes them comparable to one another.

There are fluids for automatic transmissions that are also suitable for use in power steering systems but not vice versa.

Are Transmission Fluid and Power Steering Fluid Interchangeable?

There are times when transmission fluid and power steering fluid may be substituted for one another. Fluid designed for automatic transmissions may be recycled for use as power steering fluid. However, since power steering fluid does not include the modifiers that are found in transmission fluid, it cannot be used in lieu of transmission fluid in an automobile.

Using ATF as Power Steering Fluid

Given that both of these fluids are, at their core, hydraulic fluids, automatic transmission fluid (ATF) may be used in place of power steering fluid. It is also capable of removing dirt and oil from inside the system, which is an additional advantage that it offers.

Having said that, this is not something that can be securely applied to all automobiles. Read the handbook for your car or talk to a knowledgeable person to find out whether or not you may use ATF in the power steering system of your vehicle.

Using Power Steering Fluid as a Transmission Fluid

The power steering fluid is missing some of the detergents and modifiers that are included in ATF and therefore it is not safe to use it as transmission fluid.

These detergents are responsible for removing dirt and oil from the transmission system, which is important since a buildup of these contaminants may cause the system to operate less efficiently or even be damaged. Modifiers in automatic transmission fluid (ATF) are what regulate the level of internal friction and the quantity of heat that is produced by the gearbox.

Mixing Power Steering Fluid and Transmission Fluid

Because of the distinct differences in texture and composition that exist between transmission fluid and power steering fluid, it is strongly recommended that you do not combine the two. Doing so may result in less effective functioning of hydraulic systems. This might result in the entire breakdown of the hydraulic system, which is not something you want to put yourself in.

You should only combine items that are the same or the ones that are compatible to be used with other products, depending on what the manufacturer says.

The Bottom Line

Can automatic transmission fluid be used as power steering fluid? Transmission fluid and power steering fluid are not interchangeable in any way. Despite the fact that they share certain characteristics, each one was developed with a specific goal in mind and has its own unique characteristics. In most cases, switching between the two will result in undesirable outcomes; but, if you find yourself in a bind, you may utilize automatic transmission fluid in lieu of power steering fluid.

ATF may often be used without risk as a power steering fluid. However, you should only use power steering fluid as an alternative to automatic transmission fluid (ATF) in an emergency, since using it for an extended period of time might cause components inside the gearbox to get damaged.

Recent Posts