Steering in cars today have evolved substantially from the days where we all drove cars with manual steering.
They were heavy to drive and difficult to manoeuvre, particularly at low speeds or when the vehicle was stationary.
The main component we use is the same, the steering wheel, yes the design has altered over the years but its function remains the same.
It connects to the remainder of the steering system and eventually to the wheels of the car, we turn the wheel to the left and the car turns to the left, turn it to the right, the car turns to the right and at the centre position we drive straight ahead.
Many other components of the steering and suspension system ensure the vehicle behaves the way we expect it to when the steering wheel is turned.
A point to note is when you turn your car your wheels don’t actually point in an identical angle if they did the car would be hard to turn and difficult to control.
This is because the car has to follow two different curves to go around a simple bend.
So the steering system must accommodate the severity of the bend and react so both wheels are making the correct arc, permitting the cabin of the vehicle to go around the bend safely and comfortably.
For those technically inclined it is called the “Ackermann angle”
The two basic systems
Steering systems can be broken down to two basic types, “Steering box” and the “Rack and pinion style”.
Each of these types are now usually power-assisted in some form depending on the manufacturer and design of the remainder of the system.
The advent of power steering has meant the vehicle can be safely manoeuvred with very little effort from the driver.
We have all tried to turn the wheels of a car with the engine turned off and felt the extra effort just to turn the wheels, so having a power steering system functioning correctly is a necessity for the safe driving of your vehicle and certainly a welcome advance to drivers.
These systems were hydraulically powered and required a pump (running off the engine), hoses to and from the steering unit and the unit itself. All subject to extreme heat and pressure, so it wasn’t unusual for the system to require some form of servicing every 2nd year.
Your mechanic would inspect the system for leaks and damage when the vehicle was undergoing its usual service.
In fact, some businesses specialise in providing power-steering unit servicing for the trade because it is has become such an intricate field.
Electronic Power Steering
Many newer vehicles are now fitted with electric power steering, these operate off an electric motor to run the system only when the steering wheel is turned versus a hydraulic pump that was constantly operating (dragging power from the engine and fuel economy)
With this system, the computer detects the turn required and the speed of the vehicle and adjusts the power to suit the situation, add into the mix lane control technology and the system is dramatically more efficient and responsive to the driver’s needs.
It is also much cheaper to manufacture so vehicle builders are changing to this technology at a rapid rate.
As to whether it is better or not, the jury is still out on that question, We will have to see wait and see just what problems these new type of systems develop as they get older and how to deal with them.
Does my steering system still require maintenance?
The steering system is just one part of your vehicle safety systems and must properly work on conjunction with many other systems if the vehicle is to corner and brake efficiently, so yes all steering systems do require inspection and maintenance from time to time and your local Future Auto Service Centre operator can advise you on what is required for your vehicle.
Sometimes it may be a simple flush of the system (if it is hydraulic) other times it may require more extensive repairs.
Ignoring steering faults is costly, dangerous and they won’t repair themselves, so if you are experiencing difficulty with your system or hearing unusual noises when cornering talk with our staff and get the problem investigated.