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Help blonde (antifreeze in power steering fluid reservoir)

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#1 vieplis



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Posted 09 December 2009 - 06:09 PM

I'm actually not blonde (just checked in the mirror just to be sure), that's just to describe the situation I've put myself and the car in. Just changed oil and air filter on Mk4 2.0 petrol and, happily whistling and being carried away by narcissistic thoughts about what a wonderful thing the DIY maintenance is, checked the fluid levels...

... and filled in a tiny fraction of antifreeze into power steering reservoir. What a brilliant guy I am.

Now, logic step would be to transport the car to the dealer and ask them to sort this out. The trouble is, the dealer I more or less trust is 200km away; while the ones in the neighbourhood are prone to cheating and unreliable quality of work (I've had bad experience with them with Mk1 in the past). Therefore I ask for your advice whether I can save the situation myself, or partially save so that I can drive to dealer I trust.

The facts:
- The added amount of antifreeze is approximately from MIN mark to COLD mark of power steering fluid reservoir;
- I did not start the engine, thus did not engage the power steering pump.
Also, I did not even engage the ignition position I (= did not press POWER button without cluch), may be this matters.
- If the antifreeze is able to penetrate and contaminate power steering fluid (as opposed to just "sitting on top of steering fluid" in the reservoir), then the supply line pipe (= to power steering pump) is relatively safe because of angle of the pipe, meanwhile return line pipe isn't, as it physically goes down to steering rack.

The question:
Would it make any sense to disconnect both pipes (supply and return), collect the escaping fluid, re-connect them and top up the missing amount of power steering fluid?

Or, just the opposite, it wouldn't be that simple because of some vacuum build up, air bubbles, eventual risk of "killing" the pump, etc.?

I understand that the situation and probably also these uneducated questions are daft; however, I shall appreciate any help.

#2 MondeoCat


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Posted 09 December 2009 - 06:21 PM


sorry no answers - but thought i'd get you back on the front page !
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#3 vieplis



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Posted 09 December 2009 - 06:30 PM

Thanks :content:

#4 4titx


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Posted 09 December 2009 - 07:43 PM

HI Janis, I would suggest sucking out as much fluid from the reservoir as possible. I wouldnt have thought that the fluid would have travelled down the pipe unless you topped it up wheil hot and the contraction of the fluid in the pipes drew some fluid from the reservoir in.

As you probably know the reservoir really only acts as a 'header tank'.

Keep tight hold of the wheel just in case any antifreeze did get in and it boils and expands and the car desides to turn suddenly on its own. :whistling: I am joking of course here.


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#5 vieplis



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Posted 09 December 2009 - 09:18 PM

Hi Phil, many, many thanks for your response.

I made an improvised "sucking tool" and sucked out the contents literally to the bottom of reservoir, and topped up.
I'll start the car tomorrow afternoon to see how it behaves then, and drive around (with trembling heart, that's for sure... and with an iron hold of the steering wheel :D ).

Thanks again :content:

P.S. Hopefully, the system was cool enough at the time of wrongful topping up - I laboured the engine for a few minutes 1,5 hours before that and also 2,5 hours before that.

#6 XR6


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Posted 10 December 2009 - 08:40 AM

If you want to absolutely sure, then I'd recommend flushing the power steering. This basically involves removing the return line to the reservoir and running it into a large container. You'd then start the engine, keep pouring fluid into the reservoir to keep it full, and then turn the engine off once it's had a good flush.

If you don't feel brave enough to do this, then any half decent mechanic should be able to do it for you. Just make sure that they use the correct fluid.
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#7 vieplis



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Posted 10 December 2009 - 01:07 PM

Hi XR6,
Thanks for the advice. On the one hand, the only mechanics available in the close neighbourhood are the ones I'd like to avoid, hence the willingness to tinker and braveness to do anything. On the other hand, I'd like to have deeper understanding of what goes on during flushing and how it should be done correctly, hence additional questions.

As I understand from your description, flushing is imitation of normal fluid circulation in the system whereby old fluid from return pipe escapes into dump container and has to be simultaneously substituted by new fluid into reservoir, which then runs towards steering pump. Doing it simultaneously would require assistance of another person. Is this priciple of procedure correct?

If yes, would then the procedure be, as follows?

1. - Disconnect return line pipe from bottom side of the reservoir;
- simultaneously keep dump container under the reservoir to collect the fluid that escapes from the reservoir and return line pipe.

2. [?] Close the reservoir bottom opening (the one where return line pipe was attached) with some improvised blanking cap? [?]

3. Place return line pipe so that the fluid from it goes/ will go into dump container.

4. Top up the reservoir with new fluid up to normal level.
[?] Does reservoir top cap remain removed throughout the whole procedure? [?]

5A. One person starts the engine and slowly turns the steering wheel from lock to lock, meanwhile

5B. - other person simultaneously adds up new liquid so that the level doesn't drop below the MIN mark and
- wathes the colour of the fluid escaping from return line pipe into dump container.

6. As soon as it seems that the new fluid is coming from return line pipe, first person is being told to stop the engine.

7. - Remove the improvised blanking cap from the reservoir bottom opening (fluid from reservoir escapes again);
- re-connect the return line pipe to the reservoir bottom opening;
- top up the reservoir with fluid up to normal level.

I wonder if re-connecting the return line pipe eventually gives room for appearance of air bubbles in the system.
On top of unclarities marked with question marks above, I'm also unsure about how many litres of liquid to buy beforehand; I can't find any references to that anywhere :( .

I shall appreciate any answer.

P.S. I found a youtube video which didn't help at all (additional machinery and specific flushing liquid involved, as well as I didn't see the return line pipe removed), but it evidently features Mk4 Mondeo with 2.0 Duratorq engine. What puzzles me in this video is the red/orange colour of the new fluid, as opposed to blue/green stuff that was in my car's system from new and that's in original Ford WSS-M2C204-A2 liquid bottle. Go figure.

#8 Yobbo


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Posted 10 December 2009 - 07:04 PM

If it was only a teaspoonful I would leave it. If I remember correctly some hydraulic systems use a Glycol based hydraulic fluid anyway. You would need to do some research though.
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#9 XR6


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Posted 12 December 2009 - 10:44 AM

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Firstly, a disclaimer - I'm not a professional mechanic so please don't blame me if something goes wrong! But this is a pretty standard procedure for flushing any kind of hydraulic system.

Firstly, I'd drain the reservoir, if you haven't done so already. If the anitfreeze hasn't mixed with the fluid at all, then you're probably OK and can simply reconnect the return line and refill it after cleaning the reservoir.

Are you sure that the return line goes to the bottom of the reservoir? - I'd expect the lines to be the other way round. You don't want to get this wrong and suck air into the pump.

You'll want to leave the cap off so that you can keep an eye on the fluid level and keep enough fluid in the reservoir while flushing.

Don't turn the steering wheel - the fluid from the pump will not flow through the rack unless you move the wheel so the rack should be OK.

Any air bubbles in the return line should just escape up the pipe, but will be cleared anyway once the pump is running.

I'd make sure you have about twice the capacity of the system. You may not need this much though, as you're not flushing the rack.

Again, if you're not confident doing this, then get it done by your local Ford dealer, even if you need to get the car transported there. I'd hate to think what it could cost to repair the complete system.

And no way would I leave it in there as coolant contains water - did you add water and antifreeze mixed together?
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#10 vieplis



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Posted 13 December 2009 - 06:08 PM

Hi XR6,
thank you for your response. Unfortunately I was not patient enough :( .

your local Ford dealer, even if you need to get the car transported there. I'd hate to think what it could cost to repair the complete system.

As mentioned before, my reluctance to visit local mechanics is not based on grounds of penny-pinching or negligent attitude. I've had a long, bad history with nearest Ford dealers and non-Ford local mechanics in the past which involved all known sorts of car repair rip-offs and combination of superficiality (in terms of work quality) and cheatful greediness (in terms of diagnosis and charging). The outcome has always been either poorly solved or unsolved problem, more damage done to components and systems involved and new damage done to unrelated components and systems, or combination of all of this. Thus, I've always had to drive to 2nd and even 3rd place somewhere away to make the initial and the "added" problems right.

Given the latter, 'm 100% confident that if I transported the car there in the very beginning and asked for plain flushing of power steering system, "imminent need for replacement of steering pump and steering rack" would have been claimed, meanwhile making sure during unasked "diagnosis" that the signs of failure acutally appear, just in case if I claim to give the car back .... or flushed the system so that the hydraulic fluid is all over the auxiliary belt, let air in the system and "forget" the bleeding, wipe off dust from the steering pump and charge for flushing, bleeding and installation of "a refurbished steering pump" ... or similar. I've "been there" numerous times with Mk1s .

Therefore eversince the acquisition of Mk4 I've settled on a distant dealer whose actions are more or less predictable (although I had to clean the engine oil spilled during the last oil change which had nearly made its way into alternator, and I hate the way they speed customers' cars over the speed bumps in their territory). However, it is far enough to render the transporting costs un-viable in case like this and eventual on-the-road breakdown cases in the future, as the car gets older.

Are you sure that the return line goes to the bottom of the reservoir? - I'd expect the lines to be the other way round.

Yes, it most probably is so. My inital description was based only on observation of outer connections to the reservoir - the supply line joins the reservoir at the bottom of the side wall, while the return line joins it on the very bottom of the reservoir. However, when having a look in reservoir through the top opening, there's a white round plastic part approximately at COLD mark level which covers view to middle-bottom area of the reservoir. This white round plastic part probably hides vertical extension of return line which probably ends at higher level inside the reservoir than the supply line pipe. The misadventures described below prove it.

The spoonful of antifreeze that I initally added to hydraulic fluid unfortunately was WSS-M97B44-D antifreeze, mixed 1:1 with water for -37ºC, as indicated on label. Thus, there was water. I wish I recalled and mentioned earlier in first post.

Now, back to voluntary actions I undertook until reading your last post and the consequences thereof:

- I sucked out literally all the fluid from the reservoir with improvised sucking tool and filled new hydraulic fluid. The tool was clean, unused trigger sprayer; straw end placed in the reservoir, spray end tucked in PET bottle. "Literally all" means everything down to side/bottom edge where supply line joins the reservoir. That's approximately 190 mililitres.

- Assumed that all foreign matters had been removed and replaced by clean hydraulic fluid, started the engine and drove around approximately 10mls (15km).

- Returned and checked the reservoir. The fluid was milky - a sign of water contamination. Some part the added spoonful of antifreeze/water mix obviously got into return line pipe and remained there after 1st sucking out. It would have wiser to discard the fluid from reservoir by diconnecting the return line pipe.

- Given my illiteracy on how to proceed with flushing properly, panic stepped in and I decided to repeat the "suck - fill - start the engine and engage the steering - stop the engine" procedure as many times as needed, until the added fluid gradually replaces the dirty fluid.

- Did so for 8 times, sometimes just starting the engine and turning the wheels, sometimes driving around the block.

- After the 3rd fill-up rotated through the system (including the 1st initial fill-up), the milky look largely disappeared, although there were few visible stains protruding into the new hydraulic fluid whilst topping-up.

- After the 6th fill-up rotated through the system, even the smallest stains disappeared.

- I still repeated the procedure 2 more times and drove around a bit to watch and listen to behaviour of the steering.

8 times means that approximately 1,5 litres of hydraulic fluid had been gradually rotated through the system. The steering behaved as usual during driving around and parking, there weren't any strange noises at any point.

As I understand it now, lethal share of water contaminant run through pump and rack for more than 10 miles. I assume that, irregardlesss of repeated sucking method applied thereafter, I can expect imminent steering system failure at any moment in the future.

I haven't moved the car for the past 2 days, as I'm very busy with coin flipping in order to choose between proper flushing myself, driving to far-away dealer or visiting a hairdresser to change the hair colour to more appropriate one.

No mattter how I hate this blonde topic, I promise to report here when/if the pump and/or rack fails.