The most taken for granted aspect of driving is the act of steering. Often we land ourselves in trouble on the road and we don’t have the know-how to steer our way out of it. Sometimes the condition of your vehicle and the components that aid safe steering can affect your vehicle’s ability to perform correct steering.
This article will highlight some of the reasons steering is affected and how to safely correct steering to keep yourself and those around you safe on the roads.
Firstly, the most important thing to adhere to is to always have both hands on the steering wheel. In South Africa, where almost 40 percent of road death accidents are of pedestrians on the road, it has become increasingly important to remain vigilant and ready to react. Having your hands on the steering wheel in the 9 and 3 o clock position or 10 and 2 will ensure that you are prepared to react. Hands at the 8 and 4 position lead to lazy driving and are not good in helping reaction times. However, driving with one hand or finger is the worst possible way to help reactions. In an emergency situation one cannot get one’s hand back on the wheel fast enough. An increased reaction time means the chances of an accident or fatality occurring are much higher.
In order to check that your vehicle’s steering is in good condition you can do this simple test on an open stretch of road to check how your car reacts. If your car remains straight, save for a little bit of deviation due to the camber of the road, then it is likely that your vehicle’s steering is safe. However if your car reacts otherwise, it is a good idea to explore the following options:
- A vehicle that moves from side to side could have incorrect wheel alignment, a loose steering gear or an unbalanced load.
- If it sways to one side, this could be an indication of a big difference in tyre pressure, incorrect rear wheel tracking, a broken spring or even due to some of the reasons mentioned above.
- If your vehicle turns a corner and struggles to return back to a straight steering position it could be due to some of the reasons listed above, but also due to binding steering linkages, damaged suspension arms, wrongly adjusted steering gear or sagging front springs. Low fluid levels, a faulty pump, sticky valve spool, loose belt or a clogged hose can also contribute to steering problems.
- If a steering wheel has a lot of kickback when driving over stones or seams in the road then it is best to check for loose steering linkages, a worn steering box or incorrectly adjusted front wheel bearings. Air in a power steering system can also be a cause.
- Lastly, if your tyres squeal on corners this can be an indication of low tyre pressure.
Swerving can be caused by trying to steer while doing high speeds, in rough or wet conditions or in emergency situations. Swerving can be avoided by slowing down in anticipation of these circumstances. In the event of overtaking or entering a new lane, you should always ensure you gently drift back into the lane, as opposed to jerking back into it, this can prevent swerving.
Sometimes incorrect steering with a combination of high speeds and bad road conditions can lead to over and under steer.
Under steer occurs during a turn of a corner, when you try to turn the vehicle but it continues in a straight line, heading off the road. This occurs because the front tyres have reached their adhesion limit and cannot grip the road adequately enough to turn. The best way to correct under steer is to brake, release break, steer in the opposite desired direction and quickly change back to turning in the correct direction. However, you should not brake into a corner as this will cause further under steer, rather try and brake on the straightest line possible. This will ensure the cars slow down enough to regain enough grip to turn.
Over steer occurs when turning a corner and the vehicles back slides out as the rear wheels do not have enough grip to complete the turn. The best to do is not to accelerate further through the corner, but rather to very carefully break gently in the straightest manner possible. Full force braking can become more dangerous than helpful. Rather brake gently and correct your steering in situations such as over steer.
By ensuring that your vehicle’s steering is safe and that you know safe means of driving you can effectively ensure that you and those around you will be safer on the roads thanks to safe steering.