What is Power Steering and How Does it Work?

All of us enjoy a smooth ride. The ease of the steering wheel, the rhythmic hum of the motor. If you’ve ever experienced driving without power steering, you know how crucial it is to an enjoyable trip.

The first power steering system was introduced in 1900 by Robert. E Twyford from Pittsburgh, however, it wasn’t until Cadillac released the Chrysler Imperial in 1951 that power steering became an American standard.

What is power steering? And how does it work? Let’s cruise into the details of all things pertaining to a power steering system.

What is Power Steering

Power steering is a mechanical device installed on a vehicle that reduces the effort needed to turn the steering wheel, making it easier for the vehicle to turn or maneuver at low speeds. There are three main types of power steering systems such as hydraulic power steering (HPS), electric power steering (EPS) and hydroelectric power steering (EPHS).

The most common power steering systems used today are HPS and EPS.

How Power Steering Works

Now that we’ve covered the different types, let’s discuss how the two most common systems work.

Hydraulic Power Steering System

Using hydraulic pressure supplied by an engine-driven pump, or power steering pump, this pressure assists the motion of turning the steering wheel. The power steering pump is turned by a serpentine belt, or accessory drive, providing pressurized power steering fluid to the power steering hose and ultimately delivering it to the power steering control valve at the steering gear.

Power steering fluid is kept in a fluid reservoir that’s maintained by the low side power steering hose that returns fluid at low pressure.

HPS does have its drawbacks. Because the power-steering pump equipped on most vehicles runs constantly and pumps fluid all the time, it wastes horsepower. This wasted power translates into wasted fuel and higher emissions. Hydraulic power steering systems are also prone to leaks and noises and commonly result in failure due to a broken serpentine belt.

Electric Power Steering System

In this system, an electric motor replaces the components that make up an HPS. The motor, which is separate from the vehicle engine, is installed on the steering rack or steering column. An electric power steering system is often the preferred system because of its efficient fuel economy and lower emissions.

Additionally, EPS is customizable by vehicle type, road speed, and even driver preference and it eliminates environmental hazards of leakage and disposal of hydraulic power steering fluid.

Finally, if the engine fails or stalls, electrical assistance continues to function.

Types of Power Steering Fluids

Depending what type of power steering system your vehicle has will determine the type of power steering fluid it requires. There are three main types of power steering fluids available:

  1. Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF)
  2. Synthetic-Based Hydraulic Fluid
  3. Universal Powering Steering Fluid

Each of these fluids has different specification standards and is designed to work with specific systems. It’s important to understand that using the incorrect power steering fluid for your vehicle’s power steering system can cause damage to your steering system.

Professional Power Steering Maintenance

Your vehicle’s power steering system, although imperative to its performance, is a delicate system that requires a professional’s service to maintain correctly.

There are some symptoms to look out for if your power steering is in need of service. These include:

  1. Whining noises when turning the wheel
  2. Difficulty or resistance turning the steering wheel
  3. Leaking red liquid underneath the car

If you’re suspicious something is off with your power steering system, schedule an appointment with your local Telle Tire to get you back on the road safely and quickly!