Different types of BMW power steering fluid

BMW power steering fluid: Power steering fluid isn’t the most glamorous auto part to buy and isn’t talked about too often. However, it is extremely important. Cars not only need a good amount of power steering fluid in order to drive properly, they also need a specific type. BMW is one of the most demanding brands of all, as the type of fluid you should use depends entirely on the model.

This can make it extremely confusing to figure out which BMW power steering fluid to use yourself, but luckily, CoPilot is here to help! We tell you all the differences between BMW power steering fluids and how to know which one your car needs.

Why You Need The Right

Although many power steering fluid products may look the same, you can’t just randomly put any fluid in your car. These fluids serve too important a function to go into buying one blindly. The job of power steering fluid is to loosen the steering system and ensure that the link between the steering wheel and the tires remains intact and works properly. 

When you turn the wheel, your tires do exactly what you want them to do based on your direction, right? This is only possible with power steering fluid. Driving your car safely requires that you have fresh power steering fluid in tune with the makeup of your BMW’s power steering system. 

Since cars can have such different mechanical properties in their steering systems, their maintenance needs different types of products accordingly. Power steering fluid can vary greatly in chemical properties, and factors such as viscosity and additives vary from product to product. 

Every car manufacturer has a specific type of fluid for their cars, and for good reason. If you use the wrong type of fluid, you could risk excessive damage to the steering system and pump, and even impair your steering ability, which is a health hazard. This is why it is of the utmost importance that you stay on top of keeping the proper power steering fluid in your car.

What type of power steering fluid is best for your BMW?

BMWs are European luxury vehicles, so they cannot carry any power steering fluid. Some out there have been specifically optimized for luxury cars like these, and you can really tell a difference in driving when you’ve used high-quality fluid that matches the design of your BMW. 

There are certainly a few options you can choose from for your BMW power steering fluid, but you shouldn’t venture too far outside of them if you want to keep your stylish BMW in tip-top shape. Here are the best power steering fluids you can use for a car like this:

  1. Pentosin Power Steering Fluid. Pentosin Power Steering Fluid is directly recommended by the manufacturer as the brand’s number one fluid. It was designed with BMW specifications in mind and will keep your car’s steering system running like a dream. BMW cars from 1990 will need Pentosin CHF-11S, while older ones will require CHF7.1. 
  2. Dexron III automatic transmission fluid. This is the second best fluid for BMW after Pentosin, as long as your model can take ATF. Check your BMW owner’s manual and see what the manufacturer has to say about ATF; If you specify that you can use it with your model, then Dexron is a great choice for your car’s power steering fluid.
  3. Prestone Power Steering Fluid with Stop Leak. While not specifically made for BMW, it is good for models released before 2012 as it is a great additive for cars with ZF hydraulic power steering racks, which BMWs used to have.
  4. Ravenol J1B1001 Power Steering Fluid. Ravenol is another decent aftermarket substitute that you can use for your BMW. It was made specifically with luxury cars like BMWs in mind and helps prevent corrosion and promotes thermal stability.
  5. Prestone European Power Steering Fluid. This synthetic fluid is specially designed for European cars, including BMW. While considered somewhat expensive for the relatively low amount you receive, it is a great choice for topping up your power steering fluid and keeping your BMW running at great performance with little noise or wear. That being said, you can get more for your money with other steering fluids.

We have to clarify that if possible you should absolutely get the first option on the list above, Pentosin power steering fluid that matches your model year. The other options may serve your model well if your owner’s manual says those types can be used on your model, but Pentosin is what the manufacturer recommends across the board.

Where do you buy the right BMW power steering fluid?

Although BMWs are picky about the power steering fluid they want, luckily, all of the ones on our list are easy to find. You can get them at many online websites, from auto parts centers like O’Reilly or Autozone to major retailers like Walmart and Amazon. These BMW power steering fluids can be found in many places, whether you want to buy in person or online, so the choice is yours!

Other things to know about

BMW Some BMW models have “ATF Fluid Only” written on the power steering fluid cap, indicating that you should not use any other type of fluid in your car. However, if you use this type of fluid in any model that doesn’t specifically say you can or should, you could risk corroding the power steering seals over time, which could present problems down the road. 

BMW models can be tricky this way because they really aren’t uniform; They differ by model. It’s vital that you always look at the owner’s manual for your individual BMW before you go out and buy more steering fluid.

The general suggestion for when to replace your power steering fluid is when your car reaches about 50,000 miles, but your BMW owner’s manual might have something different to say. Be sure to check and see if the manufacturer recommends that you replace your fluid at a different time, and if so, follow that number.

Problems Related to a Power Steering Leak in Your BMW

Your vehicle’s power steering affects every aspect of your driving performance, from handling curves and turns to driving completely straight. The steering system depends on power steering fluid. Without it, the entire system would fail. For this reason, it is vitally important to ensure that you do not have a leak. This type of fluid must be checked regularly to maintain proper levels. This will ensure that your power steering works at optimum performance.

When there are no leaks, the pump adequately pressurizes the power steering fluid. This pressurized fluid pushes the pistons. In turn, it helps turn the wheels. If a leak develops, the fluid will not have enough pressure behind it, creating significant problems with steering. Let’s take a look at some common problems and solutions to power steering leaks.


Reduced Steering Performance

When steering is compromised, it means the power steering fluid is already dangerously low. The difficulty may not be as noticeable when driving on long stretches of straight road. However, when you’re trying to park or driving shorter distances around town, you’ll have to exert a lot more energy to steer and turn. You can damage the steering fluid screen if you continue driving in this state, so it is best to park as soon as possible and go to a trusted mechanic.

Fluid Leak

If you see drops of oil under your car, you need to identify what type of leak you have and its source. If you suspect a power steering fluid leak, thoroughly clean the lines and reservoir, then recheck frequently for signs of oil leakage from the power steering circuit.

Squealing or other unusual noises while steering

Nuisance noises are more common in older vehicles when the steering fluid level is low. When parking or turning at low speed, a squeal, squeak, or squeak may be heard. At other times, when you turn the steering wheel all the way to the right or left, you may hear a very muffled whine or groan. This could indicate a low fluid level, which is the potential result of a leak.

Consistently Low Fluid Levels

The power steering system is sealed, so when fluid is low, it means there’s a leak somewhere. It is vitally important to periodically check the fluid level. If the level drops, the pump will run dry. This causes overheating and increased friction that can cause expensive damage. Checking the level will keep the steering safe and ensure the longevity of your steering rack.

Other symptoms include a stiff steering wheel or a steering wheel that is slow to respond to turning.

Your BMW has a strict maintenance schedule and requires complex diagnosis and repair when something goes wrong, including problems that can develop with the power steering. In these situations, you should consult an expert in BMW mechanics as soon as possible.

What kind of power steering fluid does a BMW E46 use?

Because BMWs are high-performance luxury European vehicles, you’ll want to be careful when choosing a power steering fluid made for your precise trim and model year. 

In general, for 1990 and later models, use Pentosin CHF-11S. Pentosin 115 is a long life synthetic hydraulic fluid and can be used in both extreme hot and cold conditions.

Models prior to 1990 take Pentosin CHF 7.1. While Pentosin CHF 7.1 is recommended for older BMWs, you may have a hard time finding one that is no longer made. May substitute other aftermarket products.

While Pentosin is made in Germany for BMW and other European cars, you can usually find substitutes like the ones below. But when searching for a replacement, be very careful to enter your exact year and model:

  • Prestone Power Steering Fluid + Stop Leak. While not made for BMW, some experts say it works especially well for pre-2012 model years. It’s a great additive for cars with ZF hydraulic power steering racks, which BMWs used to have. 
  • Ravenol J1B1001 Power Steering Fluid. Ravenol is another aftermarket substitute made with luxury cars like BMWs in mind specifically.
  • Prestone European Power Steering Fluid. Prestone designed this fluid and it is specially designed for European cars including BMW.

Car owners sometimes ask if they can use automatic transmission fluid (ATF) instead of power steering fluid. 

ATF fluid can be used in BMW with the word “ATF Fluid” on the power steering fluid cap. And if your owner’s manual recommends the use of ATF or if the words “ATF Fluid Only” are printed on top of the power steering cover, be sure to follow that directive. 

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