An Overview Of A Vehicle’s Steering System And Its Various Parts
In this article, we have put together an easy overview of the anatomy of a vehicle’s steering system, its function and the individual components that work together to enable you to steer your car efficiently.
There are various types of steering systems but for the purposes of this article, we will discuss the rack and pinion steering system as this is the most popular steering system in modern vehicles today, as well as take a brief look into how power steering systems work.
WHAT IS THE BASIC FUNCTION OF THE STEERING SYSTEM
The basic function of your car’s steering system is to allow you, the driver, to steer as safely and precisely as possible, maintaining full control of the steering wheel at all times. It takes a good quality steering system and good quality steering parts, coupled with a well-designed suspension, to attain excellent handling of your vehicle.
The vehicle's steering system should allow you to turn at your will, offer directional stability, convert the rotary movement of the steering wheel into an angular turn of the front wheels, and absorb road shock from being transmitted to your hands.
THE RACK AND PINION STEERING SYSTEM
As mentioned earlier, the most popular steering system utilised in many modern cars is a rack and pinion steering system. The rack and pinion consists of multiple components including universal joints, main and intermediate shafts, and at the centre is the steering rack or gearbox.
The steering rack receives input from the driver (via steering wheel and steering column) and then sends a mechanical signal to the tie rods ends and the steering shafts to enable the vehicle to make smooth and efficient left and right turns.
HOW DOES THE STEERING SYSTEM WORK
At its most fundamental level, a vehicle’s steering system consists of 3 main components, collectively known as the steering system. These are the:
Steering column assembly
THE STEERING WHEEL is mounted directly onto the steering column assembly which is linked to rods, pivots and gears that allows you to change the direction of the front wheels. In other words it responds to your steering input and relays the information to the rest of the steering system.
THE STEERING COLUMN ASSEMBLY is responsible for various functions and can be broken down into the Steering Column Housing, the Steering Column and the Intermediate Shaft.
Steering column housing is the upper portion of the assembly where you will find all the internal electrical wiring and inner mechanisms of the steering wheel switches, such as multi-function switch, window wiper switch, ignition switch, indicator switch, headlight switch, hooter, etc).
Steering column is the lower portion of the steering column assembly, located near your foot rest. It is a solid metal shaft that connects the steering wheel to the steering mechanism (steering rack), thereby transferring movement from the steering wheel to the vehicle’s front wheels. Its main function is to take the rotational motion from the steering wheel and transfer it down to the steering rack below. When you turn the steering wheel, the steering column turns accordingly, which simultaneously turns the steering rack. The lower part of the steering column connects to the intermediate shaft.
Collapsible steering column
The steering column has a remarkable safety feature that could mean the difference between a life or death if you are involved in a head-on collision and that is the collapsible mechanisms that are built into the design. It is part The steering column actually collapses during heavy frontal impact, preventing it from impaling the driver.
This design consists of a smaller inner sleeve that fits inside the outer sleeve, which is basically a large hollow tube. The inner and outer tubes are held together firmly by steel bearings and resin glue. During a frontal collision the resin absorbs a significant amount of the impact (which reduces the force that would have hit you), and then shatters into tiny pieces. Without the resins holding the steel bearings in place, the inner sleeve retracts and collapses into the bigger hollow sleeve like a telescope which slows down the time of impact.
The Intermediate shaft has universal joints on each end that rotate freely while inclined at an angle.It is these mechanical hinges that allow the steering column to be connected to the steering rack at a slight angle. This is how the steering column and intermediate shaft are connected together at an angle without losing any of the rotational energy from the steering wheel. The shaft turns as you turn the steering wheel and actuates the gearbox which turns the wheels.
THE STEERING RACK
The steering rack, part of the rack and pinion steering system, is an assembly in your car that allows for the rotation of the wheels from side to side when you turn the steering wheel. It is essentially the heart of the steering system with its main function being to convert rotational motion to lateral motion and make for easier steering through gear reduction. The rack is a bar that runs parallel to the front axle that moves left or right when the steering wheel is turned, aiming the front wheels in the correct direction and the pinion is a small gear at the end of the vehicle's steering column that engages the rack.
LET’S TALK ABOUT POWER STEERING
Now we have a fairly good idea as to how the steering system works, let’s explore power steering systems seeing that nowadays it is a commonplace feature in even the most entry-level cars produced today.
Power steering also referred to as power-assisted steering (PAS), is a mechanism that helps drivers to steer, turn the steering wheel and manoeuvre the vehicle more easily at lower speeds. It works pretty much the same as a non-power assisted, rack and pinion steering rack but with added components, either hydraulic (engine controlled) or electric (computer-controlled) power steering components.
THE CRITICAL COMPONENTS IN A MODERN POWER STEERING SYSTEM
The Power Steering Pump
The pump is responsible for pressurising the hydraulic fluid that helps the driver turn the steering wheel.
The Pump Pulley
The power steering pump sits in the path of the vehicle’s serpentine belt, which runs over a pulley (the pump pulley) on the power steering pump. As the pump pulley turns, it engages the power steering pump to keep the power steering functional.
The Steering Coupler
The steering coupler, which also includes a cylindrical rubber bushing, is a device that allows for rotation of the steering wheel without binding up with the column. This is important because the input shaft and steering column sit at a slight angle to each other.
Tie rod ends
Tie rod ends are located near the steering knuckles at the end of the steering rack and are responsible for translating the motion of the rack into turning the car's front wheels. When the car hits a pothole, for example, they rotate horizontally to steer the input translation and pivot vertically and diagonally.
The Rotary Valve
The rotary valve senses any force applied to the vehicle’s steering wheel and directs the flow of hydraulic fluid to the side of the power steering system in which you are turning.
Power steering Hoses
These hoses connect the steering pump to the rack-and-pinion assembly where the pressurised fluid assists in pushing the rack left and right.
LOOKING FOR REPLACEMENT STEERING SYSTEM PARTS?
Whatever car you drive, quality auto steering parts will always support a flawless drive. What you put into your car is what you will get out. When you are looking for new or replacement steering system parts including power steering pumps, steering shafts and columns, steering racks, idler arms, axial rods, tie rod ends, drag links, centre arms, steering rack gaiter kits, tie rod assemblies, and wheel end bearings to name a few, we recommend you steer your way to AfricaBoyz Online and view the best online deals you will find. All parts - All cars - All makes - All models! All are couriered directly to your door. AfricaBoyz Online is a highly reputable and trustworthy online car parts shop that offers quality parts, great prices and customer service second to none!
Happy shopping and safe driving!