A steering wheel can seem like a very basic part of a vehicle. It can simply be viewed as an interior part responsible for determining the direction of the tires. Although this is true to some degree, the process is not as simple as it sounds.
The steering wheel is a part of a more complex system. This is necessary, for one reason, because the tires are quite a distance away. Also, controlling tires can be complicated because those on opposite sides of the vehicle must turn on different angles. The steering wheel alone cannot be accessible to the driver and accomplish everything that must be done, so it must be connected to the steering system.
With the ball and pinion steering system, the steering wheel is connected to the steering shaft. The steering shaft is a long rod that connects the steering wheel to the rest of the system. At the end of that rod is a pinion, which is a gear that interacts with the part of the steering system that controls each tire.
A recirculating ball steering system also involves an interior wheel connected to a steering shaft. This rod, however, runs down into a metal gearbox. Turning the steering wheel rotates the steering shaft, which then causes the gearbox to turn. The gear box is connected to the part of the system that controls the tires and results in their turning.
Every steering wheel is not the same in how it turns a vehicle. The term steering ratio refers to the difference. In some vehicles, a slight turn can greatly affect the angle of the wheels. In other cars, the wheel may be turned a great deal but the tires may not move much. The lower the ratio, the easier a car is to turn.
Some steering wheels are connected to power steering systems. These allow drivers to turn their vehicles with less effort. This is possible due to a high-pressure fluid known as power steering fluid. In some countries the steering wheels are on the right and in other countries they are on the left. This does not generally affect how they operate within the system.
Steering wheels in many vehicles also house features not related to the steering system. The most common and consistently present feature is the horn. Buttons that operate the cruise control system may be placed on the steering wheel. It is also likely that the driver’s airbag is stored inside.