History of Rack & Pinion Power Steering

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History of Rack & Pinion Power Steering
Rack and pinion steering predates the automobile. (steering wheel and dash of British sports car image by Bo Widerberg from Fotolia.com)

Rack and pinion power steering is standard on almost every car produced in the world today. As a concept, however, rack and pinion is essentially as old as the wheel itself.

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Earliest Rack and Pinion

Rack and pinion works by having a wheel or cog roll across a linear surface to create a mechanical advantage. Early versions of rack and pinion as a steering mechanism can be seen long before the invention of the car as they appeared on the high wheel tricycles of the late 19th century.

Rack and Pinion in Cars

In vehicles, rack and pinion steering works by having a toothed pinion cog mesh with a toothed linear rack. The steering wheel turns the pinion, which then moves the rack from side-to-side, influencing steering. The need for a system that was less laborious under the weight of a vehicle was necessary.

Power Rack and Pinion Steering

Power assisted steering was first created in 1926 for the Pierce Arrow Cadillac. The costliness of implementation, however, prevented it from becoming widespread. It wasn't until 1951 that the Chrysler Corporation introduced the first commercially viable power steering system. Chrysler called the system "Hydraguide."

Modern power-assisted rack and pinion steering uses a hydraulic pump run by a belt around the engine to create power that assists in the rotation of the pinion.

Rack and Pinion Variable Ratio Steering Gear

In 1974, Arthur E. Clark filed a patent for a rack and pinion variable ratio steering gear that included a curved tooth structure that changed the pitch and angle at which the pinion integrated with the rack. This invention leveraged the benefit of power steering to improve handling, allowing for greater response with even less effort.

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