Steering Gets a Makeover
For years, the steering system has been a network of intrinsic, but largely mechanical parts. Whilst neighbouring components have become increasingly electronic during this time, it has remained relatively untouched. Until now. With new components, new materials and new service procedures, the steering system is catching on to the ongoing electrification and getting a well-deserved transformation of its own.
The advent of Electronic Stability Programmes (ESP) has brought a whole host of new electronic components. One of these is the steering angle sensor. Typically found in multiples inside the steering column, it works with the yaw, accelerometer and wheel speed sensors to monitor what the vehicle is doing, what the driver wants the vehicle to do, and what corrections need to be made by the ABS to maintain control.
Whilst the steering angle sensor was introduced in the early 90’s, only recently has it become necessary to reset them after performing a wheel alignment or replacing a component that can alter the toe and thrust angle. Critically, the procedure to do this differs significantly between manufacturers; some vehicles can self-calibrate by having the wheel turned from lock to lock and then centered and cycling the key, some need a quick test drive and others a diagnostic routine. Either way, steering angle reset should now be part of any garages standard alignment.
Many new vehicles also feature a self-leveling headlight sensor, positioned on the control arm. When fitting a new control arm, this sensor will need to be transferred and reset using a diagnostic tool, such as our DS solution, to access the headlight or body module and then perform a basic setting. This procedure will ensure that the headlights self-level to the correct position, and do not blind oncoming traffic.
As with most things, however, there’s a trade-off. And that’s the added weight of these and other electronic components. To compensate for this, vehicle manufactures are increasingly using aluminium in their steering and suspension parts. As well as reducing overall vehicle weight, helping to improve emissions and fuel economy, it also lowers unsprung weight between the tyre and spring for improved handling, and transmits less road and tyre noise for greater driver comfort.
Whilst aluminium parts are still strong and durable, because they are extruded or forged, and sometimes heat treated, they wear differently, so technicians need to look out for other signs of damage. A curb strike, for example, may result in cracks instead of bending – these cracks may be invisible to the human eye and require a die kit to diagnose. Aluminium also has a finite fatigue life so failure rates will be different too; technicians should replace the whole arm assembly instead of just the bushes, and remember that ball joints aren’t replaceable on most aluminium control arms.
To help the aftermarket prepare for these changes, we offer a full steering steering solution including the parts, backed by a three year/36,000-mile warranty, diagnostic capability and technical expertise. Learn more about our steering range.