The cars of yesteryear could weigh anywhere from 3,600 pounds to 5,712 pounds. Imagine having to use nothing but the strength of your arms and torso to get one of those beasts to turn at a stop sign or to parallel park! The Bountiful car repair team at Master Muffler is grateful for the classic cars of the 60s and 70s, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate some steering assistance while driving them. 

It was no easy task maneuvering tank-like vehicles in the first half of the 1900s. As people recovered from the Great Depression of the 1930s, and before World War II in the 1940s made vehicles scarce, drivers had to simultaneously shift and steer their cars without the assistance of power steering.

The History of Power Steering

Although patents for power steering were filed in the 1800s, it wasn’t until 1926 that a modern, practical version of power steering was offered by engineer Francis Davis. Davis worked for the automotive industry at Pierce-Arrow, a company that specialized in luxury cars, commercial trucks, and firetrucks. You can imagine that vehicles of that size were not easy to maneuver! 

Davis continued to develop his hydraulic power steering design into the 1940s and filed for patents related to five different components of a power steering system. General Motors loved his work and wanted to incorporate hydraulic steering systems into their boat-like Cadillacs, but when the economy crashed in the 1930s, they had to pass on the collaboration.

GM’s loss was Bendix Corporation’s game. In the late 1960s, they commissioned Davis for his power steering prowess and had the system installed in ten vehicles. At the time, Bendix was a manufacturer of vehicle parts and systems (for example, brake shoes, brake systems, and carburetors). They were a supplier for GM and Ford, so via Bendix’s contract with Davis, the power steering system eventually made its way into GM’s Buicks.

Power Steering’s Role in World War II

If you thought the cars of the 1940s were big, take a look at the war vehicles! Thanks to Davis’s work with Bendix, the armored vehicles used in WWII could be outfitted with power steering systems, making maneuverability the least of the soldier’s worries. At the time, Chevrolet was manufacturing vehicles for the British (American allies during the war), and they installed hydraulic power steering in most armored vehicles overseas.

Power Steering in the United States

Thankfully, by 1953 power steering had become more common for civilian vehicles, and was a feature found in over one million cars nationwide. Since Davis’s patents on the work had expired by now, Chrysler capitalized on the opportunity to manufacture their own power steering systems for use nationwide.

With Chrysler and GM now producing power steering features of their own, by 1956, power steering was an available feature in ¼ of all the cars on the road. Data indicates that in 1960, over 3.5 million vehicles had power steering.

How Power Steering Works

Ok, after all this talk about how great power steering is, how does power steering work? Power steering makes maneuvering a vehicle much easier for the driver. Instead of relying on muscle to crank the steering wheel the entire arc of the turn, there are now some options for providing steering assistance in any vehicle. If your steering isn’t working well, it might be a simple car repair fix; but due to the nature of replacing it, it can be a task best left to a mechanic.

Electric Power Steering

For this power steering system, an electric motor increases the force created by turning the steering wheel. When the steering wheel is moved, a computer analyzes the movement and determines how much force should be applied to the steering gears and the tires.

Hydraulic Power Steering

Hydraulic fluid is used to increase the force the driver exerts on the steering wheel. Thanks to a pressurized pump, the fluid is pressurized and applied to the steering gears, which in turn makes the tires on the ground rotate. The more the driver turns the steering wheel, the more pressure is applied to the hydraulic steering fluid, and the more power is applied to the tires. Additionally, when a vehicle is moving slowly, more force is applied to the turn; if a vehicle is traveling at a high rate of speed, less force is applied to help turn the tires.

Electro-Hydraulic Power Steering

This system is just how it sounds; a combination of electric and hydraulic power steering systems working together. Like a hydraulic system, there is a pump that pressurizes the steering fluid. However, the pump is powered by an electric motor, which applies the right amount of steering assistance based on the arc of the turn. Electro-hydraulic power steering assists can increase fuel economy and steering wheel responsiveness.

If you need Bountiful car repair related to your power steering system, let the experts at Master Muffler know. We offer Bountiful car repairs ranging from engines to exhaust, and most things in between.