Car Steering And How It Works
What Is A Car Steering
The basic aim of car steering is to ensure that the wheels are pointing in the desired direction to move the vehicle as required. This is typically achieved by a series of linkages, rods, pivots and gears.
Components of the Steering System
The basic parts of the steering system are the same for all cars and trucks
a. steering wheel
b. steering columns
c. universal joint
d. rack housing
f. Tie rods
The wheel connects to the steering column, which runs through the engine block, past the engine, and connects with the universal joint. The joint connects with the steering shaft and the shaft to the rest of the system on the axle. All steering systems in any vehicle function the same way, but there are variations on the technology.
Types Of Car Steering
1. Rack-and-pinion steering: Your average car or truck likely utilizes a rack-and-pinion steering system. This simple system is made up of two main parts: the rack, a horizontal piece of metal with teeth along the top side, and the pinion gear, a round gear at the end of the steering shaft that interlocks with the teeth of the rack. This mechanical system is typically set inside of a tube. As you turn your steering wheel, the steering shaft and pinion gear turn with it. This will then shift the rack to one side or another, causing the tie rod ends to move the spindles and wheels in the desired direction.
The number of teeth on the pinion gear will have an impact on your steering as well. Fewer teeth will make it easier to turn the steering wheel, but will require more rotations to complete a sharp turn. More teeth will give you a quicker sharp turn but will require a bit more strength to complete. Most modern cars will pair this steering system with a power steering system to reduce the effort needed to complete turns.
2. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering: As mentioned, many modern vehicles that make use of rack-and-pinion steering will also be paired with a power steering system. This pairing is known as power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. This system includes a cylinder and piston located on the rack. The piston is connected to power steering lines on both sides. The lines provide a pathway for power steering fluid to be delivered from a power steering pump, located outside of the rack. As you turn your steering wheel, a rotary valve on the power steering pump directs more power steering fluid to that particular side of the piston, which helps ease the steering. When driving in a straight line, the rotary valve will ensure equal amounts of pressure on both sides of the piston.
More advanced systems may vary the amount of fluid pressure based on additional factors, such as vehicle speed, turning force, or vehicle weight/load. As a result of the power-assist, you are able to turn easier when driving at low speeds (such as when parking) and have greater control when traveling at highway speeds.
3. Recirculating ball steering: Before the advent of power steering, recirculating ball steering was the steering system of choice. The recirculating ball system accomplishes the same tasks as the rack-and-pinion system with some key differences. Instead of teeth, the recirculating ball system utilizes a worm gear – a long spiral similar to that of a bolt. This system still has a steering shaft that turns as you rotate the steering wheel, only that the shaft now turns the worm gear instead of a pinion. The worm gear is inserted inside of a metal box with teeth in it. The teeth of the metal block then transfers the motion to a sector gear – a gear which has teeth on only one side.
The sector gear then turns a lever known as the pitman arm, which attaches itself to the steering linkage. This linkage is made up of inner and outer tie rods that are connected to the spindles, which complete the turning motion. Inside of the metal block exists many tiny ball bearings. The ball bearings reduce friction between the worm gear and the teeth, as well as eliminate the slack between the bolts and threads. This is where the name “recirculating ball” comes from.
Power steering components may also be combined with the recirculating ball system to add steering assistance. This operates in a similar way as the power-assisted rack-and-pinion system – where pressurized power steering fluid is applied to a certain side of the block to ease the steering in that direction.
4. Electric power steering: No matter what steering system your vehicle utilizes, the alignment is crucial to the function of your steering. Poor alignment can cause a variety of issues, including but not limited to your vehicle pulling to one side, vehicle staying off center after completing a turn, and veering to one side after hitting a bump. There are three alignment angles in a steering system: the toe, the camber, and the caster. They are interconnected and impact your tire wear and affect your car’s handling.
Power steering system in cars
In simple words, the power steering system reduces the strength required to turn the steering wheel. A driver doesn’t have to put too much effort to turn the wheels while driving. Before the inclusion of power steering, driving a car used to require too much arm strength while steering.
The steering wheel is the contact point between the driver and a car. The driver applies the twisting force to the steering wheel in order to rotate it.
But how does power steering in cars work from the inside? A power steering mechanism works in the following steps:
1: The input given by the driver to the steering wheel rotates the steering column.
2: The motion then transfers from the steering column to the pinion and rack through the universal joint.
3: The pinion and rack contain two gears and turn the car wheels in the desired direction.
Difference between power steering and manual steering
Below are the key differences between power steering and manual steering systems.
1. Power steering
a. Power steering in cars offers assistance to decrease the manual strength necessary for steering.
b. Power steering doesn’t allow the wheel resistance to reach the steering wheel, making steering quicker.
c. Power steering helps to absorb shocks on uneven road surfaces.
d. Vehicle drivers can easily control the steering wheel.
2. Manual steering
a. A manual steering system requires the driver to provide the entire force alone for steering.
b. Manual steering is slower as compared to power steering due to the difference in wheel movement resistance.
c. Manual steering is less effective than power steering in terms of absorbing shocks on uneven surfaces.
d. Vehicle drivers feel difficulty in controlling the manual system of steering as compared to a power steering system.
Types of power steering
Most modern cars offer power steering as a feature. A power steering system can be of three types, as explained below.
1. Hydraulic power steering: Hydraulic power steering was the first type of power steering system introduced in cars. The hydraulic pump supplies pressurized fluid to the steering rack, reducing the strength required to steer the vehicle.
Below are the key factors of how a hydraulic power steering system works.
a. The hydraulic pump obtains power and direction from an engine-drive part called the serpentine belt.
b. When the driver applies force to turn the steering wheel, the hydraulic pump sends the high-pressure fluid to the rack from the reservoir.
c. The fluid is always delivered to the opposite direction of steering. For example, if the driver is turning the car left, the fluid will reach the right-hand piston to reduce the driver’s effort.
2. Electric power steering: Today, most of the car models in the market come with an electric power steering system. It is because of the better efficiency that electric steering offers. This type of power steering uses electrical energy to ease the working of the steering assembly. A bi-directional magnet motor remains permanently attached to the steering gear or the steering column.
Here are the key factors of how an electric power steering system works.
a. When the driver turns the steering wheel, a sensor detects that movement and turns on the electric motor.
b. The electric motor gives assistance in the direction where the driver wants to turn the steering wheel.
3. Electro-hydraulic power steering: As the name suggests, an electro-hydraulic power steering system uses the elements of both electric and hydraulic steering systems. The structure matches with a hydraulic system except for the serpentine belt. Instead of the serpentine belt, this system uses an electric motor for steering assistance.
Electric power steering vs hydraulic power steering
If you compare the workings of both kinds of steering systems, the following differences become clearly visible.
a. Hydraulic power steering is much more complex than an electric power steering system.
b. A hydraulic power steering system requires more maintenance than an electric system.
c. The parts used in electric power steering systems require less space and weigh less than hydraulic power steering systems.
d. An electric power steering system uses sensors to deliver accurate assistance based on the driving conditions. It is not possible with hydraulic power steering.
e. A hydraulic power steering requires 90% more power from the car’s engine than the electric system.
Common Steering Problem
Steering problems can get worse over time or suddenly appear. Steering problems are dangerous because they make it more difficult for the driver to safely operate the vehicle. Common steering problems can include:
1. Difficulty in turning the wheel, especially at rest or lower speeds. This may be caused by a problem with power steering, low power steering fluid, a fluid leak, or worn parts.
2. Lack of response from the steering wheel or looseness. This can be caused by worn parts in the steering system.
3. Steering wheel vibration or shaking. Vibrations and shaking can get worse over time, when turning, or at high speed. In some vehicles, extreme shaking can be called a speed wobble or “death wobble.” Extreme shaking can make it difficult to control the vehicle and increase the risk of an accident, especially at high speed.
4. Drifting or tracking problems. When a vehicle tends to steer to the left or right, does not maintain a straight course, or is stiff in returning to the center, this could make it more difficult for the driver to maintain control, increasing the likelihood of getting into an accident.
5. Grinding noises. This can be a steering gear issue or related to worn or damaged parts.
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