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#2483070 - 01/05/12 06:29 AM "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes?
VicVinegar Offline

Registered: 12/28/11
Posts: 674
Loc: Northern Virginia
I've been trying to get educated on doing a better job of maintaining my vehicles (while not blowing a ton of cash) and read plenty of threads on various forums where guys are just sucking out fluid with a turkey baster and refilling. Is this really good enough?

I'm specifically asking in regards to power steering and brake fluid. The shop I'm going to tomorrow is recommending a PS service where they "clean" the system using some BG product and I'm thinking that might not be the best idea for a 12 year old car with 180k on it. For the record, these guys don't appear "flush happy", they did recommend the proper drain and fill for the transmission where I've seen other shops just go "flush it!"

This is the first time the PS fluid has been changed, and to me, doing an "extract and fill" a couple times sounds like a safer way to get fresh fluid in there. Pumping some cleanser through the old system sounds risky. I know the turkey baster technique won't get 100% of the fluid out, but is that really necessary? The Honda service manual basically recommends dumping the resevoir and turning the wheel to force more fluid out of the system, then refilling and the "extract and fill" doesn't sound too far off from that. Maybe I'd only get 75% of the fluid instead of 90%? One other note, this is just to get the old fluid out for good measure, it isn't in response to any performance issues or strange noise from the power steering.

I am thinking that a complete exchange of the brake fluid on a 12 year old car would be more beneficial since the fluid is hygroscopic and with an old system there is probably a higher chance of some contamination. I appreciate your thoughts.

#2483085 - 01/05/12 06:52 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
JHZR2 Offline

Registered: 12/14/02
Posts: 35030
Loc: New Jersey
Steering fluid that's ok as a quick swap of some fluid. For brakes, you need to do that so that when you flush, you're not putting old, wet fluid through, but you do need to flush at the calipers...

#2483086 - 01/05/12 06:54 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
Hokiefyd Offline

Registered: 06/24/04
Posts: 12021
Loc: North Carolina
I use the turkey baster all the time. I got used to doing it on our Chrysler minivans because the power steering would get loud if you didn't change the ATF+4 in the systems often enough. I've done numerous turkey baster PS fluid changes on our Hondas as well. I'd much rather extract one reservoir's volume of fluid out and replace, instead of having a shop "power flush" the system with some unknown chemical, especially if particular OE fluids are called for.

It sounds like you have a Honda. One bottle of Honda PS fluid should be good for two reservoir volumes. Do it once and drive around the block and then do it again. I will treat the PS fluid like the transmission fluid...I'll simply do a "drain and refill" once every 15,000 miles. You get about a third of the fluid out each time you do it, but over time you keep the fluid freshened up.

2008 Honda CR-V EX-L (Peak 0W-20)
2005 Acura MDX Touring (VNG 5W-20)

#2483091 - 01/05/12 07:06 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
Jim Allen Offline

Registered: 08/12/05
Posts: 4477
Loc: NW Ohio
To the turkey baster idea I say, "Better than nothing but not really good enough." My comments below are biased towards DIY work.

Overall, doing all this on a 12 year old car at 180K is a little late in the game. Should have been done at 30K ( : < ). I'm not sure these "heroic measures" will add a great deal to the life of the car or the components being discussed at this point. I have a 12 year old car too (bought new) but all this stuff was done regularly (a couple of times now). My car has been trouble free, still has the original steering and all the brake components (pads & rotors too) but has only half that mileage on it so maybe I was wasting my time ( ; < ( in a sving money sense (car is an 2000 Honda Accord).

In the case of the power steering, you are dealing with an unfiltered lubricant in a relatively sensitive environment. If one were to UOA the oil every six months or so, as well as doing a particle count, the likelihood is higher that a condemnation level would first be reached over the oil cleanliness/contaminant load rather than the oil itself being used up. I think the turkey baster method would have more merit if you KNEW it was the oil rather than the contaminant load that was the problem. A pint of new oil in a 4 pint system will greatly bolster the additive package but the effects on the contaminant load would be much less. Based on the PS oil UOA's I've done, it would seem the factory fill will be the one to do a full fluid exchange on because you will have assembly and manufacturing contamination as well as the break-in junk. Once that is removed, the contamination from normal wear may not be so rapid and the turkey baster would be a way to extend the PSF OCI. Even better, install a return line filter (Google Magnefine) and have the best of all worlds. A PS fluid exchange is relatively easy to do on most cars. If not, then the baster idea will have to do.

I have no opinion about a PS flush, other than to note that in my experience, a fluid exchange is more than enough. I don't trust some flush products but BG has some good products that I would trust more than others. If you end up with a full fluid exchange, you'll probably end up just peachy but will have paid a little more for something you may not have needed (vs a simple fluid exhange).

Brake fluid is less about contamination and more about the fluid and how it breaks down and reaches a phase separation point (when it has absorbed all the moisture it can). There was a great discussion on this a few months ago debating whether the fresh fluid from a reservoir baster suck actually makes it down to the calipers or not. I don't know enough to have a strong opinion, but having rebuilt a lot of calipers and wheel cylinder in my days as a professional tech, I can report anecdotally that if the brake fluid is changed regularly, and fully, via bleeding, the system remains very clean and corrosion free for a long time. If not, it doesn't. I haven't seen a brake system that I know was maintained by the turkey baster method for comparison.

Edited by Jim Allen (01/05/12 07:07 AM)
Jim Allen
Keepin' the Good Old Days of Four Wheeling Alive

#2483101 - 01/05/12 07:36 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
Kuato Offline

Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 3454
Loc: Houston TX for the moment
IMO since there is no manufacturer's recommendation for changing the power steering fluid, any fluid change is good.

I've used the TB method for several years, with good results. True that it doesn't remove all the fluid in one shot, but do it once and drive a week or two, then repeat twice. Result = cleaner fluid.

Edited by Kuato (01/05/12 07:36 AM)

Going to start using metric...

04 Jeep Wrangler 2.4 MT 186k
Shopping, F150 gone

Lots of idiots in the world. Sometimes I'm one of them.

#2483109 - 01/05/12 07:53 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
ac_tc Offline

Registered: 05/06/08
Posts: 557
Loc: sweden
It works fairly good and you can do it as often as you please wich is far better than ever...
I do it every second engine oilchange, suck the oil out and pour in some new . the first time i did this i was surprised how the oil looked that came out, black and sooty...after the first cleaning,ie 3 changes with just turning the wheels from side to side 3 times it has always been red and nice....
-98 Dodge Durango 5.9 4*4 HDEO 10w- 40 ci4
-04 PT Cruser GT 10w- 40 HDEO ci4
-Everything else HDEO 10w- 40 ci4/STOU 10w-30/THF

#2483159 - 01/05/12 08:58 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
tig1 Offline

Registered: 01/03/09
Posts: 10255
Loc: Illinois
I have done the turkey baster way for at least 20-25 years. I do it with every 10K oil change. The fluid in the PS pump and master cyl. always stays clean. Also it must work well as I have never had a PS pump or master cyl or brake caliper fail.
2007 Ford Fusion 150,000 miles
M1 0-20 AFE
2007 Ford Focus 134,000 miles
M1 0-20 AFE
10,000 mile OCIs on both engines
M1 10-30 in all OPE

#2483181 - 01/05/12 09:27 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
bepperb Offline

Registered: 01/10/08
Posts: 4923
Loc: Milwaukee, WI
Shampoo bottle pump it out, fill it back up. Not a huge deal. Why jerk around with expensive cleaning products and hose clamps if you don't have to?
2004 Highlander 2.4
2011 Toyota Sienna 3.5
Recently Gone:
2006 Accord 2.4l K24A8
1993 Kawi EX 500

#2483209 - 01/05/12 10:06 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: bepperb]
satinsilver Offline

Registered: 01/24/08
Posts: 2915
Loc: Ohio
Make sure you use Honda ps fluid or one that is made for Honda ps systems. Even the older guy at Walmart mentioned this when I was looking for some ps fluid. The guys at the Honda dealer would always give me a funny look whenever I mentioned anything about the ps system. Kind of like I had a horn growing out of my forehead and I'm on very good terms with them. First question they would always ask is if I'm having any problems with it then they would say just leave it alone and top it off if needed.

A guy I know who works on these cars for a living and is very knowledgeable has the original fluid in his 98 Accord with 250k miles. All the other fluids he changes often but not this one.

#2483230 - 01/05/12 10:27 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
ronbo Offline

Registered: 04/04/07
Posts: 659
Loc: western ny, usa
Do a search on, I believe in the Camry section, a gent did a write up a few years ago with pics. Like doing an IV and getting all fluid out with basic equipment. A great write up/system.

#2483250 - 01/05/12 10:43 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
mechtech2 Offline

Registered: 09/05/06
Posts: 19479
Loc: Chicago Area
Sure -TB flushes can be very beneficial.
At worst, better than it was before.

Of course, a TBF is not as good as a real flush.

#2483303 - 01/05/12 11:26 AM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: mechtech2]
tig1 Offline

Registered: 01/03/09
Posts: 10255
Loc: Illinois
Originally Posted By: mechtech2
Sure -TB flushes can be very beneficial.
At worst, better than it was before.

Of course, a TBF is not as good as a real flush.

The key to doing the TBF is do it as a matter of routine. Just once doesn't accomplish much.
2007 Ford Fusion 150,000 miles
M1 0-20 AFE
2007 Ford Focus 134,000 miles
M1 0-20 AFE
10,000 mile OCIs on both engines
M1 10-30 in all OPE

#2483423 - 01/05/12 01:19 PM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: Kuato]
HTSS_TR Offline

Registered: 04/17/06
Posts: 13753
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Kuato
IMO since there is no manufacturer's recommendation for changing the power steering fluid, any fluid change is good.

I've used the TB method for several years, with good results. True that it doesn't remove all the fluid in one shot, but do it once and drive a week or two, then repeat twice. Result = cleaner fluid.

I did the TB method when my E430 made noise whenever the steering was turned at more than 15-20 degree either left or right when the engine was warm.

I used 1 quart Maxlife PSF, do the TB method in the evening and drove the car to work as normal and do TB again the next day, repeat the TB method until the quart was empty.

The noise was gone just before the last TB method was done, since then the noise doesn't come back for 2 years. I plan to do the TB method again this summer with Maxlife PSF.
'94 LS400
'00 E430
'04 S2000
"Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry" Pop Francis

#2483548 - 01/05/12 02:51 PM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: VicVinegar]
rjacket Offline

Registered: 05/15/10
Posts: 1107
Loc: CA
Power Steering:

1) If it is not on the manufacturer's maintenance it is a less critical item
2) Turkey baster is fine and actually cleans better when the system is dirty because the cleaning is gradual
3) A few treatments will end up changing a high % of the fluid. If your reservoir is 50% of your total capacity, then 1 change means 50% new, 2 changes mean 75% new, 3 changes mean 87.5% new.
4) Do the procedure several times until you are extracting fluid that looks the same as what you are putting in. Allow some time between treatments for maximum cleaning.

I did this on a 7.5 year old car that had only had top ups. For me, 1 quart of fluid equalled 3 reservoir drain and fills and meant that I now have 70% new fluid in the entire system. It is now as clean as the original fluid being put in.

Brake fluid needs a complete fill and drain at the calipers. You want only new fluid in the entire system.

#2484033 - 01/05/12 08:49 PM Re: "Turkey Baster" Fluid Changes? [Re: rjacket]
VicVinegar Offline

Registered: 12/28/11
Posts: 674
Loc: Northern Virginia
Thank you for the responses. Good information. It seems my gut feeling on the PS fluid was in line with what most folks here said. I won't be flushing any PS system tomorrow. Same with the idea the brakes need to be completely changed. That one, I really didn't think was "TB-able", but was curious because I've read about folks doing it (not here).

Mentioning the 250k Accord on the original fluid raised an interesting point. From what I've read, Honda had no interval recommended for my Civic on PS fluid. In fact, guys on the Civic boards I read were surprised at being repeatedly told by the dealer they didn't need the fluid changed during maintenance visits. On the other hand, I can't imagine spending the few bucks on a turkey baster and some Honda fluid and sucking it out would have a negative effect. I do agree though that if there is damage, the damage is done. I just don't get the impression there is any damage at this point. Like I said, no noises, no issue with effort, fluid has never needed to be added. I just figured it couldn't hurt to get the old stuff out, or most of it anyway.

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