Power Steering

How Power Steering Affects your Vehicles Handling

Almost all vehicles today feature power steering. Power Steering helps make parking easier. It also is a necessity for heavier vehicles. Power steering is great for vehicles that constantly drive at low speed. But just how does it affect your vehicle’s handling?

Power steering or power-assisted steering sounds like what it is: a power system that works to help and assist in the turning of the wheels. This system uses hydraulic or electric power. Or, both work in tandem. It’s a system that works in response to the motion of the steering wheel. When the system detects the wheel being turned in either direction it responds by assiting and helping turn the vehicles drive system

Automotive power steering systems vary greatly in design, but a typical hydraulic setup includes the following:

How does hydraulic power steering work

There are many different designs of the power system steering. Here is what a typical hydraulic system will look like:

  • Sensors attached to the steering wheel that senses torque – These sensors will sense when a driver turns the wheel and the vehicle’s wheels haven’t responded yet. Steering systems will then provide the assistance to allow the wheels to catch up
  • Steering Pump – This pump is driven by a belt. The belt will help to raise the pressure of the power steering fluid.
  • Valves to direct the pressurized fluid – The power steering fluid is directed through a system of tubes and hoses on either side of the steering system according to which way the wheel is turned
  • Actuating controls – This helps to push the wheels to one side or the other.


The goal of the system

Typically, power steering makes the job of turning the wheel easier, while not negatively affecting the handling. The steering would be quick and responsive without affecting the sensitivity of the steering. Sensitive steering can be hard to control. You never want to be steering a vehicle without knowing what the wheels are doing or the direction that they are moving. Vehicle manufacturers attempt to achieve this goal with power systems, for the most part, they achieve this goal. Properly functioning power systems do not have an adverse impact on handling.


How these systems affect the handling

No matter how well designed a system may be there are still adverse effects. It can be difficult for manufacturers to design a system that will allow for low-speed maneuvers. This is hard while still providing a good feedback loop. This is commonly referred to as road feel. There is not a system designed that can give the exact match and feel of a good manual system of a sports car. There are differences and trade-offs when dealing with this system. Well-designed steering systems can give a good road feel to the driver. A Porsche Boxter is a good example of quality design. Other vehicles emphasize ease of driving. These ease of driving systems are commonly found inside Chevy’s (Suburbans). The steering of these vehicles is very responsive. Almost to the point of fingertip-light, even when parking.

A related phenomenon is that there could also be what seems like a “dead spot” when the wheels are centered — in other words, a small turn of the wheel could seem to not turn the car in the least or the steering could seem sluggish until the wheel is turned tons. This dead spot varies from vehicle to vehicle; again, performance cars usually offer more accurate feedback and thus have less of a dead spot but as a consequence, they’ll feel somewhat twitchy at high speed, while luxury models may feel a touch more sluggish in exchange for fewer twitchiness. Manufacturers are constantly performing on improvements that will let drivers have the simplest of both worlds, but the systems aren’t perfect yet so there’s always a trade-off.

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