Power steering is so common today that we don’t even notice it. But when did power steering become standard? When did cars move away from manual steering making it easier for everyone to drive them? Let’s find out.
The average car on the road today weighs about 4000 pounds. Can you imagine trying to move a vehicle that size in any direction with your bare hands? But that was the norm and the way people used to drive until Power steering became common.
Power steering reduced the effort required to turn the steering wheel of heavy vehicles. Prior to power steering, drivers used to find it extremely difficult to turn a 90-degree corner.
So, when did power steering become the standard in cars? The first production car with factory fitted power steering came out in 1951. It was the Chrysler Imperial. By the 1960s, it became standard on all American vehicles.
In this article, I will discuss more about the journey of power steering from now since then. Keep reading to understand how one of the most common features of a car has evolved.
The History Of Power Steering
The patent for power steering became granted in 1876, a decade before the car was just an imagination for people. The patent for the hydraulic power steering system was granted in 1902. In 1904 the government awarded a patent for a vacuum power steering system.
Driving in The Old Days
The cars in the 1930s and early 1940s has 20-inch diameter steering wheels. So, if you wanted to take a turn in those vehicles, you had to apply the strength of your upper body!
It used to a be an act of machismo, and it was one of the reasons women drivers were few and far between. When the car was stationary, it was even more difficult to steer it.
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First Commercial designs of a Power Steering System
In 1926, Francis Davis created the first power steering system. He was working as an automotive Engineer in Piece Arrow at that time and was doing extensive research on power steering and how it can reduce human effort.
Five patents were granted to Francis Davis between 1931 to 1943. Each of the patents had a distinct design of one part of the power steering component.
Davis’ research was mainly centered around the hydraulic power steering system. The idea was to install a better version of hydraulic power steering in Cardillac, but unfortunately, because of lack of economy, the company canceled the idea in 1934.
The first commercial vehicles with Power Steering
Another company, i.e., Benedix Corporation, was watching the efforts of Davis, and in 1936, the company made a contract with him. Within three years, the company installed the power steering system in almost ten vehicles.
In the 1940s, Saginaw recirculating ball steering gear was seen in Cardillac. It provided high mechanical advantage, but the driver still found it hard to guide the vehicle in those days.
World War 2 and the Growth of Power Steering in Commercial Vehicles
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), there was a need for more vehicles for the waterfront. Everyone realized power steering is necessary to drive heavy vehicles like trucks and other armed vehicles. By the end of the war, more than 10,000 vehicles were installed with a power steering system.
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Introduction of Power Steering To Cars
Later Chrysler designed his power steering system immediately after the war ended. The patents of Davis had expired by that time.
So, Chrysler used his design as a base and created his own power steering system. Chrylser named the model as Hydra guide and fitted it on the Imperial.
General Motors was quite interested in the system. So, they made a contract again with Francis Davis to make their own power steering for their cars.
By the end of 1953, one million cars were installed with a power steering system. The public started showing interest in vehicles with the power steering system.
So, by the end of 1956, almost a quarter of cars had a power steering system, and in 1960 more than 3.5 million vehicles had a power steering system.
Nowadays, several power steering systems are used in vehicles like electro-hydraulic and electric systems. But still, there are several cars running today with a hydraulic power steering system. So this proves that Davis’ work is still used in the Automobile industry.
What Is Power Steering?
Most vehicles today use a rack and pinion steering. The rack is the metal bar between the front wheels, and the pinion is a small gear and has teeth that mesh on the rack. Whenever you turn the steering wheel, it turns the pinion.
It moves the rack either left or right and finally turns the wheel of your vehicle. Without power assistance, you will need huge force to turn the pinion and move the rack.
Power Steering makes steering easier. You can easily turn the wheels of your car in any direction. You usually find two types of power steering in-vehicle, i.e., hydraulic power steering and electric power steering.
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#1. Hydraulic Power Steering System
The hydraulic fluid plays a vital role in steering in hydraulic power steering. Whenever you want to take a turn and start steering your wheel, the vane pump receives power from the engine and starts pumping the hydraulic fluid to the rotary vane and then to the double-acting cylinder.
The fluid put pressure on the piston and finally on the rack and pinion. As a result, your wheel turns in a specific direction without applying much effort to the wheel. This tire of power steering has been used in the automobile industry since the 1950s. It has been serving the automobile World for more than 50 years.
It has some downsides like the power steering fluid needs to be replaced each year. The pump runs continuously, even if you drive straight on the road. So there is a wastage of energy.
#2. Electric Power Steering System
The electric power steering uses an electric motor to assist in steering. The motor is present directly on the steering rack. When the driver wants to take a turn in a particular direction, the information is sent to the Electric Control Unit(ECU). The ECU then sends information to the electric motor to turn in a specific direction. The torque sensor is connected to the motor connected to the ECU.
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Frequently Asked Questions
#1. When did power steering become common?
Power steering systems became standard on all American vehicles by 1960.
#2. When did they start adding a power steering system to cars?
The Chrysler fitted the power steering system for the first time in Imperial in 1951, and competition started this year. By the end of 1960, more than 3.5 million cars were equipped with power steering systems.
#3. Do old cars have power steering?
Old cars do not have power steering. So during parking or turning, the driver requires a lot of upper body strength to turn the steering wheel.
#4. When did power steering become standard in the UK?
Chevrolet was manufacturing vehicles with power steering in 1940 for the British army. Later Chrysler used the design of Francis David and produced their power steering system and fitted on Imperial in 1951.
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A Few Final Words
Older cars did not have a power steering system. So, parking or turning a vehicle requite a lot of strength to move the steering wheel of a heavy-weight vehicle.
Chrysler was the first automobile manufacturer that offered a power steering system in 1951. Today, every vehicle is equipped with a power steering system to reduce the effort of turning the steering wheel.
Hydraulic power steering systems are still used in vehicles. But the automobile industry has also developed an electric power steering system. Nowadays, it has become quite popular because they are not that complex, weigh less, and requires less maintenance.
We thank you for reading this article and hope we were able to answer all your questions about Power Steering and how it came to become the standard in cars. You can write to us if you have more queries about the topic.