Basics of Your Car’s Power Steering System

Your steering wheel and column appear deceptively simple. Together, they hide a complex system that is designed to turn your wheels while minimizing the force you’re required to exert to do so. When Best Used Car Safety Ratings you turn your steering wheel in one direction or the other, your tires follow suit. But few drivers wonder what is taking place, or the components involved, in guiding or turning their vehicle.
In this article, we’ll go through your car’s power steering system so you’ll have a better understanding regarding its operation. There are two main varieties: rack-and-pinion and recirculating-ball assemblies. I’ll provide a brief explanation of both, including the components involved with each.
How Rack-And-Pinion Steering Works
This type of assembly is the most prevalent used in passenger vehicles, including trucks and SUVs. The parts involved are tie rods, a pinion gear, rack, and the steering shaft, which is connected to Cars Direct Usa the steering wheel. When you turn the wheel, the shaft rotates and spins the pinion gear. The pinion turns within a grooved rack. As the pinion spins in one direction, the rack moves in the other.
There are tie rods on both ends of the rack. Each rod is connected to a steering arm on the wheels. The rods work with the arms to adjust your tires, and thus turn your vehicle. I’ll use an example to explain how the rack-and-pinion steering system works.
Suppose you want to turn right. You crank the steering wheel to the right, which spins the pinion in the teeth of the rack. From your perspective behind the steering wheel, the pinion rotates clockwise. As it does so, it moves the rack to your left. The tie rods push the left wheel outward while bringing the right wheel inward. Thus, your vehicle turns right.
How Recirculating-Ball Steering Works
A recirculating-ball assembly works a little differently. The steering wheel engages the system through a gearbox. The steering shaft is threaded and sticks into the box. On the outside of the gearbox are gear teeth to which a Pitman arm is connected through a sector gear with its own interlocking teeth.
When you turn the steering wheel, the threaded portion of the shaft rotates within the gearbox, spinning against ball bearings. The ball bearings allow the shaft to turn and remain stationary while the gearbox moves. This, in turn, moves the Pitman arm, which engages the tie rods.
The Pump And Rotary Valve
As noted earlier, your steering system is designed to let you turn your car’s wheels with a minimum amount of force. This is accomplished, in part, with a rotary-vane pump that provides hydraulic power. It is engaged by a belt-and-pulley configuration that is powered by your engine. Within this component, vanes spin to draw fluid that provides the hydraulic power. The faster your engine is operating, the faster the vanes spin. This results in more fluid being drawn in and pushed into an outlet.
The rotary-vane pump is equipped with a valve that helps to regulate internal pressure. This is especially important while your engine operates at high speeds since more hydraulic fluid is being drawn in, and thus additional pressure builds.
Ideally, the system would only provide help in turning your wheels when needed. That is, there’s little need for assistance in turning your wheels if you are traveling straight ahead. Another component called the rotary valve is responsible for monitoring whether any steering force is being applied to the wheel. If force is applied in one direction or another, a torsion bar that is connected to the steering wheel is engaged. This bar engages other components, such as a spool valve, which applies hydraulic pressure to help turn your car’s wheels.
The power steering system installed in most of today’s vehicles is dated; it has been in production for decades. During the next several years, automakers will likely introduce new developments that will aim to improve the efficiency and comfort with which we steer our vehicles.

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