Understanding the Power Steering System of Your Car


Jun 24th, 2020

Understanding the Power Steering System of Your Car

What was initially used in luxury vehicles for the past 50 years has become standard in all cars—the power steering. The steering wheel has undergone significant improvements in recent years, particularly with the advent of the power steering system. It has eased steering and enhanced the driver's overall feel, thanks to the assistance it gets from electrical or hydraulic support.

Most power steering mechanisms use the rack-and-pinion design because of its simplicity, which reduces manufacturing costs. The system also helps in fuel economy and makes vehicle handling easier. Here are the fundamentals of the power steering system that you should know.

Types of Power Steering Systems

There are three main types of steering systems, namely:

  • Hydraulic
  • Electric
  • Hybrid

In a hydraulic system, the effort needed to turn the wheels is reduced by a hydraulic support mechanism. When a driver rotates the steering wheel, the hydraulic pump powered by the engine pumps the hydraulic fluid through the system's lines exerting pressure on the rack and pinion, resulting in the rotation of the vehicle wheels.

The electric system uses a motor that provides torque to the rack, which turns the wheels. The hybrid system works just like the hydraulic power steering system. However, in a hybrid system, the hydraulic pump is replaced with an electric pump.

Hydraulic and hybrid power steering systems are common in passenger cars, while the electric system is mostly used in larger cars tasked with carrying heavy loads.

Hydraulic Power Steering System

There are three common problems that you’re likely to encounter if your car uses hydraulic power steering. 

1. Leaking power steering fluid

If you notice grinding noises from your car when you take a turn, you may have a leaking power steering fluid. You may also see fluid leaking from the car's engine on the driver's side after you've parked the car for a while; this also indicates a leak. NEVER DRIVE WHEN YOU NOTICE A POWER STEERING FLUID LEAKAGE.

2. Worn drive or serpentine belt

Loud screeching noise when making a sharp turn is an indicator of a loose, worn, or slipping drive belt, and for newer vehicles, it may be the serpentine belt.

3. Damaged hose

The hose conveys the hydraulic fluid throughout the system. One sign of a damaged hose is a sudden difficulty in steering the vehicle when driving. Some hoses get damaged, peel, and wear out quickly. Whenever you notice an issue with the hose during a routine check, immediately replace it.

Electric Power Steering System

The power steering system forms part of the Control Area Network (CAN). The CAN, which includes the ECM and ABS control system, links all the electronic systems within a car allowing proper communication between the electrical components and thus improving the functionality of the vehicle. These modules share the information which can be used to solve mechanical issues like torque steer. The information shared includes vehicle speed, steering angle, and ambient temperature.

It is fitted with sophisticated software that regulates the amount of assistance while improving the steering feel for the driver. It also regulates the temperature of the motor that runs the system.

1. The Motor

Most electric power steering systems use a three-phased electric brushless motor to allow for a more precise application of torque at low RPMs. The motor's source of power is a modulated DC voltage and will generally range from 9 to 16 volts. In some cars, the motor is connected to the steering rack while others have it mounted to the base of the steering gear.

2. The Module

The module is the heart of an electric power steering system. It's where the signal generators, drivers, metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET), and current monitor circuit are found. It protects the motor from overheating by prompting the system to go into a fail-safe mode. It will generate a DTC, which then alerts the driver with a warning light or message. You can buy power steering and more car parts, including a drive belt, serpentine belt, and motors from the sellers in our network at CarPart. We can also help you locate a dealer in your location should you need them urgently. Request a part through us today!

By Eric Anyega