Power Steering

June 11, 2015

The History of Power Steering

When you drive your vehicle, you may think of it as second nature. There was a time that the vehicle was not as efficient as it is now. One of these items is the power steering. Without power steering, it would be very difficult to operate the vehicle. That particular operating knowledge resides within the senior population and with antique car enthusiasts and owners. Today’s population is composed of two complete generations, with an upcoming third group, that have only driven cars manufactured with power steering. As long as car owners keep up the required maintenance schedule, to include power steering service, the steering will remain flawless and easy. Those who learned to drive in the up to the early 1950s experienced the stiff hard turning and parking ratio behind a steering column without power steering. Yet there was another major component that contributed to the steering situation, the rear wheel drive. Power steering is controlled with front wheel drive, which makes maneuverability much easier and manageable. When Power Steering Started Commercial power steering came into being with the 1951 Chrysler Imperial and then with the 1952 Cadillac. The first patent to include power steering was U.S. Patent 646477, issued in April 1900. During World War II heavy military mobility equipment highlighted the need for steering maneuverability. That form of power steering greatly assisted the British and American armies. Today’s highly refined system is the result of over 130 years of research, design and improvements. How it Affects Tires and Brakes Besides not having power steering before 1951, car steering was governed by rear wheel drive. The tires had inner tubes and were not as wide as today’s all weather tubeless tires. Vehicles required a second set of tires for colder weather and were appropriately named snow tires. Brakes on the older vehicles were hydraulic. Without modern anti-lock capability brakes that got wet due to standing water on roads often would malfunction and had to be pumped to help restore usability. The Safety Features of Seat Belts and Air Bags Today’s seat belts are designed more like a harness that constrains both the seat and upper body areas of riders. The older vehicles had seat belts that only strapped across the lap. Front seats were often bench style to accommodate three people with three lap belts. There was no buckle-up law and unless something or someone obstructed the rear view window, there was no limit on how many people could ride in the back seat. Air bags are a modern safety feature that undoubtedly has saved many lives every year. The older cars were much heavier, the speeds were lower and minor accidents or fender benders caused less damage to both riders and vehicles. Today’s lighter, faster cars need the added safety features that help preserve life even when involved in minor mishaps. If you notice that there is an issue with the seat belts or air bags, make sure to have it fixed as soon as possible.