The car steering Bible - how steering works including rack and pinions, pitman arms, power steering

, passive and active 4-wheel steering, tilt-and-slide steering wheels and much more.

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The Steering Bible
I am a pro-car, pro-motorbike petrolhead into basic maintenance. This site is self-published to spread my knowledge. By reading these pages, you agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless the author, any sponsors and/or site providers against any and all claims, damages, costs or other expenses that arise directly or indirectly from you fiddling with your vehicle as a result of what you read here. If you hurt your vehicle or yourself, don't blame me.

Why don't Toyota spend this money on driver education instead? Driving schools. It uses a series of sensors hooked up to its onboard computer to determine if you're about to be involved in an accident. Basic steering components 99% of the world's car steering systems are made up of the same three or four components. how the various steering mechanisms work. here's a suggestion: use a taxi. The steering wheel. but nowadays. If this technology becomes commonplace. so this page is where you'll learn about how it goes around corners. which connects to the track rod. which connect to the steering arms.www. The key word there is "attempts".com Elsewhere on this site you can learn about all the other stuff that makes a car go and stop. It then takes control of the steering and brakes and attempts to avoid the accident for you. More specifically.it used to be back in the days when cars were called horseless carriages. If there's a bug in the code.you turn the steering wheel. Toyota wants to steer for you. Chris . safety programs. Like most things in a car. and the car changes direction. driver education and other such things? Surely it's better to attempt to treat the cause of the problem rather than the symptoms? And for those who relish the idea of their vehicle driving itself. Find Mustang steering wheels at AmericanMuscle. the concept of steering is simple .carbibles. which connects to the tie rods. They exist right now. the front wheels turn a ccordingly.Translated versions of this site: Svenska Русский 中國 Steering : essential to driving Latest blog entry 07/25/2011 07:05 AM Toyota wants to steer for you Toyota recently demonstrated an accident-avoidance system that not only brakes for you. then drivers will have even less reason to concentrate whilst driving. computer systems are not infallible. but steers for you too. and there will be even more accidents. Well . and during the attempt to avoid what it "thinks" is an impending accident. The . bus or train. How that happens though is not quite so simple. which connects to the steering system. not so much. This is another in a long line of R&D projects that we don't want and don't need. This constant dumbing-down of everything is going to be the death of our civilisation. your car actually causes another one. then the lawyers will get involved and everyone will pay. Remember.

In the simplest form of steering. The purpose of the tie rods is to allow suspension movement as well as an element of adjustability in the steering geometry. You can see the inside wheels travel around a circle with a smaller radius (r2) than the outside wheels (r1). loss of grip and a vehicl e that 'crabs' around the corner. but all the designs essentially move the track rod left-to-right across the car. also with ball and socket joints. they both point the same way and around the corner you go. and then to the ends of the steering arms. it's why you need a differential (see the Transmission Bible). When a car goes around a corner. The Ackermann Angle : your wheels don't point the same direction.steering system can be one of several designs. The tie rod lengths can normally be changed to achieve these different geometries. On the left is the diagram from the Transmission Bible. it's the same thing you need to take into consideration when looking at transmissions. it's why you need the front wheels to actually point in different directions. but in the case of steering. you end up with tyres scrubbing. . the outside wheels travel further than the inside wheels. You turn the wheel. The tie rods connect to the ends of the track rod with ball and socket joints. both the front wheels always point in the same direction. So why is this? Well. which we'll go into further down the page. In the case of a transmission. Except that by doing this.

but more importantly. Steering ratio is the ratio of the number of degrees turned at the steering wheel vs. Once this is achieved. it means you don't have to turn the steering wheel a ridiculous number of times to get the wheels to move. The diagram to the left shows the same thing only zoomed in to show the relative angles of the tyres to the car.In order for that to happen without causing undue stress to the front wheels and tyres. Steering ratios Every vehicle has a steering ratio inherent in the design. Steering ratio gives mechanical advantage to the driver. they must point at slightly different angles to the centreline of the car. For most . allowing you to turn the tyres with the weight of the whole car sitting on them. It's all to do with the geometry of circles. that gives a steering ratio of 20:1. Why 'Ackermann'? This particular technology was first introduced in 1758 by Erasmus Darwin. father of Charles Darwin. the wheels point at different angles as the steering geometry is moved. It was never patented though until 1817 when Rudolph Ackermann patented it in London. So for example. This difference of angle is achie ved with a relatively simple arrangement of steering components to create a trapezoid geometry (a parallelogram with one of the parallel sides shorter than the other). Most vehicles now don't use 'pure' Ackermann steering geometry because it doesn't take some of the dynamic and compliant effects of steering and suspension into account. If it didn't you'd never be able to turn the wheels. in a paper entitled "Erasmus Darwin's improved design for steering carriages--and cars". if you turn the steering wheel 20° and the front wheels only turn 1°. the number of degrees the front wheels are deflected. and that's the name that stuck. but some derivative of this is used in almost all steering systems (right).

closer to 1:1 .as the racing drivers need to get fuller deflection into the steering as quickly as possible. which is 450°. Li ke t he sit e? The page yo u're reading is fre e. coupled with the maximum angle of deflection of the wheels gives the lock-to-lock turns for the steering wheel. a typical passenger car turning circle is normally between 11m and 13m with SUV turning circles going out as much as 15m to 17m. but if you like what y ou se e and feel you've learned so methi ng. or 2. the steering wheel has turned 25°x18. This. the steering ratio is normally much smaller than for passenger cars . then the steering wheel can turn 1. Turning circles The turning circle of a car is the diameter of the circle described by the outside wheels when turning on full lock. you can figure out the wheel deflection. so the entire steering goes from -25° to plus 25° giving a lock-to-lock angle at the steering wheel of 900°. Steering System designs : Pitman arm types There really are only two basic categories of steering system today.5 turns (900° / 360).ie.75° each way.5x360° (540°) each way. In this case. so for the sake of completeness. I've documented some common types. the wheelbase and track aren't radically different to any other car. the steering ratio is between 12:1 and 20:1. For racing cars. Newer cars and unibody light -duty trucks typically all use some derivative of rack and pinion steering. There is no hard and fast forumla to calculate the turning circle but you can get close by using this: turning circle radius = (track/2) + (wheelbase/sin(average steer angle)) The numbers required to calculate the turning circle explain why a classic black London taxi has a tiny 8m turning circle to allow it to do U-turns in the narrow London streets. For comparison. This works the other way around too of course. . If you know the lock-to-lock turns and the steering ratio. a s m appreciated to help me pa y my s erver space. then at 25°. Thank yo u. Older cars and some current trucks use pitman arms. At a ratio of 16:1 that means the front wheels deflect by 33. those that have pitman arms with a steering 'box' and those that don't. if a car has a steering ratio of 18:1 and the front wheels have a maximum deflection of 25°. That's only to one side.modern cars. For example. but the average steering angle is huge. For example if a car is advertised as having a 16:1 steering ratio and 3 turns lock -to-lock.

The example here shows a compound link (left). There are a large number of variations of the actual mechanical linkage from direct -link where the pitman arm is connected directly to the track rod. Most of the steering box mechanisms that drive the pitman arm have a 'dead spot' in the centre of the steering where you can turn the steering wheel a slight amount before the front wheels start to turn. which is supported by idler arms. With the advent of power steering. price and weight. and the sector gear pivots around its axis as its teeth are moved along the worm gear. This slack can normally be adjusted with a screw mechanism but it can't ever be eliminated.Pitman arm mechanisms have a steering 'box' where the shaft from the steering wheel comes in and a lever arm comes out . The tie rods connect to the track rod. When the steering wheel is turned. to compound linkages where it is connected to one end of the steering system or the track rod via other rods.the pitman arm. The sector gear is mounted on the cross shaft which passes through the steering box and out the bottom where it is splined. the end of the shaft from the steering wheel has a worm gear attached to it. and the the pitman arm is attached to the . Worm and sector In this type of steering box. the shaft turns the worm gear. The traditional advantage of these systems is that they give bigger mechanical advantage and thus work well on heavier vehicles. that has become a moot point and the steering system design is now more to do with mechanical design. This pitman arm is linked to the track rod or centre link. The follow ing are the four basic types of steering box used in pitman arm systems. It meshes directly with a sector gear (so called because i t's a section of a full gear wheel).

Worm and roller The worm and roller steering box is similar in design to the worm and sector box. As the worm gear turns. The difference here is that instead of having a sector gear that meshes with the worm gear. The following diagram shows the active components that are present inside the worm and sector steering box.splines. the roller is forced to move along it but because it is held captive on the cross shaft. it turns the cross shaft. The roller is mounted on a roller bearing shaft and is held captive on the end of the cross shaft. Without the hourglass shape . When the sector gear turns. Worm and nut or recirculating ball . The box itself is sealed and filled with grease. there is a roller instead. Typically in these designs. which turns the pitman arm. the worm gear is actually an hourglass shape so that it is wider at the ends. the roller might disengage from it at the extents of its travel. giving the output motion that is fed into the mechanical linkage on the track rod. it twists the cross shaft.

This is by far the most common type of steering box for pitman arm systems. This can result in a very compact design when necessary. the worm drive turns and forces the ball bearings to press against the channel inside the nut. hence why it's used the most. the studs slide along the cam channels which forces the cross shaft to rotate. This forces the nut to move along the worm drive. the worm drive has many more turns on it with a finer pitch. One of the design features of this style is that it turns the cross shaft 90° to the normal so it exits through the side of the steering box instead of the bottom. A box or nut is clamped over the worm drive that contains dozens of ball bearings. The example below shows a recirculating ball mechanism with the nut shown in cutaway so you can see the ball bearings and the recirculation channel. Hence recirculating. As the steering wheel is turned. The worm drive is known as a cam and has a much shallower pitch and the sector gear is replaced with two studs that sit in the cam channels. Cam and lever Cam and lever steering boxes are very similar to w orm and sector steering boxes. This system has much less free play or slack in it than the other designs. The nut itself has a couple of gear teeth cast into the outside of it and these mesh with the teeth on a sector gear which is attached to the cross shaft just like in the worm and sector mechanism. These loop around the worm drive and then out into a recirculating channel within the nut wh ere they are fed back into the worm drive again. As the worm gear is turned. turning the pitman arm. . In a recirculating ball steering box.

and there isn't the slop or slack associated with steering box pitman arm type systems. you typically expect it to go where you're pointing it.how it can all go very wrong Generally speaking. As the teeth get further away from the centre. they increase in spacing slightly so that the wheels turn more for the same turn of the steering wh eel towards full lock. when you turn the steering wheel in your car. It really is that simple. the track rod is replaced with the steering rack which is a long. the pinion gear turns. The downside is that unlike those systems. At slow . the teeth are space d close together to give slight steering for the first part of the turn . All the components are the same. On the end of the steering shaft there is a simple pinion gear that meshes with the rack. so once they wear beyond a certain mechanical tolerance. Rack and pinion systems give a much better feel for the driver. The diagrams here show an example rack and pinion system (left) as well as a close -up cutaway of the steering rack itself (right). toothed bar with the t ie rods attached to each end. they need replacing completely. Variable-ratio rack and pinion steering This is a simple variation on the above design. and moves the rack from left to right. Simple. Vehicle dynamics and steering . and it all works the same except that the spacing of the teeth on the rack varies depending on how close to the centre of the rack they are.Steering System designs : Rack and pinion This is by far the most common type of steering you'll find in any car today due to it's relative simplicity and low cost. This is rare though. When you turn the steering wheel. Changing the size of the pinion gear alt ers the steering ratio. In the middle. In a rack and pinion system. rack and pinion designs have no adjustability in them.good for not oversteering at speed.

. The two most common problems you'll run into are understeer and oversteer. In normal you-and-me driving.. the aerodynamic wings. yo u get. Typically it happens as you brake and the weight is transferred to the front of the car. In racing.speed. In racing. this will almost always be the case but once you get some momentum behind you. It's a complex topic more suited to racing driving forums but suffice to say that if you're trying to get out of understeer and you cock it up. Understeer can be brought on by all manner of chassis. The end result is that the car will start to take the corner very wide. Getting out of understeer can involve letting off the throttle in front-wheel-drive vehicles (to try to give the tyres chance to grip) or getting on the throttle in rear -wheel-drive vehicles (to try to bring the back end around). Understeer Understeer is so called because the car steers less than you want it to. At this point the mechanical grip of the front tyres can simply be overpowered and they start to lose grip (for example on a wet or greasy road surface). it means crashing at the outside of the corner. Oversteer . air splitters and undertrays help to maintain an even balance of the vehicle in corners along with the posit ion of the weight in the vehicle and the supension setup. suspension and speed issues but essentially it means that the car is losing grip on the front wheels. that normally involves going off the outside of the corner into a catch area or on to the grass.. you are at the mercy of the chassis and suspension designers..

steering opposite to the direction of the corner can often 'catch' the oversteer by directing the nose of the car out of the corner. If you get into a situation where the back end of the car loses grip and starts to swing out. They will use a combination of throttle. Without counter -steering (see below) the end result in racing is that the car will spin and end up going off the inside of the corner backwards. the car goes where it's pointed far too efficiently and you end up diving into the corner much more quickl y than you had expected. Counter-steering Counter-steering is what you need to do when you start to experience oversteer. In drift racing and demonstration driving. it's how the drivers are able to smoke the rear tyres and power -slide around a corner. resulting in the rear kicking out in the corner. it means spinning the car and ending up pointing back the way you came. weight transfer and handbrake to induce oversteer into a corner. In normal you -andme driving. With oversteer. then flick the steering the opposite dirction.The bright ones amongst you will probably already have guessed that oversteer is the opposite of understeer. honk on the accelerator and try to hold a slide all the way around the corner. It's also a widely -used . Oversteer is brought on by the car losing grip on the rear wheels as the weight is transferred off them under braking.

Tiff Needell . th Read more: http://www. Topics still to come.com/steering_bible.is an absolute master at counter-steer power sliding.a racing driver who also works on some UK motoring programs . Copyright © Chris Longhurst 1994 . Important Copyright info..2011 unless otherwise noted.html#ixzz1TfcAtn2T ..passive and active Drive-by-wire steering Tilt / slide steering wheels and collapsible steering columns These pages were last updated on 12 July 2011.carbibles. Hydraulic and electronic power steering Speed-sensitive power steering 4-wheel steering .technique in rally racing.

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