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Understanding Power Steering: A Guide for Car Owners

Did you know that turning a steering wheel before 1951 required A LOT more strength? These days you’re able to turn the steering wheel of your car with such ease, even with one hand, but it wasn’t always like that. The abilities we have now come from a remarkable invention called power steering.

Power steering is a system that assists drivers in turning the steering wheel by reducing the amount of effort required. This is achieved through two main technologies: hydraulic and electric power steering.

Hydraulic Power Steering: The Traditional Workhorse

Hydraulic power steering, the more traditional of the two types, utilizes a fluid-based mechanism to amplify the driver’s input. Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

  1. The Pump: The system begins with a pump, which is typically driven by the engine’s crankshaft. This pump pressurizes a special power steering fluid.
  2. The Control Valve: As you turn the steering wheel, a control valve regulates the flow of this pressurized fluid.
  3. The Power Steering Gear: The pressurized fluid is directed to the power steering gear, which is essentially a hydraulic cylinder. The force of the fluid within the cylinder assists the turning of the wheels.

Electric Power Steering: A Modern Approach

Electric power steering (EPS) is a more recent innovation that offers several advantages over its hydraulic counterpart. Instead of relying on fluid pressure, EPS uses an electric motor to provide assistance.

Here’s a simplified explanation of how EPS works:

  1. The Torque Sensor: An electronic sensor detects the torque (twisting force) applied by the driver to the steering wheel.
  2. The Electronic Control Unit (ECU): The ECU interprets the signal from the torque sensor and calculates the amount of assistance needed.
  3. The Electric Motor: Based on the ECU’s calculations, an electric motor is activated to provide the necessary turning force to the steering gear.

Which Type of Power Steering is More Common?

Hydraulic power steering has been around for a longer time and was once the dominant technology. However, electric power steering has become increasingly dominant due to several reasons:

  • Fuel Efficiency: EPS is generally more energy-efficient than hydraulic systems, as it doesn’t require a constantly running pump. This can translate into better fuel economy for your car.
  • Environmental Friendliness: Electric power steering systems typically use less oil, reducing the environmental impact of potential leaks or maintenance.
  • Packaging Advantages: The simpler design of EPS allows for more flexibility in engine compartment layouts.

In Conclusion

Power steering is an essential component of modern vehicles, making driving a more comfortable and manageable experience. Although the details of how it works are not important for daily driving, it is important to get a sense when power steering isn’t working as expected. 

If you find turning the wheel more difficult, or a dashboard light for your engine, power steering, or “EPS” lights up – it may be time to call us. Our expertise mechanics are here and ready to help. Book an appointment today by calling 647-299-6077 or accessing our website: https://torontomobilemechanic.ca/contact-us/