One of the most interesting conundrums that I’ve heard in my many years of working on cars is whether or not it’s possible to use transmission fluid for the power steering system, and does Ford do this?
In practice, it’s possible to use ATF (automatic transmission fluid) as a substitute for power steering fluid if you’re in a bind, but bear in mind that some cars can’t take it, and it should only be used in emergencies.
Therefore, make sure you check your owner’s manual to see if it’s okay, and ensure they’re both the same viscosity. However, some older Ford models outright use ATF as the power steering fluid for their cars.
- What Is Type F ATF?
- The Same As Power Steering Fluid?
- Why Use Transmission Fluid?
- Which Ford Model Uses ATF?
Type F Transmission Fluid
Many Ford models, especially older models, recommend the use of ATF (automatic transmission fluid), and in particular, Type F, in their power steering systems. This was even mentioned in the owner’s manual!
So yes, to the question of does Ford use transmission fluid for power steering, the owner’s manuals of Ford models (not all, but some – more on that later) – specifically recommend the use of Type F gearbox fluid.
On the other hand, while older Ford models use Type F ATF in the power steering system, some later Ford models instead use the newer Mercon V ATF. Meanwhile, others have used Mobil1 Full Synthetic ATF.
Some Ford models even mentioned directly in the owner’s manuals that using power steering fluid in the power steering system, instead of transmission fluid, could even lead to leaks and steering issues.
Is Power Steering Fluid The Same As Transmission Fluid?
So, this begs the question – why does Ford (unlike most other car companies) use transmission fluid in the power steering system? Well, specifically for Type F transmission fluid, it contains no friction modifiers.
Although, Type F (which is among the many types of ATFs on the market today, though it’s made for Ford, in particular, hence the “F” in the name) still contains anti-wear, seal swell, and anti-foam additives.
In addition, ATF contains additives that help with lubricating moving parts, reducing wear, and preventing the formation of foam. The anti-foaming agents are crucial to prevent the formation of foam.
Foam can lead to inefficiencies in the power steering system, making steering more difficult. Plus, ATF has specific hydraulic properties that are suitable for your power steering to ensure smooth operation.
The use of ATF, especially Type F, provides the necessary lubrication and hydraulic properties without the friction modifiers present in other fluids, which might not be compatible with your car’s power steering.
Why Does Ford Use Transmission Fluid For The Power Steering?
Besides the aforementioned reasons on why Ford uses ATF (automatic transmission fluid) for the power steering system (instead of power steering fluid), there are additional, more technical justifications…
- Hydraulic Properties: Power steering systems operate based on hydraulic principles. The fluid used must be able to transmit power efficiently without compressibility issues. ATF, with its hydraulic properties, fits this requirement perfectly.
- Lubrication: The power steering system has various moving parts. Here, ATF provides the necessary lubrication to reduce wear and tear, ensuring a longer lifespan for the components.
- Seal Compatibility: ATF, especially Ford’s Type F, is designed to be compatible with the seals in the power steering system on Ford vehicles. This compatibility ensures that the seals remain in good condition, preventing potential leaks.
- Temperature Stability: ATF is designed to operate efficiently across a wide range of temperatures. This ensures that the power steering system performs optimally whether in cold winter conditions or hot summer days.
Which Ford Model Uses Transmission Fluid For The Power Steering?
To determine whether or not your particular Ford vehicle uses transmission fluid for the power steering (as well as which type of transmission fluid), the easiest way to do this is by checking the owner’s manual.
However, here’s a quick list that I’ve compiled of all the Ford models that I’m familiar with, that use ATF in the power steering fluid (this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it ought to give you a better idea):
- Ford Bronco
- Ford Windstar
- Classic Ford Mustangs
- Ford Power Stroke Diesel-engined trucks
- Ford Edge
- Older Ford F-Series trucks
- Ford Crown Victoria
- Ford Explorer (mainly the older models)
- Ford Taurus (also, mostly with the older models)
- etc. (once again, I recommend checking your Ford owner’s manual to determine whether or not your vehicle requires the use of ATF in the power steering system, and what sort of ATF fluid it needs)