The wheel is, undoubtedly, one of the most important inventions of humankind. The invention of the wheel made the lives of human beings a lot easier. But a car is not just about wheels on which it runs i.e. the tires. It is also about the wheel in hand i.e. the steering wheel. A good car steering system is very important for a better and smoother driving experience. However, this is often one of the most neglected topics. In this blog post, we will discuss how the car steering system works.
Different kinds of steering systems have different kinds of working methods. But first, we will discuss what is a steering system and why is it significant?
What is a Car Steering System?
When you want to navigate the spaces around you in your car, the steering system pretty much does most of the job to guide the wheels and change the direction of your car.
The car steering system consists of every little thing that connects the steering wheel to the wheels of the car- from the steering wheel to the steering shaft, rack, and pinion (also known as the gearbox), and every other little thing that connects the steering to the wheels. A car steering system converts the rotations of the steering wheel in the hands of the driver into the angular turn of the front wheels on the road which helps in moving the vehicle.
Nowadays the system primarily contains a hydraulic booster, which operates when the engine is running and supplies most of the necessary force whenever you want to turn the wheels and change the direction of the motion of your car. We will discuss a bit about this power steering system as well.
Types of a Car Steering System:
Broadly, there are two types of car steering systems.
- Rack and Pinion System
- Recirculating Ball Steering System (conventional)
1. Rack and Pinion Steering System
The most common steering system, the rack, and pinion got its name from two gears it uses- the rack (the liner gear) and the pinion (circular gear).
The components in a rack and pinion steering system are the steering Wheel, Steering shaft, pinion, rack, tie rod, and stub axle.
This car steering system is used mostly in cars and is usually not used in heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks. However, its working may appear complex but is actually quite simple to understand.
The steering wheel has a shaft attached to it and there is a pinion at the other end of the shaft. The pinion moves whenever the car steering wheel is moved and is connected to the top of the rack. Further, at the end of the rack, there is a tie rod.
The tie rod connects to the wheel hub.
Let’s understand the working of rack and pinion.
Working of Rack and Pinion Steering System:
When you rotate the steering wheel, the shaft rotates too. Further, the shaft in turn rotates the pinion located on the top of the rack. The rotary movement of the steering wheel results in the linear movement of the tie rod.
The tie rod connects to the steering arm and makes the wheels turn.
The size of the pinion affects how much angular turn you get. If the pinion is larger in size, you will get a larger angular turn. But this will make it harder for you to control the movement of the vehicle. Whereas from a smaller pinion you will get a smaller angular turn for more rotations of the steering wheel. This will be rather easy to control but you will need to give more rotations to the steering wheel to get a larger angular turn.
So, this is how the rack and pinion car steering system works.
2. Recirculating Ball Steering System
The Recirculating ball steering system is also called ‘worm & sector’ and ‘recirculating ball & nut’. This car steering system can be seen in old cars and heavy-duty vehicles like trucks.
This gear consists of a Steering wheel, steering shaft, ball nut rack, recirculating ball bearings, sector gear, pitman arm, and worm gear.
It has two gears-
- Worm gear
- Sector gear
The steering wheel connects to a threaded shaft and the shaft connects to a block. The worm gear is embedded in the block which is threaded in such a way that it allows the worm gear and its ball bearings inside.
The block connects to the sector gear on the other side through gear teeth. This sector gear connects to the pitman’s arm while the pitman’s arm connects to the tie rod. There are ball bearings filled in the thread of the worm gear.
This works simply just like rack and pinion.
Working of Recirculating Ball Steering System:
When the steering wheel rotates, the shaft connected to the steering also rotates. This in turn rotates the block and the worm gear as the gear is in a fixed position to avoid any vertical movement. The rotation of the shaft makes the block move.
The moving block then moves the sector gear. The movement in sector gear further moves the pitman arm. The ball bearings present in the thread reduce friction and prevent the slop in gear.
That is how your Recirculating Ball Steering System works.
Besides these basic car steering systems, the hydraulic system coupled with any of these steering systems results in a power steering system. Power steering has turned out to be a huge aid in a car steering system. The hydraulic power steering system enhances the efficiency of both the steering systems’ manifolds. It makes steering the car very easy.
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