Told that power steering fluid is "contaminated" - legitimate? or scam?

The Honda service representative told me that the power steering fluid on my 2000 Honda Accord (which has 275K miles) is contaminated and needs to be replaced. Claimed that this happens periodically. Is this a scam? I don’t understand how it could become contaminated. I’m certainly not experiencing any problems with steering. Thoughts, anyone? Thanks.

when and where was the power steering fluid checked or changed prior to this finding?

All fluids in a vehicle become contaminated from oxidation. This is where the fluid breaks down from heat. When a fluid becomes oxydized it loses it’s lubricating properties and the ablity to keep the seals soft. This results in leaking rack & pinion assemblies and power steering pumps. Sometimes when a power steering pump starts making noise, just changing the fluid can eliminate the noise.


Congratulations on keeping the vehicle into the high milage realm.

I’d go to an independent shop rather than the Honda dealer. Generally the dealer costs are high. Yeah, changing it at this stage is probably not a bad idea. Fresh fluid never hurts.

Going to the dealer is like going to a four-star restaurant for a hamburger…expensive.
You can change the power steering fluid easily. Remove the return hose from the power steering reservoir; catch the fluid in a container; put the hose back on; fill the reservoir; pull the return hose off and put thumb over hole in pump to prevent the new fluid from draining out. Put the hose in a catch container, crank the engine until the reservoir is pumped empty. Stop. Refill the reservoir…do three times total.

What seems simple to us can be a major adventure to others…sometimes ending in tears!

Looks like the power steering fluid was “replenished” not replaced at 246K miles in July 2007 at the Ventura CA Honda dealership. They’re quoting $135 to replace the fluid.

Well, unfortunately there’s more to do than just the power steering fluid. Here are the quotes from Honda for labor and parts:

cracked motor mount - $150
engine air filter - $31
replace power steering fluid - $135
replace shifter display bulb (that lights up P R N D D3 D2 D1) - $107

So are these all things that can be done by an independent shop and done significantly cheaper?

Thanks for all your repsonses!!

That makes a lot of sense - thanks!

Great to know the details of how to - thanks. I’ll have to think about whether I’m up for that adventure and/or whether I can talk my husband into doing it. Thanks.

Here’s a simpler way - get a few quarts of the correct fluid and a turkey baster or some other type of syringe. Remove as much fluid as possible (old gallon milk jug worked fine for me), fill reservoir to the correct mark, start car, turn wheel lock to lock several time, repeat empty and fill 2 or 3 more times. Unless you’ve noticed problems with your power steering, this should take care of it, for a tiny fraction of the $135. And yes, any good independent mechanic can do all those items.

This may be a “scam”. To me changing a fluid that has been in the car 10 years and 275K miles seems reasonable. It certainly has done its duty. If new fluid keeps the power steering pump and steering rack from going out on you then the money is well spent.

I would get a second opinion on the cracked motor mount.

How accessible is the air filter? An air filter from a auto parts store should be around 10 - 15 dollars.

My 98 Windstar had a noisy power steering pump. I used to change the fluid once a year or so to keep it quiet. I would use a turkey baster ($1) to get as much fluid out of the reservoir as possible. I would refill the reservoir with fresh ps fluid and run the engine for a few minutes to circulate the new fluid through the system. I would repeat the process until a quart or two of fresh fluid (5-10 dollars) was added to the system. The process replaces most of the fluid and is pretty simple. To speed up the process use a bulb siphon instead of a turkey baster to remove the fluid.

How hard is it to remove the console to replace the bulb? Anyway congratulations on getting that much mileage out of a car.

Good luck,

Ed B.