VW seems to suggest that the synthetic mineral oil type (i.e., Pentosin CHF-11S or CHF-202) power steering fluid they use in the Mk4 Jetta (and maybe other cars, but those are the ones I know about) lasts forever – the only service requirements that I've found (Bentley manual) are to check the level every 40,000 miles.

Is power steering fluid a lifetime fluid? How can you "read" the fluid?

2 Answers 2


I don't know which specific fluid VW uses for power-steering, but many manufacturers use automatic transmission fluid, or something closely related to it.

Unlike the engine and transmission, the power steering pump will not heat up it's fluid to extremes, the only significant heat the fluid will received is from being in the engine bay.

Therefore, power-steering fluid takes years to degrade, mostly from oxidation. Read it like any other fluid, look for a dark colour or a burnt smell.

It's easy to flush, so if you're not sure, just go for it. On most vehicles, you just pull one of the lines, let it leak out then top it up. Steer left and right to get the fluid to reach all places. If you don't want to pull a line or if it's inaccessible, steal a turkey baster from the kitchen (do NOT put it back when you're done, just make-up a believable story), and just suck the fluid out of the reservoir. Top it up, drive around for a little bit, and repeat until the liquid looks good.

  • +1 for turkey baster story… So, based on the second paragraph, what does it mean or what should you look for, if the fluid is dark or has a burnt smell?
    – dlu
    Dec 27, 2016 at 1:13
  • 1
    Probably oxidation (contact with air), or your power-steering pump is putting out heat (maybe it's starting to bind), or you are steering like it's going out of style. The fluid is fluid, as long as the power-steering is still working normally, I wouldn't read too much into the fluid being dark and smelling burnt other than you could use some new fluid. The old fluid won't hurt the pump.
    – tlhIngan
    Dec 27, 2016 at 1:27

I believe "read the Fluid" refers to where the level 'reads' on the dipstick. But, Yes it is also a good idea to inspect the fluid. IF it is burnt smelling or discolored, it should be replaced. Much cheaper to change the fluids than changing damaged parts.

  • 1
    What is generally meant by "read the fluid" or "read the spark plugs" is to infer the condition of unrelated components by inspecting the ones at hand. You can tell a great deal about the internal condition of an engine by "reading the spark plugs", for example (burns rich or lean, or cold, or hot, or piston rings aren't sealing well).
    – tlhIngan
    Dec 27, 2016 at 7:57

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