Maybe you’re in a pinch and need to top off your power steering fluid and only have ATF. Or perhaps the ATF at the store is a few bucks cheaper, and you want to know what the difference is. And when you look online, you’ll get a mixed bag of answers on whether or not you can use ATF in place of power steering fluid.
With so much misinformation, we had to step into the fray and break everything down for you. We’ll cover everything you need to know, including what makes these fluids different and why it matters – and when it doesn’t.
Can You Use ATF for Power Steering Fluid?
The short answer is yes – most of the time. However, before adding any transmission fluid to the power steering pump, take a look at your owner’s manual. Some owner’s manuals will specifically tell you that the power steering pump cannot handle ATF – while others won’t mention it.
If the owner’s manual does not mention that you can’t use ATF, chances are you’re good to go, but you’re still taking a risk even then.
With that in mind, you should only use ATF in an emergency situation, and you should flush the system and get the right fluid in there as soon as possible.
The reason for this is simple, ATF has extra additives to help the transmission run smoothly. While most of the time these additives are harmless in the power steering pump, sometimes they create problems and destroy the pump. While it won’t do this immediately, it can happen if you leave the fluid in there for an extended period.
Can You Mix ATF and Power Steering Fluid?
While you might think that there would be a big difference between filling up a power steering pump with nothing but ATF and mixing it with power steering fluid, the truth is that there’s not much of a difference.
That’s because power steering fluid and ATF are both hydraulic fluids, which means that they mix well together. In fact, if you have a choice between adding nothing but ATF or mixing ATF with power steering fluid, it’s best to combine the two fluids.
This is because it will limit the number of additives in the system, which reduces the chances of it creating any problems.
But whether you’re mixing ATF with power steering fluid or adding nothing but ATF, it’s best to flush the system and use the right stuff as soon as you get the chance.
What’s the Difference Between ATF and Power Steering Fluid?
If power steering fluid and ATF are both hydraulic fluids and so similar, why does it matter if you mix them? It all comes down to the different additives in the two fluids and what they do. ATF utilizes friction and cleaning additives that help with the smooth operation of the transmission.
While the friction additives don’t have any major problems with the power steering pump, the cleaning additives can end up creating big problems over time. These cleaning additives can mix with different things in the power steering pump and create problems.
While it’s unlikely that it will have any adverse effects, it’s always best to play it safe. That’s why if you use ATF in place of power steering fluid in a pinch, you need to flush the system and use the right fluids as soon as you get a chance.
Can You Use Power Steering Fluid for ATF?
While you can usually use ATF in place of power steering fluid, you should never put power steering fluid in your transmission. Once again, it all comes down to the additives. Your transmission fluid needs the friction and cleaning additives that come in ATF.
So, if you add power steering fluid, it will generate too much heat, and it won’t clean up the gunk inside your transmission as it should. Therefore, you should not use power steering fluid in your transmission – even in an emergency!
It’s better to settle for a tow truck instead of risking your entire transmission. Because even if you’re only going for a short drive, if you total your transmission, it’s going to be far more expensive than a tow truck or simply waiting for the correct fluid would’ve been.
While it can be tempting to use what you have on hand to get your vehicle back on the road, it’s always best to use the right fluids when you have a choice. Even when you’re in a pinch, using the wrong fluids means you’re going to end up spending more money in the long run because when you get the chance, you’ll need to flush the system and get the correct fluids in there.
So, with so much misinformation out there, hopefully, a guide like this cleared up any of the confusion and explained why there are so many different opinions out there!