What Are the Functions of the Steering Column

What Are the Functions of the Steering Column


    – Steering column: what the regulations say

    – The functionalities of the steering column

    – The steering column and its maintenance

The steering column is a mechanical element connecting the steering wheel and the rack: it is present on all vehicles. Let’s do the article on this essential part for the car! 

Steering column: what the regulations say

In the age of electronics in vehicles, it might seem anachronistic not to have replaced this mechanical system with automated electric control.

This is because the regulations specify that the main steering system must contain a mechanical link between the steering control, normally the steering wheel, and the wheels to determine the vehicle’s trajectory. It is believed that a large mechanical linkage is not prone to failure. 

Today, this legislation is evolving, laying the groundwork for fully automated systems for automobile steering. 

Good to know: To date, these systems are being developed by automakers and OEMs. 

The functionality of the steering column

The steering column consists of a shaft guided inside a sleeve attached to the steering wheel, often equipped with a steering knuckle, allowing an angle transmission to the input of the rack and pinion.

This device, placed between the steering wheel and the rack, transmits the rotational movement imparted by the driver to the rack. This movement allows the rack housing to actuate a steering bar in the right or left translation for steering the wheels.

Additional functions of the steering column

Besides its steering role, the steering column has other functions:

    – it is the support of the steering wheel controls and the protective covers;

    – It integrates the key switch (for vehicles that are equipped with one) and the anti-theft system (mechanical or electrical), allowing its locking;

    – It has a device for adjusting the height and length of the steering wheel;

    – On modern vehicles, it often includes a torque sensor and an angle sensor for steering assistance (they provide information on the effort exerted by the driver on the steering wheel and the position of the steering when the wheels are turned).

    – An electric motor is often added for steering assistance.

    – It is a decisive safety element for the absorption of frontal shocks: indeed, its metal sleeve has a part made of mesh, allowing its retraction in case of impact (it can also be made of a telescopic assembly: the lower sleeve slides into the upper sleeve in case of an accident).

The steering column and its maintenance

Causes of replacement

A replacement of the steering column is justified when the cardan shaft is worn (dangerous play and inaccuracy of the steering) or in case of an accident.

The malfunction can also come from the auxiliary elements when they exist (electric power steering motor – sensors – steering lock).

The cost of the repair

It fluctuates according to the type of steering column:

    – classic steering columns without integrated electronic assistance vary from $60 to $200;

    – Modern steering columns with electric motors and sensors are much more expensive, from $400 to $1,500.

These devices also require resetting with a diagnostic device.

Good to know: always disconnect the battery before removing the steering column (risk of airbag activation). Also, never mount a used steering column that may have been removed from a wrecked vehicle as the steering column may have been damaged. 

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