As children, nothing felt more exciting than sitting in a loved one’s lap and pretending to steer. We would round corners and travel to imaginary places in the blink of an eye. Now, nothing feels more exhilarating than adjusting the mirrors, grasping the steering wheel, and hitting the accelerator. Hands on a steering wheel signify power, the power to feel in control and choose the destination. A problem in the steering system strips away power and leaves us in the hands of fate.

What Does the Steering System Do?

The steering system serves two primary functions for the driver:

  1. to change the direction of the vehicle
  2. to allow the driver to use minimal force and effort when changing the direction

The steering system allows the driver to round corners, make turns,  and travel to his or her destination. Without the second key function of the steering system, a five minute drive would feel like a total body workout. The easy steering provides a more efficient, less strenuous way to maneuver the vehicle. A highly responsive vehicle makes the roads safer for everyone.

Currently, two types of steering systems dominate the automotive industry: the rack-and-pinion system and the recirculating-ball system.

The Rack-and-Pinion Steering System

The rack-and-pinion system is the most common type of steering system. Cars, SUVs, and small trucks often have rack-and-pinion steering systems. In the rack-and pinion system, the steering shaft coordinates with the movement of the steering wheel. When the driver turns the steering wheel, the steering shaft turns with it and causes a gear to turn as well. The gear moves the rack from side to side, which ultimately causes the vehicle’s wheels to turn.

The Recirculating-Ball Steering System

Most large trucks and SUVs function with a recirculating-ball steering system. In the recirculating-ball steering system, the steering wheel shaft connects to a gear assembly.  When the driver turns the steering wheel, the steering shaft turns a bolt. The turning motion of the bolt moves the block that the steering shaft is attached to while moving a gear that turns the wheels.

 Explore the Steering Section as well as the Steering animation. 

Signs to Have the Steering Checked

The steering system should be checked if the vehicle exhibits any of the following signs:

  • An unusual noise results when turning the steering wheel.
  • The steering wheel shimmies or shakes.
  • The steering seems less responsive than normal in low speeds or during parking.
  • The steering does not return to the center properly.
  • Power steering fluid is leaking.

Maintaining a Healthy Steering System

Power steering fluid is vital to maintaining a healthy steering system because it makes it easier for the driver to steer the vehicle. Without power steering fluid, the driver must apply a greater amount of force to turn the wheels of the vehicle. Low power steering makes a right hand turn feel more like a test of strength, and a left turn feels like a heavy weight competition. Power steering fluid should be checked periodically and added to when necessary. If the power steering fluid seems to drain frequently, there could be a leak or component that needs replacing.

Besides maintaining power steering fluid levels, the driver of a vehicle should receive routine power steering flushes. Over time, dirt and other contaminants enter the power steering fluid, which causes the fluid to loose effectiveness and efficiency. At Hopewell Tire & Auto Repair, we recommend that a vehicle receives a power steering flush approximately every 30,000 miles. Routinely checking the power steering fluid level and maintaining a regular power steering fluid flush schedule preserves the overall health of the steering system, and allows the driver to find damage that could lead to more expensive repairs.

Hopewell Tire and Auto Repair is your local Athens GA expect on Steering Systems for your Car or Truck.

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