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Power Steering System In Cars
- Author :
- TATA AIG Team
- Published on :
When you compare the current generation of cars with those produced nearly two decades ago, you will find that automotive technology has made giant strides during this period. Modern-day cars offer a remarkably improved driving experience, characterised by enhanced safety and convenience, all thanks to the incorporation of some advanced features.
One of the most notable technological breakthroughs in contemporary automobiles is the advent of power steering. It has revolutionised the driving experience offered by present-day cars as compared to the traditional ones that employ manual steering methods.
The power steering system in cars is engineered to aid you in the manipulation of the direction of the wheels through the utilisation of either hydraulic or electric systems. Before the introduction of this technology, steering the wheels required substantial physical exertion, often posing a significant challenge for drivers, particularly while driving at low speeds.
Car power steering technology alleviates the strain on your arms, granting you an effortless driving experience and smoother control. It is available in various types, ranging from hydraulic power steering to electric power steering, each possessing its unique advantages.
Let’s take a deep dive to understand the intricacies of power steering, including its meaning, types, working, etc. through this article.
What is the Power Steering System in Cars?
Before you can delve into the finer details, it’s essential to understand the fundamental concept of power steering. In the simplest words, it acts like a helping hand for drivers.
It is a mechanical system that reduces the human effort required to turn the wheels of a moving vehicle. This is achieved by using various components, including a power steering pump, a hydraulic system, an electric motor, and a steering gear or rack.
In the traditional cars that used manual steering systems, the drivers were supposed to directly control the direction of the vehicles’ wheels. Doing so required huge physical strength, especially for driving heavier or larger vehicles.
Moreover, turning the wheels when a vehicle was stationary or moving at a very slow speed used to be a herculean task.
The History of Power Steering
The development of power steering can be attributed to Francis Davis, an engineer who first came up with the power steering system in 1926. He dedicated a significant portion of his life to devising ways to simplify the car steering method.
Between 1931 and 1943, Davis secured five patents, each for a specific component that would later be integrated into his power steering system.
Later, Davis worked under a contract with General Motors and made enhancements to his hydraulic power steering system. However, his improved version never made it to the commercial market.
In 1951, Chrysler Imperial became the first car to introduce the concept of power steering. This groundbreaking technology was immediately noticed by drivers as it significantly reduced the effort required to turn the steering wheel. Additionally, the steering became more precise and exhibited improved responsiveness.
Now, shifting to the Indian automotive market, none of the cars until the early 2000s possessed power steering technology. Daewoo Matiz and Hyundai Santro then became the first Indian cars to get power steering back in 2005.
Types of Power Steering Systems
These days, most cars offer the power steering feature as default. However, the type of power steering may vary as per budget and size. Below are the different types of power steering available today:
Hydraulic Power Steering
Hydraulic power steering, often referred to as HPS, is the most traditional and widely used power steering system. It operates by utilising hydraulic fluid and a pump to assist the driver in turning the steering wheel of a vehicle.
When a driver turns the steering wheel, the hydraulic pump sends pressurised fluid to the steering gear, which in turn, acts on a piston and multiplies the input force on the steering wheel, making it easier for the driver to turn and control the vehicle’s direction.
The Hydraulic steering system is known for its reliability and durability, but it causes a slight reduction in the fuel efficiency of a car due to the constant operation of the hydraulic pump.
This type of power steering system was commonly used in cars manufactured between the 1950s to late 2000s. But now, hardly any car manufacturer uses the hydraulic steering system barring Nissan and McLaren Automotive, to name a few.
Electric Power Steering
Electric power steering, commonly referred to as the EPS, is the modern power steering system that has gained popularity in recent years owing to its fuel efficiency and flexibility. These systems use an electric motor and sensors to assist the driver in turning the steering wheel of a car.
Unlike the hydraulic steering system, where the hydraulic pump operates constantly, the electric power steering system gets activated only when needed, resulting in improved fuel efficiency.
Furthermore, the electric power steering system is highly adaptable and can be fine-tuned to suit various driving conditions and vehicle models. The use of EPS systems in modern cars allows for advanced features such as lane-keeping assist and self-parking technology.
When a driver turns a steering wheel fitted with the EPS system, the sensors transmit certain signals to the vehicle’s Electronic Control Unit (ECU). The ECU then assesses these signals and sends orders to an electric motor, which in turn, imparts the necessary torque to the rack, which then assists in steering the wheels.
Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering
Electro-hydraulic power steering, also referred to as EHPS, is a hybrid power steering system that combines the elements of both hydraulic and electric power steering systems.
These systems use hydraulic power to provide steering assistance, but the hydraulic pump is operated electrically through an electric motor instead of the vehicle’s engine.
The use of electro-hydraulic power steering systems in cars allows for more precise control of power steering and higher fuel efficiency as compared to traditional hydraulic steering systems.
These systems are typically used in sports cars and high-end performance-oriented vehicles that require precise and responsive steering.
Integral Power Steering
Integral power steering system was used in traditional cars and is more or less defunct nowadays. It constitutes a steering gear along with a worm-and-ball bearing nut attached to a hydraulic rack piston.
When a driver moves a steering wheel with the integral power steering system, pressure is exerted on the hydraulic rack piston, which in turn, moves the nut to assist the driver to steer the vehicle in the required direction.
Linkage power Steering
The linkage power steering system comprises a power cylinder which is connected to the steering linkage. When the vehicle is in a neutral position, a central spring holds a spool valve at the centre, allowing the fluid to flow equally to both sides of the power cylinder.
However, when the vehicle is turned right or left, the spring moves the spool valve, resulting in higher fluid pressure on one side of the power cylinder, which in turn, assists the driver in turning the wheels.
Active Power Steering
Active power steering systems are among the most advanced and sophisticated types of power steering systems. These systems use sensors and control units to continuously monitor driving conditions and adjust the steering assistance accordingly.
Active power steering can enhance vehicle stability by monitoring factors such as crosswinds, road conditions, and tire grip. This results in a safer and more comfortable driving experience.
However, these systems are very expensive. That is why active power steering systems are deployed only in high-end luxury vehicles and those with advanced driver-assistance systems.
Advantages of Power Steering
A power steering system, irrespective of its type, brings several benefits to the table. Below are a few advantages of power steering in vehicles:
Reduced Driver Fatigue
One of the most significant advantages of power steering systems is that they help reduce driver fatigue when driving a vehicle for prolonged hours. These systems are designed to significantly alleviate the physical effort required to turn the steering wheel of a car, contributing to a more comfortable driving experience, especially during long journeys.
Additionally, power steering systems do not allow the wheels to transfer resistance from the road to the steering column, making steering easier and less tiring for the drivers.
The use of power steering systems in cars improves their manoeuvrability, making it easier for drivers to navigate through tight spaces and rough driving conditions.
Furthermore, they make it easier for them to drive through difficult terrains and park their cars in limited parking spaces.
Improved Safety of Vehicles and Passengers
The safety of vehicles and passengers is of paramount importance. With advanced power steering systems, drivers can maintain better control over their vehicles, especially during tough situations. This has vastly helped in reducing the risk of accidents, thereby leading to improved safety.
For example, while driving a car with a power steering system, the steering automatically returns to its original position after taking a turn, straightening the car in motion and reducing the risk of collision or accident.
Customisable Driving Experience
The use of electric power steering systems in cars allows the drivers to adjust the level of steering assistance. It, in turn, enables them to customise their driving experience.
Some cars even offer sportier steering settings for a more connected feel, while others offer a lighter touch to ensure user-friendliness.
Higher Fuel Efficiency
The use of electric power steering systems facilitates higher fuel efficiency in cars as compared to traditional hydraulic power steering systems. They ensure that drivers can enjoy an enhanced driving experience while also getting the benefits of better fuel economy.
Increasing global warming and climate change are among the most critical issues the world is facing today. Various governments have laid special emphasis on reducing emissions from cars to curb issues such as air pollution and global warming.
The use of electric power steering systems in cars can also contribute to reduced emissions, resulting in a more environmentally friendly vehicle.
Electric Steering Vs. Power Steering
Electric steering and power steering are two different technologies that can aid drivers in controlling the steering wheels of cars.
The table below depicts a comparison of electric steering vs. power steering for better understanding:
|Parameter||Electric Steering||Power Steering|
|Technology||Electric steering employs an electric motor to assist wheel steering||Power steering uses an engine-driven hydraulic pump to aid wheel steering|
|Working||When the steering wheel is turned, sensors transmit signals to the vehicle’s ECU, which in turn, imparts the necessary torque to steer the wheels||When the steering wheel is turned, the hydraulic pump sends pressurised fluid to the steering gear, which in turn, acts on a piston to steer the wheels|
|Fuel Efficiency||The use of electric steering increases the fuel efficiency of the vehicle||The use of power steering compromises the fuel efficiency of the vehicle|
|Control||Electric steering allows for more precise control of the wheel through the use of sensors||Power steering offers lesser control to drivers as compared to electric steering|
|Cost||Electric steering relies on expensive electrical components||Power steering uses a hydraulic system which is cost-effective|
|Use||Used in most modern cars, including the luxury ones||Hardly used by car manufacturers these days|
Power Steering Vs. Manual Steering
Now that you have learned about power steering and its advantages, let’s discuss how it differs from manual steering. The table below depicts the difference between a power steering and a manual steering:
|Parameter||Power Steering||Manual Steering|
|Working||It uses some source of power to steer the wheel||The driver has to steer the wheels using manual force|
|Effort||Less effort is required||A high effort is required|
|Response||Quick response||Slow response|
|Control||Offers high control||Offers less control|
|Safety||Offers better safety for vehicles and passengers||Not as safe as power steering|
|Driving||Offers a smooth driving experience with less fatigue||Offers a bumpy and challenging driving experience|
Power steering systems have revolutionised the way you drive. Most cars today come with power steering as a default feature, offering comfort, convenience, and safety. However, it does not guarantee an accident-free drive. Therefore, while you are ensuring the best-in-class features in your four-wheeler, protect it from uncertainties by procuring a comprehensive four-wheeler insurance policy.
Tata AIG offers insurance for four-wheelers with a gamut of features and competitive prices. You can use our online car insurance calculator to calculate the premium of your car insurance policy before making a purchase to ensure that the policy premium stays within your budget while fulfilling your insurance needs.
Which car comes with a power steering system?
These days, most of the cars come with a power steering system. However, the type of power steering used in them may differ as per their segment and pricing.
Can I still drive a car with manual steering?
Yes. You can drive a car with manual steering as it is not illegal in India to do so. However, it may require much more effort and may lead to a tiring driving experience. Also, it can be a bit unsafe to drive in tough terrains due to poor shock absorbency.
Disclaimer / TnC
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