What is a steering system and why is it important?
Imagine your car without a steering. You can’t, right? After all, how would you drive it? A steering system is responsible for converting the rotation of the steering wheel into the sideways motion of the wheels. Besides the steering wheel, the system comprises of a steering column, steering gearbox, steering rack and pinion, and wheels.
Before we delve into the kind of problems associated with steering systems, let us shed a bit of light on various steering systems. There are two types of steering systems – power-assisted and non-power-assisted. Cars like the first Maruti 800 were the ones to use non-power-assisted steering racks. Over time, almost every car on the road comes with power-assisted steering racks. Among the power-assisted systems, two types exist. One is hydraulic power-assisted and the other is electric power-assisted. Hydraulic power-assisted systems use steering fluid to help turn the steering wheel. A mechanical pump driven by engine’s power controls the fluid being supplied to the system. However, such systems sap power from the engine as they need its power to drive their pumps.
Electric power-assisted steering systems, on the other hand, use an electric motor to help turn the steering wheel. These systems utilize a motor which can utilize the car’s battery and hence, do not sap the engine’s power. However, they are often criticized of not being able to provide as much feedback as their hydraulic cousins. Some cars (too few) use a combination of hydraulic and electric power-assisted steering systems. In this case, the electric motor powers the steering system at low speeds to aid maneuverability and the hydraulic system takes over once the car is at high speed to help maintain stability.
But just like all machines, you may face problems like vibrating steering wheel or it may be hard to steer or power steering fluid may leak and so on. Let’s explore how you can spot different steering issues.
What are the signs of a failing steering system?
- Bad tie rods → If your car’s steering wheel is hard to turn and there is a squeaky sound then get your car’s steering’s tie rods checked. They may be wearing out and your vehicle can go out of alignment, wearing the tires faster.
- Loose lug nuts → This can cause the steering wheel to shake but it can be fixed easily.
- Unbalanced wheels → This can cause the steering wheel to vibrate at particular speeds. It may be dangerous at higher speeds.
- Excessively or unevenly worn wheels → This may be due to suspension problems and can cause your steering wheel to shake or vibrate.
- Steering motor/pump is not responding → This maybe a reason if you are finding it hard to steer. To avoid future risks or higher expenses, get the motor/pump inspected immediately.
- Power steering malfunction → Reasons for malfunction include fluid leakage from damaged seals on power steering pump or from power steering hose. Fluid may leak from power steering rack or gear or cooler too. A common symptom can be a whirring or siren-like sound emanating from the steering pump. You may also observe oil leaks on the garage floor or parking space, but differentiating between engine oil leak and hydraulic fluid leak maybe difficult for you.
If you notice any of the above symptoms, get in touch with an automotive repair center for a detailed inspection of your vehicle. A mechanic will check your car wheels, tires, steering and suspension components and any other aspect that may be relevant.
Look out for these too
An important thing to remember is that if your car has hydraulic power steering system, do keep a track of steering fluid and ask for it to be replaced, if needed. For the electric power steering systems, the maximum that changes (only if it is faulty from the beginning itself) is the motor that assists the steering in turning without resistance.
Wearing out or failure of any part of the steering system can make your drive uncomfortable or difficult. If left ignored, they can pose safety risks too. So take note when your steering wheel starts shaking or it feels hard to steer or you suspect fluid leakage from steering pump or hose etc. We at CarDekho would be happy to help you get your car’s steering system issues resolved. All you have to do is log on to services.cardekho.com.