Auto Mechanic Training 101: How a Car's Steering Works

The Components of Rack-and-Pinion Steering Explained for Students in Auto Mechanic Training

Without steering, cars would be rendered completely useless. A vehicle’s steering system is one of its most essential components. If the system is not functioning properly or the wheel alignment is off kilter, it can cause an array of issues that could make the vehicle very unsafe.

In the 1930s, BMW introduced the very first vehicle with a rack-and-pinion steering system. Not long after, other European automakers began adopting the new technology, and by 1974 it had made its way to America in the Ford Pinto. Today there are only a couple of steering systems seen in road vehicles, with rack-and-pinion being the most common and popular option.

If you’re thinking of enrolling in auto mechanic training, read on to get a jumpstart on your knowledge about this popular steering system.

The Components of Rack-and-Pinion Steering Explained for Students in Auto Mechanic Training

Students in auto mechanic training likely know that although steering a vehicle is a simple task, what is really going on inside the car involves many complex parts all working together. In order to understand how rack-and-pinion steering works, you first need to understand the different components of the system.

On the front end of the vehicle, picture a long horizontal bar with the two front tires attached to either end. This is known as the rack-and-pinion case. Inside the rack-and-pinion case, there is another bar called the tie rod, which protrudes from either end and helps connect to the wheels. The tie rod is contained within the case so it can move and help steer the vehicle.

In the middle of the rack-and-pinion case is another bar that is vertical and pointing upwards, which is attached to the steering wheel. The vertical bar is called the steering shaft. Connecting the vertical bar to the horizontal bar is a pinion gear (a round gear) and a rack gear (a row of grooves). The tires connect to the horizontal bar with steering arms. The steering arms move with the horizontal bar, and push and pull the wheels in the direction they need to go.

The Steering Mechanism Explained for Students in Auto Mechanic Training

The whole process of steering happens seamlessly, which is why most individuals who aren’t in an automotive technology program may not realize just how many moving automotive parts make up a steering system.

So what’s really happening when a vehicle’s wheel is turned? When you turn the steering wheel, the steering shaft rotates with it in the same direction. When the steering shaft rotates, so does the gear on the end that connects to the horizontal bar. This forces the gear to move along the horizontal bar’s gear rack. The motion causes the horizontal bar to either move to the left or right depending on which way the vehicle is turning. The tie rod responds to this motion and so do the steering arms, which rotate the tires in the direction you want them to go.

Gears move the horizontal bar that connects the wheels in order to steer the car

Gears move the horizontal bar that connects the wheels in order to steer the car

Most of today’s vehicles have front-wheel drive, which means only the front tires can change the direction of the vehicle as described above. However, some vehicles like Jeeps and trucks have four-wheel drive steering to improve vehicle control. In vehicles with four-wheel drive, the back tires are controlled by a computer, and the four-wheel mode can be turned off when it isn’t necessary.

Are you interested in starting an auto mechanic apprenticeship in Cambridge?

Contact Automotive Training Centres today to learn more!

Categories: ATC News, Cambridge
Tags: auto mechanic apprenticeship in Cambridge, auto mechanic training, automotive technology program

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