Is power steering fluid the same as transmission fluid?

Can you use transmission fluid as a substitute for power steering fluid? One of the popular questions in the maintenance of automatic transmissions has been the compatibility of Transmission fluids with power steering fluid. 

Is power steering fluid the same as transmission fluid? A simple yes might save us a lot of stress, but it is essential for us to analyze the situation, covering different factors that will help us arrive at a conclusion. We wouldn’t just advise you to mix power steering fluids with transmission fluids because we want you to believe they are the same. You must understand what happens if you put a power steering fluid in your transmission. 

We will help figure this out by offering a detailed review on Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) fluids and Power steering fluids.

Is power steering fluid the same as transmission fluid?

Power steering fluid shares are slightly the same as transmission fluid. They share similar properties as hydraulic fluids. However, the inclusion of additives and detergents in transmission fluids makes them different from power steering fluid. 

Even though Power steering fluid is not the same as transmission fluid, you can use transmission fluid as a substitute for power steering fluid, but you can’t use a power steering fluid in place of transmission fluid.

What this means is that, even though power steering fluids and transmission fluids are the same hydraulic fluids, there are slight differences in their functionality and compatibility.

ATF Vs Power Steering Fluids (Side by Side Compression Table)

ATFPower Steering Fluids
Fluid TypeHydraulicHydraulic
UsageCleaning and FrictionLubrication and friction
ColorRed or light brownPinky, or Amber
SmellSweet SmellBurnt Marshmallow

ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluids) – short overview

ATF fluids are fluids designed for the smooth operation of a car’s transmission. It handles the lubrication, cleaning, and conditioning of gaskets. This includes regulating the cooling system and reducing the temperatures to an optimum level.

The use of ATF fluids goes beyond the smooth running of your gears and an improved gear shift. They also maintain heat resistance, viscosity stability, friction, and thermal stability. These ATF fluids come in different brands and forms. 

These varying categories are to ensure that they meet the specifications of the required car. However, ATF fluids are restricted to the use of automatic vehicles.

Power Steering Fluids – short overview

There are a lot of misinterpretations about Power Steering fluids and what they are used for. Power steering fluids are hydraulic fluids that focus on the optimum power transfer in a car’s steering system. This ensures that a driver can easily turn and handle the steering of their cars properly. 

The power steering fluid oversees the optimal performance of the hose, piston, valve, and power steering pump. A power steering system ensures that the driver has increased control and handling of the vehicle. Steering fluids create a balance between the steering wheel and the front wheels. 

This minimizes the effort needed to turn and control the wheels of the vehicle. As an additional feature, it also lubricates the internal components and moving parts of the car (inside the steering system). With the inclusion of preventing corrosion in the power steering gear and pump, the primary purpose of a power steering fluid is to ensure that your vehicle works perfectly.

difference between aTF and power steering fluid (5 key Differences)

1. Color and Smell

One of the first ways to differentiate an ATF and a power steering fluid is in the color and smell. ATF has a red or light brown color while power steering fluid comes in a pinkish or amber content. The red or light brown color of an ATF does not play any role in its performance. 

Although, this can indicate that the fluid is good. The color can also serve as a clue to differentiate it from engine or radiator oil, coolant, or washer fluid.

2. Composition

ATFs and power steering fluids are hydraulic products. However, the ATF has friction modifiers and detergents. This is absent in a power steering fluid. 

The inclusion of friction modifiers and detergents in ATFs makes them enforce a preventive mechanism. The friction modifiers in ATF prevent wear and tear on the metallic component of the car and also regulate heat and temperature. The introduction of these additives also increases fuel economy. 

The detergents prevent the build of dirt and deposits that might clog ad damage the system. 

3. Usage

What does power steering fluid help with? ATF and power steering fluids play different roles in the internal system of a car. Power steering fluids ensure the smooth operation of the steering wheel. This is done by reducing the amount of effort required to handle the steering wheel. 

The use of an ATF is restricted to automatic transmissions. With a primary duty of maintaining a smooth change of gears, it also protects and maintains the transmission. While power steering fluids handle the power steering system, ATF is in charge of the state of the automatic transmission.

4. Performance

Both fluids are made of the same hydraulic fluid and seal materials. Does this affect their performance? It is clear that these fluids work in different systems, but with the inclusion of additives and detergents, ATF is considered a high-performance fluid in the car’s engine.

5. Lubrication

Power steering oils are not lubricants. They can only pass as a low viscosity hydraulic fluid, but not as a lubricating oil. ATF lubricates and cools the transmission. 

The primary duty of an ATF is not to lubricate the transmission, but to enhance the shifting of gears. Nevertheless, ATF acts as a lubricant for some 4WD transfer systems. 

Automatic Transmission Fluids Vs Power Steering Fluids ( key similarities)

1. Basic structure

ATF and Power steering fluids are hydraulic fluids and contain the same seal materials. This impacts the flowing ability, viscosity, and design of both fluids. Both fluids can handle up to 1000 PSI of pressure. 

With a low viscosity and impact on friction, they can also withstand high temperatures. The structure and design of these fluids make it easy for them to flow through tubes and lubricate the essential and mechanical parts of the engine

2. Car Maintenance

The primary purpose of both fluids is to maintain the state of the car’s engine. While both systems work on different systems of the engine, the overall performance of the engine is impacted. While the power steering fluid enhances the steering ease and control of the vehicle, ATF enhances the shifting of gears. 

This impacts the overall condition of the car.

ATF and Power Steering Fluids: which one to chose?

It is clear now that ATF is a higher performance fluid. Power Steering fluids and ATF work in different ways. Although most car systems are built to accommodate the use of ATF in their power steering systems, ATF is considered a high-performing fluid. 

The inclusion of additives in ATF, ranging from friction modifiers to detergents makes ATF a preferable option to Power steering fluids. Power steering fluids don’t have additives. There are no detergents and this will eliminate the possibility of filtering dirt and preventing the accumulation of deposits. 

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There are also no friction modifiers. This will tell in the ability to handle excessive buildup of heat. 

people also ask

Can I mix power steering fluid with transmission fluid?

No. I wouldn’t advise that you mix power steering fluid with transmission fluid. You might not handle the damaging effect on your car’s engine. Power steering fluids and transmission fluids serve different purposes. 

Power steering systems come with a metal-on-metal design. With a pump running on a metal-to-metal design, the mixture of power steering fluid with transmission will introduce the presence of friction additives in the pump. This is unacceptable. 

Although Power steering fluids and transmission fluids are hydraulic fluids, you shouldn’t mix them. 

Can I put transmission fluid in myself?

Yes, you can. Putting a transmission fluid is not reserved for the mechanics and auto men. With a funnel and your transmission fluid, you can do the work yourself. 

For you to successfully put transmission fluid in yourself, you must start with checking the fluid level of your car. You can do this with a dipstick. To get an accurate reading of your transmission fluid level, you have to heat your engine by starting your car. With a heated-up transmission fluid, you will eliminate the possibility of a cold reading. 

Without driving your car, make sure the transmission runs through all gears. If your transmission includes an overdrive, do that too. Park the car on a flat and horizontal plane. Locate your transmission and pull out the dipstick. 

The first lift will give you an incorrect reading. Clean the dipstick, insert it for the second time and get a correct reading. To add the transmission fluid, place a funnel over the dipstick hole and slowly pour in the correct amount of transmission fluid.

Make sure that you used the correct transmission fluid for your car. Run the gears for the second time, confirm the fluid level, insert the dipstick and close the hole properly.

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closing thoughts

With this comparison guide of ATF vs Power Steering fluids, we believe you have gotten enough information to decide what works for you.

You are free to send a reply if you still need clarity if the power steering fluid is the same as the transmission fluid.

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Mahir Ahmed


I'm the guy responsible for ensuring honest, informative, accurate and helpful guide to the reader.

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