2 Types of Steering System Explained

The steering system is responsible for helping the driver control and maneuver the vehicle in desired direction. It is one of the greatest inventions in the automobile industry. It enables a car to turn in different directions without any effort. In this article, we will discuss in detail how the steering system works and how it helps us in maneuvering the vehicle.

What is a Steering System?

A steering system is a mechanism in an automobile that converts the rotation of the steering wheel into a swivelling movement of the road wheels in such a way that the steering-wheel rim turns a long way to move the road wheels a short way.

It helps a driver to use only light forces to steer a heavy vehicle. In the case of a steering wheel of rim 15 in. (380 mm) diameter moving four turns from full left lock to full right lock travels nearly 16 ft (5 m), while the edge of a road wheel moves a distance of only slightly more than 12 in. (300 mm). If the driver swivelled the road wheel directly, she or he would have to push nearly 16 times as hard.

The steering effort passes to the wheels through a system of pivot joints. These are designed to allow the wheels to move up and down with the suspension without changing the steering angle. Apart from this it also ensures that when cornering, the inner front wheel – which has to travel round a tighter curve than the outer one – becomes more sharply angled.

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How Does a Steering System Work?

The steering system will convert the rotary motion of the steering wheel into the angular turn of the front wheels.

Steering wheel rotates the steering column.

  • The steering gearbox is fitted to the end of this column. Therefore, when the wheel is rotated, the cross shaft in the gearbox oscillates.
  • The cross shaft is connected to the drop arm. This arm is linked by means of a drag link to the steering arms.
  • Steering arms on both wheels are connected by the tie rods to the drag link.
  • When the steering wheel is operated the knuckle moves to and fro, moving the steering knuckle are connected to each other.
  • One end of the drag link is connected to the tie rod. The other end is connected to the end of the drop arm.

Functions of a Steering System

The important function of the steering system is as follows:

  • With the help of the steering system, the driver can control the vehicle however he wants
  • The steering provides stability to the vehicle on the road.
  • It minimizes tyre wear and tear.
  • It prevents road shocks from reaching the driver.
  • The steering provides a self-tightening effect after taking a turn.

Types Of Steering System

There are broadly two types of steering system:

  1. Rack and Pinion Steering System
  2. Recirculating Ball Steering System

1. Rack and Pinion Steering System

Rack and Pinion steering system is the most common steering system.  It gets its name from the two gears it uses –  the rack (the linear gear) and the pinion (circular gear). This system is used in most cars and is usually not employed in heavy-duty vehicles. Its working may appear complex but uses quite simple physics.

steering system
Rack and Pinion Steering System

The steering wheel has a shaft attached to it and on the other end of the shaft is the pinion. The pinion is positioned on top of the rack and moves when the steering wheel is moved. The end of the rack has something called a tie rod. The tie rods connect to the steering arm which in turn is connected to the wheel hub. Onwards to the working of rack and pinion.

How Does the Rack and Pinion Steering System Work?

When you rotate the steering wheel the shaft rotates along with it. This in turn rotates the pinion(circular gear) which is on top of the rack. The rotation of the pinion makes the rack move linearly moving the tie rod. The tie rod connected to the steering arm then causes the wheel to turn.

The size of the pinion affects how much turning you get. If the pinion is large in size it means that you’ll be getting more turn from less steering wheel rotation which will make it harder to control. On the other hand, a smaller pinion means it’ll be easier to control but you will need multiple steering wheel turns to make the car corner.

Working of Rack and Pinion Steering System

2. Recirculating Ball Steering System

It is also known as the worm & sector and recirculating ball & nut steering system. This system is usually found in old cars and heavy-duty vehicles like trucks. It’s working is different from a rack and pinion.

steering system
Recirculating Ball Steering System

The recirculating ball steering system has two gears – the worm gear and the sector gear. The steering wheel is connected to a threaded shaft which is connected to a block. The worm gear is quite big and goes through the block which is threaded in such a way it allows the worm gear inside. This block has gear teeth outside of it to which the sector gear is connected. This sector gear is then connected to the pitman arm while the pitman arm is attached to the tie rod. There are ball bearings inside the block that fill the thread of the worm gear. 

How Does the Recirculating Ball Steering System Work?

When the steering wheel is rotated the shaft connected to the steering rotates as well. The gear is bolted to not move up and down. This makes the block and the worm gear rotate.  The rotation makes the block move as it is not held down by anything. The moving block then moves the sector gear which in turn moves the pitman arm. 

The thread of the worm gear is filled with ball bearings which reduce friction and prevent the slop in gear.  This is how the recirculating ball steering system works. It is rarely used now and is mostly found in trucks.

Working of Recirculating Ball Steering System


So, in conclusion, a steering system is responsible for directing a vehicle in the direction that the driver wants to go. It works by sending directions to the front wheels, which turn accordingly to steer the vehicle. This is a very important part of a vehicle, and it needs to be working properly at all times.

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