The key element of power steering systems is to allow the driver to easily maneuver the vehicle. Without this extra assistance, vehicles would be difficult to turn, especially during slow maneuvers like turning onto a busy street or pulling into a parking spot. Power steering is necessary for city and residential driving where there are many complex maneuvers, unlike highway driving where the system is not used as much.
The first practical power steering system for vehicles was invented by Francis Davis in 1926 while he was an engineer at Pierce-Arrow. However, power steering was not seen as necessary until the start of World War II, because British and American troops needed a way to operate heavy trucks and other war-time vehicles. The power steering systems used in the war were developed by Bendiz-Davis and were installed in the vehicles by a consistent player in the automobile industry, Chevrolet.
After the war, the Chrysler Corporation started to engineer their own power steering system to use for their new line of vehicles. They first introduced the system in the 1951 Chrysler Imperial, which became the first commercially produced vehicle with a power steering system. By the 1960s, the system had become a standard in American manufactured automobiles.
Hydraulic Power Steering
A hydraulic system became the main power steering mechanism used in commercially produced cars from the 1950s to the 2000s. The system pressurizes hydraulic fluid that gives the driver more power to make steering easier. The vehicle’s motor contains a rotary pump that controls the hydraulic pressure on which the system depends to operate.
The older system did its job, but there were a few drawbacks to the overall technology. For starters, it is a waste of energy because the pump is continuously running, despite having no need for assistance. The system also generates heat which wastes even more energy and adds significant weight to the vehicle. In hydraulic systems, power steering fluid will be to be replaced at the manufacturer’s suggested interval. If the fluid is not changed there can be crucial damage done to your internal engine. In addition, hydraulic steering systems are known to fail at a higher rate in colder temperatures. These negative connotations behind hydraulic systems lead to advancements in steering technology.
Still, some prefer hydraulic systems because they are cheaper to produce and are known to provide a better road feel for the driver. Though, it is not as important for regular vehicles and is more widely seen in sports cars.
Electric Power Steering
Electric steering systems take a remarkably less amount of energy as it runs on the battery and uses electric power to assist the driver’s movement of the wheel. The electric steering is the most recent technology of the two systems, being more durable and less complex to manufacture. A majority of new cars sold today use electric power steering. The first vehicle to incorporate the system debuted in 1988 on the Suzuki Cervo.
Manufacturers have been shifting to electric steering assistance to replace older hydraulic models. This power steering uses an electric motor that takes energy from the vehicle’s electrical system to aid the driver. The system’s sensors detect the amount of force the driver is applying to the steering wheel and are able to adjust itself accordingly. A major benefit that comes from this is the system adapting to the driver’s particular driving conditions.
With the addition of the new steering technology, modern-day vehicles are nearly effortless to maneuver. Hydraulic steering systems are far more susceptible to failure over time which can lead to high repair costs. Though there are added benefits to your driving experience. Always refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for information about maintenance services.
Regular maintenance is the best way to ensure your power steering system and other key components in your vehicle are performing to their maximum potential. Be sure to check in with your local, friendly Oil Changers for any issues with your power steering or a fluid fill-up!