What is a Steering Gear?

Troy Holmes

In an automobile, a steering wheel manages the directional movement of a vehicle. This wheel is connected to a special rod, which uses a steering gear to turn the axles in the car. When the steering wheel is turned, the rod rotates the gear, which then pulls or pushes the axle in the required direction.

Power steering is a standard feature in nearly ever modern car and truck.
Power steering is a standard feature in nearly ever modern car and truck.

The steering gear design was first created with the Ackermann steering geometry, which forces the wheels to turn based on a rod and gear design. This design is necessary to ensure that both wheels are turned simultaneously at an equal distance. The gear, which resides in the gear box, moves the axle rod horizontally based on the rotation of the steering wheel.

Sports cars often have rack and pinion steering.
Sports cars often have rack and pinion steering.

There are many forms of steering available in automobiles today. These include rack-and-pinion steering, manual steering, and power steering. Each form of steering requires a steering gear to manage the directional changes of the automobile. This gear is typically enclosed within a gear box that provides lubricant for the steering arm area.

Manual steering was the first form of steering in automobiles. This type of steering required a large steering wheel to help the driver manually move the steering gear and front wheels of the car. Manual steering was a tedious task for many individuals because the wheels were difficult to turn in heavy cars.

Power steering was first introduced in the 1951 Chrysler automobile. This steering system uses a special power steering pump that assists the driver in turning the wheels through the steering gear. Power steering is based on a pulley drive that is attached to the motor of the vehicle. This belt helps to move the steering rod when the driver rotates the steering wheel.

Rack-and-pinion steering is typically seen in sports cars. This type of design provides more direct steering on the wheels. A rack-and-pinion design uses a pinion gear that is attached to the steering shaft of the wheel. This pinion gear moves the rack horizontally, causing the wheels to rotate left or right.

When a steering gear fails it causes the wheels of the vehicle to rotate freely without control from the steering wheel. This is a dangerous situation that typically occurs when the steering gear wears out. The most obvious sign of gear failure is the reduction of wheel movement with turns in the steering wheel. If this happens during driving conditions the operator should slow down as quickly as possible.

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Discussion Comments


I remember the first car I ever bought. It had rack-and-pinion steering. I had such a hard time pulling into parking places and things such as that! Thank goodness our steering options have improved!

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