Vehicle Rack & Pinion

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Vehicle Rack & Pinion
Automotive Rack & Pinion

The rack and pinion in a vehicle is a simple unit, and is essential to how the vehicle steers. This is the most common steering method used in vehicle's today. The rack and pinion gears are enclosed in a metal tube, and each end of the rack protrudes from both ends of the tube. There is a metal tie rod which is attached to each end of the rack. The pinion gear is attached to the steering column, which is attached to the steering wheel, inside the vehicle. When the driver turns the steering wheel, it turns the pinion gear, and in turn, the rack turns from side to side, which is what turns the wheels of the vehicle. The rack and pinion design provides gear reduction, which allows the steering wheel to be turned easily.

Most steering wheels take three to four revolutions of the wheel to move, from the far left of the rack, to the far right. The steering ratio is how many rotations of the wheel it takes for the wheels to turn. Vehicles such as trucks, have higher ratios than vehicles such as sport cars, which have low ratios. It takes more revolutions for the steering wheel to turn, depending on the ratio of the particular vehicle. This mechanism is why smaller cars are capable of taking sharp turns, and larger vehicles are forced to make wide turns. Large vehicles such as trucks, have higher ratios due to the fact that they are heavier, which makes the gears unable to turn as quickly. If the rack and pinion needed to turn a heavy vehicle's wheel quickly, the gears would wear quickly due to the strain in which the gears would receive. Light vehicles which do not put as much weight on the tires, allows the gears inside the rack and pinion, to move quickly and with less friction.

When a power steering system is added to the rack and pinion, the design must change in order to accommodate for a cylinder. The cylinder is positioned in the rack, and it contains a piston. The piston moves from side to side when it is subjected to high pressure from the fluid. When the piston moves to one side, the rack also moves in the same direction, which is what causes the power assist. The high pressure fluid is delivered by the power steering pump. If the power steering pump were to break, it would still be possible to drive the vehicle, however, it would be difficult to turn the wheel due to the piston not moving the rack.

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