changing direction

Steering is obviously a significant aspect of car control and safe driving, you need to be able to direct the vehicle into a certain space and you need to be able to identify where your vehicle is going to go. Changing the direction of the car is influenced by a variety of factors and as well as the ones that we look at here it is worth remembering that different vehicles will “steer” differently. It is important to remember that larger longer vehicles need more space to turn and may have to move right before turning left. It is important that you know the vehicle you are driving and have the ability to move and direct it as required (and also know when it is not possible to direct your vehicle into a certain space – getting ‘stuck’ will help no one).

the steering wheel

The steering wheel is the only way you have of controlling the direction of your car and it has a limited range of motion – normally about 1.75 times in each direction. Turning the wheel moves the axle and thus changes the direction of the wheels.

It is worth noting that:

  1. You have to bring the wheel back to centre to keep going in a certain direction (that is you will go round in a circle if you don’t)
  2. The more you turn it the tighter the vehicle wil turn.
  3. There is a minor time lag with the effect of the steering wheel compared to handle bars of a cycle mainly because a car is heavier and bigger and takes longer to turn.

The wonder of the human body and mind is that people with reasonable hand-eye co-ordination will quickly figure out how much to turn the steering wheel to get the desired effect. Others with poor hand-eye co-ordination may take longer or require some more guidance while in the car.

One symptom of being particularly anxious is that the tension in the shoulders and arms can lead to sharp movements with the steering wheel or with a tendency to over-steer or under-steer. These problems often sort themselves out. But if you are struggling a good instructor should be able to help.

How quickly the car changes direction will depend on how quickly you have turned the steering wheel (and therefore wheels) but also how fast the vehicle is moving. A little turn at fast speed will result in the car changing position a great deal, but a large amount of steering at slow speeds will result in a very different change of position.

When the wheel is in line the front wheels could be in three different positions:

  1. They could be in-line and hence the car would go forward in a straight line
  2. They could be slightly turned and driving the car would result in a wide circle
  3. They could be almost at full lock and the car would drive in a tight circle.

    power assisted steering

    Many vehicles these days have powered assisted steering to help you move the wheel quickly and easily.

    If you want to find out more then you can check out this website but all you need to know to get your licence is the ability to check and see if the power assisted steering is working. Do this by turning the wheel before and after the engine starts. Before the engine starts it should be more difficult to turn the wheel than afterwards. Equally if the steering starts to feel heavy whilst you are driving that would suggest an issue with the power assisted steering.

    things to avoid

    Dry steering is to be avoided because it puts more pressure on steering components and tyres; the vehicle should always be moving (even if it is only very slowly) whilst you are turning the wheel.

    Turning the wheel without first looking at what is in the space you are aiming to move into is a very bad idea! Changing lanes, turning corners, moving off, reversing – all of these require us to look carefully before actually moving your vehicle.

    what else affects the steering?

    Obviously as a driver you are most in control of where your vehicle is travelling to, there are, however, other things that affect your vehicle. For example strong winds, poor road surfaces, steering defects and problems with your tyres and tracking can all have an affect on how your car drives. 

    If you notice anything odd about how your car is handling (how it responds and feels when you drive it) then get it to a garage as soon as possible. It is your responsibility to make sure your vehicle is in good working order.

    hand position

    You may have heard about the pull-push method – this is a way of steering that enables you to keep full control of the steering and I would highly recommend it – it is incredibly helpful when you are turning the car round in a small space. This method is where one hand pulls the wheel and the other hand pushes it. If you were steering left your left hand would hold teh wheel near the top and pull the wheel anti-clockwise until your left hand it at the bottom of the wheel. Your right hand starting at the bottom of the wheel would then push the wheel until the right hand is at the top. This can then be repeated until the wheel has turned full lock. Some benefits of this method include:

    1. Always having two hands on the wheel.
    2. The ability to change direction easily and quickly.
    3. moving the wheel efficiently and quickly through large movements rather than lots of small ones.

    “10 -to-2” or “quarter-to-three” are phrases you may have come across in relation to positioning your hands on the wheel. These are highly recommended as they give you the most control over the steering. Your hands are opposite each other and on the top half of the wheel giving you the best chance to steer in either direction gently or quickly. There is no required position for your hands whilst driving but there are good reasons for following best practice.

    It is important that you are comfortable when driving so you do need to find a way of holding the wheel that works for you.