Power Steering Fluid Foaming Causes & How to Get Rid of It?

Virtually every modern car comes equipped with power steering. Unfortunately, if you ask someone about the most overlooked vehicle part in maintenance, the answer will probably be the steering system. 

You love to haul around the road and thrill to it, but can you remember the last time you checked your power steering system? Unless your steering is too hard, you won’t necessarily pay attention to it, but when examined you found foamy power steering fluid in the reservoir. 

Power steering fluid foaming has become the talk of the town among car communities. Are you one of those who are dealing with foamy power steering fluid? If yes, this guide is for you. 

What is Power Steering Fluid Foaming?

Power steering fluid foaming means the fluid of your power steering system is heavily aerated. When the air gets into the system, the power steering fluid may become foamy as a result of dilution or polymorphous distortion. 

In this situation, your power steering fluid will look white instead of its inherent transparent red, yellow, or green color and the fluid will have numerous tiny bubbles. 

If the fluid has been contaminated with excess air, the entire system could produce a gooey or viscous condition where the fluid loses its capability to transmit steering power. Hence, the ability of the power steering system to maneuver the car will be affected badly. 

Alongside, you could have trouble turning the wheel, reduced steering response, and your vehicle may lose power. In severe cases, you could even lose the ability to steer your vehicle in reverse.

Read Also: Can You Drive a Car Without Power Steering Fluid

Causes Of Power Steering Fluid Foaming

As we have mentioned earlier, power steering fluid foaming is the result of air intrusion in the power steering system or the fluid reservoir. 

So, at the core, anything that leads to air suction in the steering system will cause the foamy steering fluid issue. In this light, here are some notable facts that can cause power steering fluid foaming. 

Damaged or Leaked Pump Body Seals

Every power steering system has a hydraulic pump, known as a power steering pump. This pump pressurizes the steering fluid, which then transmits power directly into the steering mechanism. 

The entire system containing the power steering and the hydraulic liquid tank is connected through a pump body that holds the various parts together. The pump body has sealing and coverings, so the whole system stays airtight.

However, due to excessive pressure or external damages, the seals, connectors, and covers for the pump body may leak. This implies air entering the system and also the fuel reservoir. It is a cause of power steering fluid foam.

Loose Hoses

The power steering system of your car or truck is linked to the cylinder with tubes and hoses. The openings and the ends of the hoses and tubes are secured with a clip. If the closure clips are defective or broken, it enables air to enter and bypass this system. 

Afterward, the chemicals of the fluid react together with oxygen and create bubbles or make the fluid foamy.

Damaged Port Pipes

The hoses with the vents for the cylinder usually reside to the side in some steering system designs. 

Due to physical damage or leaks the air from the chamber starts to surge through these places, and it can be hard to bleed out. This often leads to a shudder and the creation of foamy fluid.

Cracked O-ring

Certain vehicles also have an O-ring that seals the low-pressure connection between the pump and the front rack rubber seals of the power steering system. When air is discharged from the system, the fluid is lost if the O-ring is damaged. 

O-rings are subject to the same wear and tear as rubber seals, and rubber can sometimes end up cracking as a result of damage. When damaged, it will have a lot of trouble preventing air intrusion, making it impossible to ensure the system is sealed.

Read Also:  Can You Add Power Steering Fluid to a Hot Car

Signs Of Power Steering Fluid Foaming

We have presented the main causes of the power steering fluid foaming. Now, let’s go over some of the possible symptoms you might encounter if your power steering fluid becomes foamy. 

  • As you slow down to low rpm levels, you might hear a growling or grunting noise coming from underneath your hood.
  • The reservoir will be accompanied by numerous bubbles. 
  • Fluid may be leaking from your steering system.
  • It may also be more difficult to turn your steering.
  • The foaming of the fluid reservoir can cause an overflow.

Effects Of Power Steering Fluid Foaming

It can occasionally happen that when you put your vehicle in reverse, the power steering fluid foams. Take your car to a mechanic as soon as you experience any of these symptoms. 

The mechanic may be able to fix the problem by changing the power steering system and may recommend using either a fluid solution or a sealant. The sealant can help stave off particular symptoms. 

The effects of power steering fluid foaming can be as follows:

Vibrated Wheel

Vibration or pulsation of the steering wheel occurs when the power steering system doesn’t offer the correct level of necessary force. It creates the wheel to tremble or shake abnormally.

Your Fluid Level May Have Fallen

Keep an eye out for a drop in the amount of steering fluid if you notice a fall in the quality of your steering fluid.

Lack Of Power Steering

When it is difficult to operate the steering, it is probable that the power steering fluid level has become low due to contamination by air.

Read Also: How Much Power Steering Fluid Does A Car Hold?

Prevention Of Power Steering Fluid Foaming

As you can see, power steering fluid can result in some negative consequences. At first look, it might seem like something avoidable. However, this can eventually lead to a massive repair bill while posing a risk of accidents.

So, rather than waiting for the symptoms of power steering fluid foaming, take some simple measures to prevent this from happening beforehand. These measures are as follows:

  • Regularly inspect your steering system 
  • Keep the fluid tank topped off within recommended interval
  • Make sure the seals and o-ring are in good condition
  • After pouring the fluid tank, keep the reservoir cap tightened properly
  • In case you encounter any serious accident, check the system for any physical damage. 
  • If the seals become harder, replace them before cracking down anytime.

Fixing Power Steering Fluid Foaming

Now it’s apparent that the trouble with foaming up hydraulic steering fluid stems from the elimination of air getting into the system. Since air can enter the system in several means, the repair is chiefly centered on the things that let air get into the system.

The steering system is concealed beneath the vehicle, and it has many remarkable parts. So, in some cases, you might need to contact a professional mechanic for help in repairing the problem, particularly before it begins to get worse and causes damage. 

However, if you’re capable and knowledgeable enough to do the job on your own, you can fix the issue by following the steps described below.

Primary Inspection

First, you have to inspect the whole steering system to find out the source of air suction. Reduce the odds of equipment failure by checking each connection of the system, such as a seal, clip, and joint. 

Inspect the level of the liquid in the tank and examine whether the pump is functioning correctly. During your inspection, keep an eye on the following things:

  • Whether the hoses and fittings show signs of swelling
  • The pipework has any visible damage or spots
  • Cracks and leaks in the pump 
  • The area behind the steering pump pulley is wet
  • Cracks and leaks in the reservoir
  • Loose hoses

These are some good introductory steps to enable you to identify the cause of the problem. If you see any of the above-mentioned signs that allow air into the system, seal it quickly to limit air intrusion. 

Eliminate the Foam or Bubbles

You can eliminate the foam by repeatedly rotating the steering wheel lock. Besides, if you have to top off the reservoir with fresh fluid, boil a portion of the new fluid. The heated fluid eliminates bubbles effectively. 

This method is quite appreciated for home DIYers, but you have to ascertain the fluid’s boiling point. Never reach the boiling point of the fluid to avoid the risk of the fluid becoming thicker. 

You can also use a plunger or pipette to eliminate the foam. Remember that it’s not a steering system bleeding process. Rather you’re just eliminating foam from the steering fluid.

Read Also: Is Power Steering Fluid Flammable? An Analysis Of The Flammability Of Power Steering Fluid

Repair or Replace Damaged Parts

Any time you notice that a certain component is broken, it is quite simple to repair or replace that, based on the needs you have. However, it’s a smart idea to always thoroughly check every single item since overlooking it might only contribute to the problem getting worse. 

If you do not address this, then you may find it difficult to handle the issue. You may end up with a power steering system replacement.

Bleed the Steering System

You may be able to eliminate the foam from the steering fluid by following the method mentioned above. However, air can still remain trapped inside the reservoir, lines, or any small gaps.

The trapped air inside the system will further cause foaming steering fluid. So, it’s best to bleed the whole power steering system. 

However, steering system bleeding should be carried out after replacing all damaged parts and topping off the reservoir with fresh fluid. To do so, follow the steps mentioned below: 

Step 1: Park the Vehicle and Raise it

Early on, park the car in a place that’s safe. Turn off the engine and wait for the car to cool off. Lift the front bumper with the aid of a floor jack. Additionally, secure the vehicle in a few jack stands and jack up the front wheels.

Step 2: Locate the Bleed Valve

Locate the bleeding valve on your steering box and lubricate it with some penetrating oil. If you face any problems locating it, the high-pressure line from the steering pump leading to the other end is the final resting place of the bleeding valve, so follow it.

Step 3: Insert a Tube in the Bleed Valve

Grab a tube with a clear vinyl membrane and place one end on the overflow tube. Be mindful that the tubing must be at least as long as it reaches beyond the front of your car.

Choose a drain pan and place it on the floor in front of the car. After that, put the other end of the tube inside the drain pan. 

Step 4: Turn the Steering Wheel

Now, crank the engine up to the start position and loosen the bleed valve slightly. Start turning the steering wheel bit-by-bit, from lock to lock. Do it at least 20 times or more depending on the steering system. 

For the sake of safety, it’s best to be slow and deliberate when performing these actions. Besides, it’s good to keep an assistant to monitor the fluid level.

When you’re performing a bleeding process, the fluid level may drop off slightly as the additional air is expelled from the system. However, if you notice the fluid level is dropped at all, there are most likely air pockets within the reservoir or steering pump. 

When these air pockets are not purged despite cycling the steering wheel, you can use a hand-operated vacuum bleeding kit for the steering system.

Read Also: What Weight Is Power Steering Fluid? [Know the Real Facts]


Do you have any additional questions concerning the power steering fluid foaming problem? If so, check out the FAQ section below.

How much does it cost to fix power steering fluid foaming?

It depends on the source of the issue, your vehicle’s make and model, your location, and so on. For example, if the problem is stemmed from damaged hoses, it will cost you around $400 to $900.

Can driving with foamy power steering fluid cause a problem?

Yes, driving your car continuously with foamy fluid inside the power steering system can wear the steering pump. Besides, you may face difficulty handling the car due to a lack of steering power which can lead to dangerous situations. 

How long does it take to bleed the air out of the power steering system?

As you can see, bleeding a power steering system isn’t a tough task. So, this process can take a maximum of 15 minutes. 

Final Words

Are you still wondering why your power steering fluid is foaming? We hope your answer is no. Before we sign out, mark our ultimate words. 

Now you know how to fix the foamy power steering fluid, but our advice is not to wait too far which brings you to such a situation. 

Rather, always keep the prevention tips in your mind we have discussed above. And yes, while inspecting the steering system, check the fluid level. If it’s low, top the reservoir off with fresh fluid. Always check your owner’s manual to ensure the right fluid type you have to use. 

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