New power steering fluid is clear, amber or reddish-pink in color. It can turn dark brown or black due to oxidization or contamination by pieces of metal and rubber or become foamy due to aeration.
The color of new power steering fluid depends on the dye in it and does not affect the fluid’s physical properties or the car’s performance. New fluid is moderately thick and has a subtle, mechanical smell. Contaminated power steering fluid has a burned smell and indicates a problem with the steering rack and pump. Foamy fluid indicates that the fluid level is too low or the shaft seal is leaking. The color of power steering fluid can be determined by dabbing it with a paper towel or looking directly into the reservoir that holds the fluid.