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easy CAR guide: how a steering system works

Why do some cars respond so well to the driver? Great handling makes you feel safe and in control – and makes panic swerves and steering corrections as effective as possible. The lightest touch of the wheel should direct the steering system effortlessly and precisely. As well as a well-designed suspension, it takes a good quality steering system and steering parts to achieve excellent handling. If you’d like to know the anatomy of a steering system and how it supports handling, road holding and driveability, here is an easy overview.

The function of a steering system 

When you rotate the steering wheel, the car responds. But how does this steering system in cars give you a smooth route forward? A group of parts called the steering system transmits the movement of the steering wheel down the steering shaft to move the wheels left and right – although car wheels don’t turn at the same angle. 

The popular rack and pinion steering system 

In most cars, small trucks and SUVs on the road today, there is a rack and pinion steering system. This converts the rotational motion of the steering wheel into the linear motion that turns the wheels and guides your path. The system involves a circular gear (the steering pinion) which locks teeth on a bar (the rack). It also transforms big rotations of the steering wheel into small, accurate turns of the wheels, giving a solid and direct feel to the steering.

Rack and pinion steering system

How does power steering affect the rack and pinion?

It’s likely that if you drive today, you’re used to power steering. Contemporary cars, and especially trucks and utility vehicles have a power steering system function – also called power-assisted steering. This gives that extra energy (either hydraulic or electric) to help turn the wheels and means parking and manoeuvering requires less effort than with simple manual force. The rack and pinion steering system is slightly different with power steering, with an added engine-driven pump or electric motor to aid the steering assembly.

So is ease the only benefit of power steering? The system allows you to have higher gear steering and means you have to turn the steering wheel less to turn the wheels further (less steering wheel turns lock-to-lock). It therefore sharpens up response times and makes the steering even more precise. With such busy roads and traffic jams, this means drivers can more safely manoeuvre in close proximity to other vehicles. Keeping tight control at all speeds, in any conditions and in critical situations, will help to avoid accidents. 

What are the components of the steering system in cars?

Whatever a car’s make and model, quality auto steering parts support a flawless drive. Premium rack and pinion parts manufactured by MOOG include axial rods, tie rod ends, drag links, centre arms, steering rack gaiter kits, tie rod assemblies and wheel end bearings.

The components of the steering system

These steering parts are robust and hard wearing enough to provide both strength and durability. Choosing parts which meet OE manufacturer specifications means the whole assembly will be responsive and long-lasting.

The return of four-wheel steering 

Beyond the swivel of the front wheels, some cars have a steering system which affects all four. This has traditionally been exclusive to sporty or luxury models, but there’s a growing trend towards the feature in more affordable cars.

A four-wheel steering control unit sits behind the rear axle of the car and affects the rear wheels as needed. Car wheels turn in opposite directions at low speeds, but at high speeds, turning all four wheels in concert helps to maintain stability and prevent fishtailing.

Four wheel steering

Having highly technical four-wheel steering means better handling, as the steering is monitored and in emergency situations, the car reacts with the optimum response. This type of steering system is starting to appear on the Infiniti, Renault, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and other marques to give drivers new heights of driveability and responsiveness and keep us safer on the roads. 


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