Substitutes for power steering fluid

Written by quinn marshall | 13/05/2017
Substitutes for power steering fluid
Power steering fluid is often sold in small bottles at auto shops and big box stores. (pint container image by Paul Moore from

Power steering fluid is a thick brownish or reddish liquid that is used in the hydraulic elements of the power steering pump in a vehicle. Power steering fluid is necessary for any vehicle, and should be replenished whenever the level gets low. If you're out of power steering fluid and need to drive, there are a few substitutes that will work without damaging your vehicle.

Automatic Transmission Fluid

Some vehicles, particularly those manufactured between the years 1980 and 2000, can use automatic transmission fluid (ATF) as a substitute for power steering fluid. If the power steering fluid in your vehicle has a reddish or purplish colour, it is very likely ATF. You should consult your owner's manual or the car manufacturer if you are unsure.

DEXRON Transmission Fluid

DEXRON is a different type of transmission fluid, and usually has a greenish, brownish or greyish colour instead of the bright red or purple that is typical of ATF. If the power steering in your vehicle doesn't have any red or purple colourings, it may use DEXRON-type transmission fluid.

MERCON Transmission Fluid

MERCON transmission fluid is very similar to DEXRON transmission fluid, and can be used as a temporary substitute if DEXRON fluid is not available.

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