Images of a Rack and Pinion and a Worm and Sector

Types of Steering Linkages

You may not have ever thought about it, but it is a true work of engineering that allows you to effortlessly change the direction of your car with just a slight turn of your steering wheel. The steering system of a car is made up of many different parts that all must work together smoothly for easy maneuvering. 

The steering linkage refers to the components and parts that connect the steering gear to the steering arms attached to the front or rear wheels. There are two main types of steering linkages.

Rack and Pinion

Rack and pinion is by far the most popular and commonly used steering linkages today for cars, small trucks, and SUVs. The rack and pinion gearset is enclosed in a metal tube, and a tie rod attaches the gearset to the wheels of the car. The rack has metal teeth, and the pinion is a gear that is connected to the steering shaft (which is connected to the steering wheel). When you turn the wheel, the shaft turns, which turns the pinion, which moves along the rack, pulling the rod horizontally and moving the wheels. 

Basically, the rack and pinion linkage converts the rotational motion of the steering wheel into linear motion which moves the wheels. 

Worm and Sector

The worm and sector steering linkage is slightly different from the rack and pinion system and is typically seen on an older generation of cars. In this scenario, the steering shaft is connected to the “worm”, which have threads that arc up and down (like an inchworm). Those threads mesh with the teeth of the sector, which turns the pitman arm shaft. The pitman arm shaft translates the rotational movement of the steering wheel into the lateral motion needed to turn the wheels.

Worm and sector steering is sometimes also referred to as recirculating ball steering. The threads of the worm gear are filled with ball bearings that recirculate through the gear as it turns, reducing friction and wear on the gear and making the steering wheel feel tighter and more controlled. 

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