An Introduction To Power Steering For The Future Hybrid And Electric Vehicle Mechanic

For many students in hybrid and electrical mechanic training, learning the science and art behind battery technology and regenerative braking is the whole essence of their training. However, understanding how power steering works is another essential puzzle piece. 

Power steering makes it easier for the driver to turn the steering wheel. Without this assistance, steering most vehicles would feel really hard, especially during slow actions like parking, making sharp city turns, or navigating busy gas stations.
As electric vehicles get heavier, power steering is set to assume heightened importance in the EV scene. EV mechanics with full knowledge of these systems can distinguish themselves and position themselves for consummate career success if you’re currently undergoing hybrid and electrical mechanic training, here’s Power Steering 101.

Hybrid and electric vehicle mechanic checking the power steering on hybrid vehicle after repair.
As you will discover in hybrid and electric vehicle mechanic training, as EVs get heavier, power steering is set to assume heightened importance.

About Power Steering

Not much is known about who invented it, but power steering, also known as power-assisted steering, is a system that helps drivers steer their vehicles with minimal effort on the steering wheel. Traditionally, power steering uses hydraulic or electronic mechanisms to assist the driver in turning the steering wheel with minimal effort. This technology allows for smoother steering and enhanced maneuverability, especially at low speeds.

Hydraulic power steering systems, common in older vehicles, operate by using a pump that circulates power steering fluid under pressure to assist in moving the steering gear. Electric power steering (EPS), on the other hand, uses an electric motor to provide the necessary assistance. Given the electric-centric nature of EVs and hybrids, EPS has become the more prevalent choice in these vehicles.

Hydraulic Power Steering

As you’ll discover in hybrid and electrical mechanic training, hydraulic Power Steering (HPS) uses hydraulic fluid to aid in steering, powered by the engine. Key components include the steering gear (either rack and pinion or recirculating ball type), a pump for hydraulic pressure, fluid, and hoses. The engine-driven pump circulates this fluid, and as the driver turns the steering wheel, a valve channels the fluid where needed to help turn the wheels. While this system offers reliable feedback and has proven trustworthy in older vehicles, it’s not as fuel-efficient. The pump always runs, even if steering help isn’t needed, therefore, upkeep might include periodically checking for leaks and ensuring adequate fluid levels.

Electric Power Steering

Electric Power Steering (EPS) uses an electric motor to help with steering, replacing the traditional hydraulic fluid. The system consists of a motor, sensors to read steering actions and a control module. When the steering wheel is turned, sensors gauge the movement and direct the motor to assist accordingly. As people in auto careers know, this system is notably more fuel-efficient than its hydraulic counterpart because it runs only when required. It’s also versatile, seamlessly blending with current tech features like lane-keeping. However, a drawback for some drivers is that EPS might offer a less direct road feel than hydraulic systems.

A hybrid and electric vehicle mechanic checks the power steering on a hybrid vehicle during a repair assessment.
As you’ll discover in hybrid and electrical mechanic training, hydraulic Power Steering (HPS) uses hydraulic fluid to aid in steering.

Electro-hydraulic Power Steering

Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering (EHPS) combines the best of both HPS and EPS. While it has components similar to HPS, an electric motor, not an engine, drives its pump. In operation, the motor activates the hydraulic pump, depending on the steering input, to assist with turning. EHPS brings together the efficiency of electric systems and the tactile feedback of hydraulic ones. It is important to note that it still needs hydraulic fluid, and its complex setup potentially means more maintenance than a pure EPS system.

Why Power Steering Matters in Hybrid And Electric Vehicle Mechanic Training 

Modern EVs and hybrids, due to their battery packs, often weigh more than traditional cars, demanding stronger steering assistance and emphasizing power steering’s importance. In terms of energy, EPS systems shine as they’re more efficient than hydraulic ones, using power only when required — a key feature for battery-conscious EVs. In addition, with advancements like lane-keeping and auto-parking, there’s a need for sophisticated steering control. EPS integrates seamlessly with these modern techs and is vital for today’s vehicles.

Do you want to become a hybrid and electric vehicle mechanic?

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