Behind the Wheel

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By Paul Wimsett (UK Desk: So read it with an accent.)

Is steering more complicated than it should be? It’s all right for complicated turns and for parking but it’s hard for a learner driver to keep on the straight and narrow using a steering wheel. It should be noted that what allows you to steer isn’t just the steering wheel but also the steering column, the axels and the front wheels of a car (and in the case of 4 by 4 cars in difficult terrain, the back wheels).

What exactly is the steering column? Well it attaches the wheel to the rest of the mechanism. It also provides the mounting for various functions such as the transmission gear selector. To help with safety this column can collapse in an emergency.

The piece that causes this to happen is known as the “tolerance ring.” This part is designed to become unmoored from its housing. There are several federal regulations which must be applied to any steering column in the US. In China the regulations are more strict and requires an additional anti-theft mechanism in the column.

steering-wheel-801994_1920.jpgSteering depends on getting the series of linkages absolutely right and although a driver behind a wheel seems blind to the rest to the car it is better to see the whole machine as guiding you to where you want to go. The axel part is divided into the pinion, which appears like a cog, a steer arm and a fusee. To be even more precise there is also the Worm and roller gearbox and the Pitman arm. Too much jargon can be annoying though, so it might be best to leave things there.

Why might a car become hard to steer?

Well, the one most drivers seem to refer to first is icy terrain or something like rainy conditions. But setting aside environmental factors, things like lack of air pressure in your tires, your fluid level and a faulty pulley on your power safety unit may also make a difference as can un-lubricated axles. Maybe it’s just the steering wheel itself which is sticking, but even this can cause accidents.

If you find that the steering is harder than usual, it is definitely a good idea to take the car in for a service, as there might be more than one thing wrong. Should you be gearing up for a long journey it is recommended that you find out if there any potential steering problems.

Here’s a fact about holding a steering wheel which might just save your life, or at the very least save you from excess pain. A warning though it is rather distasteful. It seems that the old way of holding the wheel – in a ten to two position is incompatible with cars with air bags. To save your arms it is recommended that you hold the wheel in a quarter to three position, in order to be on the safe side.

 

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