Turn left. Now, turn right. Ever wonder how your steering system works? Naw, most people don’t care, as long as they get to work on time. However you, you really want to learn. On older cars, the machine is surprisingly clunky along with a little dysfunctional in terms of design. On newer cars, it’s practically “invisible.” Here’s how it all works so that you can get to work, or home, or to your kid’s baseball game.
Nearly all cars on the road today have a mechanical steering system, where a linkage runs from the controls down to a steering rack, and then to the wheels. Once you turn the steering wheel, it turns the vehicle one way. Whenever you turn the steering wheel another way, the car responds. It’s like magic, except it’s not.
It operates on very old and sound engineering principles. However, the device itself is clunky. There’s a whole lot that can go awry, and often does, on older vehicles. “Slop” in the controls can be brought on by failing rubber bushings inside the steering system, and the actual steering column has the potential to impale the motorist in a head-on collision, at the very least theoretically.
There’s also the problem of steering ratio. The steering ratio, in simple terms, determines how many turns of the wheel are required to buy it to “lock.” You’ve probably heard the term “lock to lock.” It also determines the “twitchiness” in the steering within the vehicle.
With a mechanical steering system, you obtain one ratio. You have to design around that ratio. It’s likely to have twitchy steering if it’s a sports car. Twitchy steering is simply going to be annoying - especially on the highway if it’s a minivan.
Infiniti Steer-by-Wire system
Steer-by-wire systems are like throttle-by-wire systems for the reason that the mechanical linkage between your steering wheel along with the actual gear down by the wheels is taken off. Instead, the steering column connects to sensors that then feed information to some computer about where you need to go. There’s a clutch that will reconnect you to the steering gear for manual control if there’s ever a catastrophic failure from the system. Very clever.
It does open up the possibility for electronic add-on systems that may, though that doesn’t necessarily make the steering inherently safer in any way. In addition, it gives the driver precise control over how the car is moved. Steering ratios are also a moot point as they can be electronically adjusted and controlled now.
So, if you’re feeling a little ambitious on a back country road, you can switch on a “sport mode” and also have at it. On the highway, you are able to switch straight back to lazy driver mode which means you don’t have to bother about the vehicle responding to 1cm of movement.
The New Magic
Infiniti Q50 Interior
It’s no longer an evaluation of Q50 vs G37 when it comes to handling anymore. The newest Q50, by way of example, comes using these new-fangled electronic steering units, and potentially 500 horsepower.
So, going forward, expect to see those horsepower and torque numbers rise as manufacturers learn how to give you better control over your car, and make it safer that you should zoom around. It means more choice, faster vehicles, more pulling power, more towing capacity, and potentially safer steering systems. Who wouldn’t want that?
Infiniti Q50 Rear View
Robert Navarro is an enthusiastic car connoisseur. After years of research and tracking innovations and trends, he greatly enjoys blogging about all things cars.