Steering System

The automobile steering system is one of the most critically important elements in the safe functioning of a vehicle; bring your car to Mike's Service Auto Body in Narragansett, Rhode Island for inspection and maintenance of all parts of the steering system.

1The steering wheel and column are the most conspicuous parts of the system, jammed packed with controls that must all operate properly.

The automobile steering wheel attaches to the steering column. A ratchet joint in the steering column allows tilt options for the steering wheel. Attached to the steering wheel and steering column are many other controls, such as the horn, cruise control, light controls, controls for window washers and wipers, etc. Sometimes airbags are mounted inside the center of the steering wheel. The steering wheel is connected to the front wheels of the car, allowing the driver to control the turns of the vehicle.

Many things must happen instantly and correctly when the driver turns the steering wheel which, through gears and connections of various kinds, turns the automobile’s wheels. The speed of the vehicle, the angle of the turn, the condition of the road—all these affect the mechanisms of the steering system.

One form of steering gear is the rack and pinion.

Connected to the steering shaft is a gear called a pinion, which turns another gear called a rack. Attached to the end of the rack is a tie rod that connects to the steering arm of the wheel mechanism. When you turn your automobile’s steering wheel, the pinion moves, turning the rack, which then turns the wheel. Rack and pinion steering provides gear reduction, making turning the wheels easier. It has fewer parts than older systems.

Power steering with rack and pinion has a piston and pump to make steering easier.

With power steering the rack and pinion system provides easier steering by utilizing an engine-driven pump to supply high-pressure hydraulic fluid to the steering rack when the wheel is turned. Hoses, seals, o-rings, and other parts can wear out, start to leak hydraulic fluid, and steering will be affected.

Another form of steering is recirculating-ball steering, used on many trucks and SUVs.

1The steering wheel connects to a threaded rod that is fixed rigidly into a hole in a block. When the steering wheel turns, it turns the rod, which turns the block, which moves the gear that turns the wheels. Ball bearings recirculate through the gear as it turns, reducing friction and wear in the gear, and keeping the steering tight. Power steering in a recirculating-ball system provides higher-pressure fluid to one side of the block to make it easier to steer.

Power for power steering is created by a hydraulic pump.

The pump is driven by a belt off the engine crankshaft. The pump provides fluid on demand to assist in turning. Vanes inside a chamber spin, pulling hydraulic fluid in at low pressure and forcing it out at high pressure. The engine speed determines the amount of fluid flow. The pump contains a pressure-relief valve to make sure that the pressure does not get too great at high engine speeds.

Rotary valves sense when the power steering assist is needed.

The valves respond instantly to changes in steering direction. When the automobile is going in a straight line, there is no need for the power steering to kick in. The rotary valve makes the assessment as to whether additional power is needed to steer. This system includes a torsion bar and a spool-valve. There is also a fail-safe system so that the driver can continue to steer the vehicle, even if the power steering fails.

Like the rest of the automobile, the steering system requires maintenance. Tie rod ends need lubrication to prevent wear or breakage which could cause loss of steering ability. Hoses, seals, o-rings can wear out or break. All the parts can be damaged by running over obstacles or debris from the road. The power steering fluid can leak, belts can become worn. A car without rack and pinion steering has more parts, all of which need to be checked for wear. Even at low speeds, defaults in the steering system could cause swaying or complete loss of control, and tragically, this often comes without warning. Misaligned tires also can cause wear of the steering system. So bring your automobile to Mike's Service Auto Body in Rhode Island for proper maintenance of your automobile’s steering system.






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