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Old 03-22-08, 03:16 PM   #1
phantomcow2
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Why does honda require it's own special power steering fluid?

I noticed my power steering fluid level was a bit low today. It wasn't below the min mark, but the owners manual says to keep it close to the MAX mark. So I went to autozone and found a whole line of power steering fluids. The manual says to use only power steering designated for use with Honda vehicles. It says use of any other fluid will damage the system. Why is this? Is there something particular about the design of a honda power steering system which warrants a special fluid? I did buy the honda fluid, but of course it was more expensive.
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Old 03-22-08, 03:27 PM   #2
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you can always put what ever you want in there but then youll be wondering why it cost you 1200 for a power steering pump
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Old 03-22-08, 03:39 PM   #3
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I asked the same question and got a bunch of crap about viscosity.
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Old 03-22-08, 04:44 PM   #4
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I noticed my power steering fluid level was a bit low today. It wasn't below the min mark, but the owners manual says to keep it close to the MAX mark. So I went to autozone and found a whole line of power steering fluids. The manual says to use only power steering designated for use with Honda vehicles. It says use of any other fluid will damage the system. Why is this? Is there something particular about the design of a honda power steering system which warrants a special fluid? I did buy the honda fluid, but of course it was more expensive.
i'm not surprised in the least.
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Old 03-22-08, 05:13 PM   #5
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Honda's not the only one.
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Old 03-22-08, 07:33 PM   #6
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Yep, German cars are notorious for wanting very specific fluids--and barfing when fed the wrong ones.

Ask yourself this: what is it worth to not have to worry about it? Is the few dollars you might have saved that important for food on the table? How often do you have to fill it (cost per mile or cost per year)?

If in doubt, hit up some of the Honda forums and see if it's bunk or not. Or hit up some reputable mechanics. Perhaps it is, perhaps it is not. The concensus on my German car has been "no", the generic stuff is bad. Afterall, Honda's are not sensitive to motor oil.
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Old 03-22-08, 07:50 PM   #7
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Oh I am not complaining about the price. The difference was less than 2 dollars. Given the amount of fluid that I use, I am definitely not sensitive to this price difference! It's not worth avoiding buying the "right" oil, I'm just curious. The manual said any DOT 3 or 4 oil will work for the clutch and ABS, nothing specific.
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Old 03-22-08, 08:01 PM   #8
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I hear that you can save money on "expensive" bicycle chain lube by mixing ATF, motor oil, paraffin and teflon...or you can just buy chain lube.

All asideness aside, systems with seals are designed to work with certain fluids and can sustain damage if the wrong fluids are used. This includes hydraulic disc brakes for bicycles.

I seriously doubt Honda is trying to pull a fast one with gaining a few bucks on aftermarket fluids. I also doubt the fluid you purchased is only available through Honda, merely the industry standard fluid compatible with Honda's design.
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Old 03-22-08, 09:59 PM   #9
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Honda/Gm use the same power steering fluid. Ford and Mopar do not. Its all about lubricating the seals in the pump...The specific compound of the rubber seals and keeping them pliable
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Old 03-22-08, 11:33 PM   #10
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My Subaru apparently requires special radiator conditioning fluid.
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Old 03-23-08, 08:01 AM   #11
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Honda/Gm use the same power steering fluid. Ford and Mopar do not. Its all about lubricating the seals in the pump...The specific compound of the rubber seals and keeping them pliable
news to me. i've been using generic ATF (Dexron-II/Mercon or better) in GM power steering systems for years. no issues.

the Europeans do get amusing, though.

Rolls-Royce, for example, doesn't use brake fluid in many of its cars. instead, it uses mineral oil.

except for the models which use RR363 brake fluid.

but owners consistently confuse the two, even though the two fluids have different colours and different reservoirs - the mineral oil system can't even be filled if you've got the wrong container (on the later cars, anyway).

where the real fun begins is on those mineral oil cars - the same fluid that works the brake hydraulics also works the body leveling system. so if you blow a rear shock, there go the rear brakes! 88-89 Jag sedans are the same way (with the added "benefit" of having the power steering on the same hydraulic system).

so what happens if you put the wrong fluid in? you destroy seals. which, on that 88/89 Jag, means you can't stop or steer. fun!

antifreeze requirements (particularly for German cars) are interesting, too. conventional, Dex-Cool or synthetic other (G05, etc.)? heck, VW is just evil, with mid-year switches (like when they went from G11 to G12) where using the wrong coolant could actually cause catastrophic engine failures.
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Old 03-23-08, 08:42 AM   #12
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I've known of automatic-equipped Hondas to shift badly when filled with non-Honda transmission fluid. One of the guys at work with a Civic Hybrid had his tranny running like crap, so he went by the dealer and asked for help. Turned out that his previous trip to Jiffy Lube had loaded it with some off-the-shelf transmission fluid, which is when the problematic shifting began. They flushed it & refilled with Honda ATF, and it was back to normal.
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Old 03-23-08, 10:14 AM   #13
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I've known of automatic-equipped Hondas to shift badly when filled with non-Honda transmission fluid. One of the guys at work with a Civic Hybrid had his tranny running like crap, so he went by the dealer and asked for help. Turned out that his previous trip to Jiffy Lube had loaded it with some off-the-shelf transmission fluid, which is when the problematic shifting began. They flushed it & refilled with Honda ATF, and it was back to normal.
That's pretty interesting. It must have something to do with viscosity. I have a 5 speed, so this wouldn't really apply to me. Still, interesting none the less.
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Old 03-23-08, 11:22 AM   #14
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That's pretty interesting. It must have something to do with viscosity. I have a 5 speed, so this wouldn't really apply to me. Still, interesting none the less.
That's what I figure, too. Honda may have specific additives in their tranny fluid as well.

I'd just keep trusting their recommendations. You've also noticed that they give general requirements for some fluids (clutch & brakes) while requiring their own fluids for other systems. That makes me think that they have specific reasons for those fluids and did their engineering work with those fluids in mind.
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Old 03-23-08, 05:43 PM   #15
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Because it's another way to get you to either cough a few more bucks, or to void your warranty on you.

I don't believe that Honda's engineers are so incompetent that they couldn't design a power steering system that would work every bit as well with conventional fluid, but then they wouldn't have another consumer lock-in to hook you on.

Finding that a car requires special fluids is a serious minus in my book, and I let the dealers know about it when I'm shopping. Of course, those days are gone, I have no interest in wasting my money on a new car anymore.
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Old 03-23-08, 06:17 PM   #16
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Because it's another way to get you to either cough a few more bucks, or to void your warranty on you.
Then why don't they require their own fluids in other systems?

Sorry, but your complaint is unfounded. You can stop worrying about it now.
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Old 03-23-08, 07:11 PM   #17
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This car is 15 years old, has 280,000 miles on it, the warranty passed a while ago.
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Old 03-24-08, 07:25 AM   #18
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+1 on VWs- they have proprietary everything fluids. and it's significantly more expensive.
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Old 03-24-08, 12:03 PM   #19
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At a local quick change oil place, I was having my Acura's oil changed and the tech there showed me what my tranny fluid looked like.

It was white/silverish which was very different then the regular red fluid he was trying to sell me. He said that my tranny fluid was bad and should be replaced with this red fluid. I of course said "no" and just got my oil changed.

After doing some research online I found out that could have been a $2500 repair had we gone for the wrong fluid. Apparently not only is my tranny very sensative in general but the wrong fluid would have in all likelihood caused a major problem.

It's probably the same for your tranny fluid. I'm not expert on cars but I suspect it's like different weight oil.
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Old 03-24-08, 01:17 PM   #20
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So they can charge more for it.
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Old 03-24-08, 02:48 PM   #21
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At a local quick change oil place, I was having my Acura's oil changed and the tech there showed me what my tranny fluid looked like.

It was white/silverish which was very different then the regular red fluid he was trying to sell me. He said that my tranny fluid was bad and should be replaced with this red fluid. I of course said "no" and just got my oil changed.
I changed my 2002 Acura RSX 6-speed tranny fluid. The 6-speed had a problem with notchy shifting. The stock one (Honda-brand) is grey-silver'ish after a few hundred km's, whereas the one that I've changed to (based on user reviews from civics and rsx forums) is orange/yellow (Redline). The shifting did improve and I haven't noticed significant problems (car now has ~80k km).

There most likely are compatible fluids out there, but since most manufacturers didn't bother giving out the detailed specs of what is needed in the fluid, it's risky and expensive to make a mistake.
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Old 03-24-08, 03:06 PM   #22
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