9 Things Making Your Power Steering Fluid Milky (+ Fix)

Power steering fluid plays a pivotal role in the seamless operation of any vehicle’s steering system. It ensures smooth transmission of power from the steering wheel to the front wheels, thus allowing easy maneuverability even at low speeds. 

However, if you notice that your power steering fluid has taken on a milky or creamy appearance, it might signal the presence of potential issues within the system. 

Understanding the underlying causes of this unusual change is crucial to prevent further damage, ensuring the longevity and effective operation of your vehicle’s power steering system. 

Let’s delve deeper into understanding why power steering fluid might become milky and how to remedy it.

Reasons Your Power Steering Fluid Is Milky and Creamy

1. Air Trapped in the Power Steering Fluid

Air can become trapped in the power steering pump due to various factors. One of the most common reasons is damaged internal components. 

For instance, bad seals and broken pipes can allow air to infiltrate the system. The presence of these air bubbles can give the power steering fluid a foamy texture and a milky color, which is not a good sign. 

2. Water Contamination in Power Steering Fluid

When water mixes with power steering fluid, it leads to a milky appearance. More importantly, water dilution negatively impacts the lubricating properties of the fluid, compromising the overall efficiency of the power steering system. 

Damaged parts, specifically a broken power steering reservoir cap, can often be the culprit allowing water to infiltrate the system.

3. Low Power Steering Fluid Level and Leakage

A low level of power steering fluid provides a space for air to enter the system, contributing to the milky appearance of the fluid. 

This condition can arise due to fluid leakage. It is crucial to regularly check for fluid leaks and maintain the proper fluid levels to ensure the proper functioning of the power steering system.

4. Mechanical Issues and Fluid Degradation

Mechanical problems within the power steering system, such as a failing power steering pump or a malfunctioning rack and pinion, can result in excessive heat buildup. 

This can lead to fluid degradation and result in a milky appearance. Regular maintenance is important to prevent such issues and extend the life of the power steering system.

5. Wrong Fluid Type and Incompatible Mixtures

Using the wrong type of power steering fluid can lead to chemical reactions and cause the fluid to become discolored. 

Incompatible mixtures, such as using incorrect additives or mixing fluids of different types, can also result in a milky appearance. 

Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure you are using the right power steering fluid for your vehicle.

6. Low Quality Fluid

Using a low-quality fluid can cause severe damage to the power steering system and should be avoided at all costs. 

Low-grade fluids lack the necessary lubricating oils, seal conditioners and other additives required for efficient operation, leading to premature wear and tear of components. It is important to use only high quality power steering fluid to ensure optimal performance.

7. Excessive Fluid Temperature 

Power steering fluid works best within a certain temperature range and can become discolored if exposed to excessive heat or cold. 

This is especially true for fluids with higher viscosity ratings, as the thicker fluid will have a harder time transferring heat away from key components such as the power steering pump and rack and pinion. 

A cooling fan or heat shield can help regulate fluid temperature and prevent discoloration. It is important to check the fluid temperature regularly to make sure it remains within the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines. 

8. Contamination 

Finally, if debris enters the power steering system, it can cause contamination which leads to a milky discoloration in the fluid. 

Regular checks of the system are essential to ensure any debris or contaminants are removed before they can cause damage. 

It is also important to use a filter when draining and refilling your power steering system, as this will help keep dirt and other debris out. 

9. Overfilling Your Power Steering Fluid

It is also important to keep your power steering fluid at the correct fill levels. Overfilling the system can lead to foamingwhich can cause serious damage if not addressed quickly. 

Checking the level regularly and topping up with clean, high quality fluid when needed should help prevent problems associated with overfilling. 

Signs of Milky Power Steering Fluid

Milky power steering fluid is a warning signal of potential malfunctions in your vehicle’s steering system. Here are some common symptoms:

1. Difficulty in Steering:

One of the early signs of milky power steering fluid is the increased difficulty in steering. The steering wheel might feel stiffer and harder to turn, especially when driving at low speeds. 

This happens due to the reduced lubricity of the contaminated fluid, negatively impacting the system efficiency.

2. Foamy or Bubbly Fluid:

When checking the power steering fluid, if you notice a foamy or bubbly appearance, this could be a clear sign that water has contaminated the fluid. Air getting into the system can cause this foamy texture.

3. Squealing or Squeaking Sounds:

A squealing or squeaking noise coming from the front of your vehicle when the wheels are turned often indicates a power steering issue. 

This sound could be a result of the pump working harder due to the loss of fluid or fluid contamination.

4. Fluid Leakage:

If milky power steering fluid is accompanied by fluid leakage underneath your vehicle, it’s high time to get your power steering system inspected. 

The leak could be due to deteriorated seals or damaged hoses, allowing water to infiltrate and contaminate the fluid.

5. Overheating:

Overheating of the power steering system is another common symptom of milky fluid. When contaminated, the fluid’s lubrication properties are reduced, which means that all components have to work harder. This increases friction and resistance, leading to overheating.

6. Whining Noise:

Another sign of milky power steering fluid is a whining noise coming from the system when steering. 

This can be caused by air being present in the fluid and air bubbles passing through the pump, creating turbulence that produces this high-pitch noise. 

7. Burning Smell:

If you notice a burning smell, it’s likely that your power steering system is overheating and needs attention. It could be due to the fluid being contaminated or too low, causing the pump to work harder than necessary. 

8. Vibrations: 

Vibrations in the steering wheel when turning can also indicate an issue with your power steering system. This could be due to the lack of lubrication caused by milky fluid, causing excessive friction and wear between components. 

9. Difficulty Turning: 

Finally, if your vehicle is difficult to turn, even when the engine is running, it could be a sign of milky power steering fluid. 

Due to the loss of lubrication, the steering system is having to work harder and will be more difficult to turn. 

It’s important to remember that milky power steering fluid can cause a number of issues with your vehicle if left unchecked. 

What Color Should Power Steering Fluid Be?

Under ideal conditions, power steering fluid should exhibit a clear, amber, or light brown color – akin to cooking oil or honey. 

This hue indicates that the fluid is clean and functioning optimally. Over time and usage, the fluid may darken, but should still maintain transparency. 

However, if the fluid turns milky, it’s a clear indication that it has been contaminated, typically due to the intrusion of water or coolant. 

It’s important to understand that the color of power steering fluid isn’t merely an aesthetic aspect. Rather, it’s an effective diagnostic tool to assess the health of your vehicle’s power steering system. 

Milky power steering fluid is a cause for concern as it compromises the lubrication properties of the fluid, leading to increased friction, system overheating, and potentially, component damage. 

Fixes for Milky Power Steering Fluid

If you notice a milky power steering fluid, take the following steps:

  1. Diagnose the Issue: Start by locating the damaged part causing air or water intrusion. This could be a broken power steering reservoir cap or a leaky hose. 
  2. Drain the Milky Fluid: Before replacing the damaged component, drain out the milky fluid completely to prevent further contamination.
  3. Add New Steering Fluid: Refill the system with new power steering fluid, strictly according to your vehicle’s specifications. 
  4. Test the Steering System: Finally, test the steering system to ensure it operates smoothly. If you still notice issues, it is advisable to consult a professional mechanic. 

These steps should help solve the problem of milky power steering fluid and restore your car’s performance.

Taking these precautions can ensure you won’t have to face any serious issues in the future due to contamination of your power steering system. Thanks for reading! 

Preventing Future Issues with Milky Power Steering Fluid 

To prevent issues with milky power steering fluid in the future, it is important to follow some simple guidelines: 

  • Regularly check the condition of your power steering fluid and replace it when necessary. 
  • Inspect your power steering components for any signs of wear or damage. Replace them if needed. 
  • Make sure you use the right type of power steering fluid according to your vehicle’s specifications. 
  • Regularly inspect your power steering system components for any leaks. Air or water intrusion is the most common cause of milky power steering fluid.
  • If you notice any unusual noises or signs of wear, get your car checked by a professional mechanic. 
  • It is a good practice to get your car serviced regularly, according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. 
  • Lastly, avoid delaying any necessary repairs. A malfunctioning power steering system can potentially cause serious safety issues if not addressed promptly.

Conclusion

We’ve covered the five key reasons why power steering fluid might become milky and creamy, from water intrusion to using the wrong fluid type. 

Regular maintenance and preventive measures are crucial to avoid these issues. Stay vigilant and take immediate action if you notice a milky appearance in your power steering fluid. 

By being proactive, you can ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your vehicle’s power steering system.

FAQs

Q: Can I drive with milky power steering fluid?

A: No, you should not drive with milky power steering fluid. It is important to take immediate action and replace the fluid or get your car serviced by a professional mechanic. Delaying necessary repairs can be dangerous and potentially put you and other drivers at risk. 

Q: How often should I check my power steering fluid?

A: You should check your power steering fluid at least once a month and inspect the system for any signs of leaks. You should also get your car serviced regularly according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule. 

Q: Does milky power steering fluid damage the system?

A: Milky power steering fluid can cause long-term damage to the power steering system components if not addressed promptly. The damage can include corrosion, seal deterioration, and air bubble formation which can lead to system malfunction. 

It is therefore important to take immediate action if you notice a milky appearance in your power steering fluid. 

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