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Students in Car Mechanic Training: Here’s the History of Power Steering

Published on January 19, 2017 by in Blog, CATI

Here's what students in car mechanic training can learn about the history of this technology

Originally, it was up to the driver to provide the force required to turn a car’s wheels. This made older cars more difficult to handle than current models, in particular for people with lower levels of upper body strength.

Power steering changed that. It introduced technology that added force when drivers turned the steering wheel, which in turn made it easier to turn a car’s tires. Today, this feature comes standard on the majority of vehicles, but the power steering we have today is quite different from what was first introduced decades ago.

Want to learn more? Here’s a look at the history of power steering.

The First Commercially Available Power Steering Was Released in the 1950s

Though the concept of assisted steering dates back to before 1900, it was only in 1951 that hydraulic power steering was first released to assist drivers with operating their personal vehicles. Essentially, hydraulic power steering works like this: by turning the steering wheel of a car, fluid is directed down a particular tube, which adds force in the direction the wheel is turning. This added force makes it easier to turn the tires—particularly when the car is not in motion.

There are only a few models sold in North America that still use this technology, but you still may encounter it from time to time after completing your car mechanic training. Be sure that the power steering pump is not leaking, as that can make it more difficult for your customer to turn the wheel of their car.

Next Came Hybrid Power Steering, Which You Might See in Your Auto Mechanic Career

In the 1960s, to reduce drivers’ workload even further, auto manufacturers introduced a hybrid power steering system. This combined hydraulics with an electric motor, which replaced the belt that was formerly used to regulate the strength and direction of hydraulic pressure.

Around the same time, a feature that adjusted the strength of the power steering response according to the speed at which a vehicle travelled was also introduced. Vehicles moving at slower speeds need more assistance, so being able to regulate the power steering by vehicle speed made it easier to avoid under-correcting at low speeds, and over-correcting at higher ones.

Like fully hydraulic power steering, hybrid power steering is fairly rare in today’s auto market. To make sure your customers can get about with ease, you’ll need to apply your auto mechanic training to verify that both the hydraulic pump and the electric motor are working well when examining this type of power steering.

Today, Graduates of Car Mechanic Training Mostly Work With All-Electric Steering

For the most part, modern automobiles are equipped with all-electric power steering capability. Turning the steering wheel in a particular direction activates an electric motor, which boosts the force with which the tires turn. Critics of this technology say that it removes some of the sensorial pleasure that can come from driving with hydraulic steering, but proponents like that electric power steering is more efficient. It uses up to 90 per cent less energy than hydraulic steering. I also has fewer parts, and is therefore less prone to failure, than hybrid steering. As a result, it’s very likely that you’ll encounter this technology when working in an auto mechanic career.

Power steering has undergone some fairly large changes over the past few decades, making it easier and more efficient for cars to assist drivers with turning. You may encounter various kinds of power steering technology in your career, each of which will require you use different parts of your training to maintain or repair.

Do you want to get started at an automotive training school?

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