Can you adjust power steering tension?

My sister has carpal tunnel syndrome and has been looking for a car that she can steer with little force. I have a 2004 honda civic that I’d like to sell her, but she says the steering is too stiff.

as I understand it, there is a torsion spring inside the power steering system, and the steering assistance kicks in in proportion to the degree that the spring is twisted. Can that spring be adjusted? replaced? are there any other ways to make the steering in my vehicle lighter?

Thanks in advance

The steering force is not adjustable.

It’s going to be difficult to find a car easier to steer than a Civic.

Find a reputable independent Honda repair shop and ask them.


Electric power steering might be just the thing for her. The Honda Fit has it and it’s very easy to steer.

The day’s of the “broken shaft” feel that Ford and Chrysler products had are gone with the coming of rack & pinion.

The new Ford Fiesta, coming very soon, also has electric steering.

There are some cars that have an electronic user adjustment for steering effort. Some use a slider, and some use a menu. I have seen this on some Lincolns, for example. Also, many cars have steering effort that is electronically controlled based on car speed. On many Fords, you can unplug the electrical connection at the valve that controls this and the steering defaults to minimum effort (maximum boost).
Of course, none of this helps you with your Honda. The point is that there are options for your sister.

The only thing I can think of for your Civic is to make sure the tires are at the maximum pressure listed on the sticker on the door frame (measure it in the morning, before any driving). That will reduce steering effort slightly.

I believe the Civic has “variable assist” power steering that offers more assistance at lower speeds than higher speeds. There might be a way to turn the “assist” feature all the way up and leave it there at all speeds, but whoever does this would have to be very technically proficient. Try to find a company that converts vans to make then wheel chair accessible. If anyone knows how to make this change, they should. The other option is to install a larger steering wheel to give her more leverage.

Tell me where you read about this spring? some of those cars trideq reports on required so little effort to steer but you probably don’t want to go to the 50/60’s

I would not want somebody messing with my steering. Next to brakes, steering is the most important safety system on your car.

Maybe she should try one of those clamp-on knobs used by handicapped folks.

Those “necker’s knobs,” as they are sometimes called, were/are illegal in some states, though a doctor’s prescription might get around that.

You should also consider that one of those knobs can break your wrist(s) if one of your front tires blows-out.

This brings up an interesting question. Should minimum hand strength be a prerequisite for driving? Can a person with bad carpal tunnel syndrome handle a car if emergency maneuvers are necessary (like during a blow-out)?

I remember when power steering was introduced and a lot of drivers didn’t like it because it reduced the feel of the road. Chrysler advertised that it offered “full time” power steering. GM advertised that it had a power steering that still gave some road feel. I could have purchased a 1960 Buick LeSabre in 1963 that had very low mileage at a great price because the Buick didn’t have power steering. I was a poor graduate student at the time so I had to take a pass. Later on, I did own a 1961 Corvair. It didn’t need power steering. I presently own a 2011 Toyota Sienna and the steering is almost too light. It took a while to get used to after my 2006 Chevrolet Uplander.

I wish I could find a car I could buy with no power steering at all. It used to be you could find an econobox available without power steering.

There’s no torsion spring.

In that car the steering feel is a product of the overall design of the hydraulics including the pump design, the rack design, and the “spool valve”. The pump provides the hydraulic pressure for the system, that valve determines how much fluid is directed to which side of the piston in the rack with every specific sized movement of the steering wheel, and the rack design determines how much force goes to assist. The valve is not adjustable. Nor are the pump or the rack.

The only other factors determining how easy the steering is are the tires and the overall chassis design. That design also includes compensation to mitigate “torque steer”, since the wheels are being driven by the engine as well as doing the steering.

Note to Ranck: in my hometown we called those “suicide knobs”.

My friend’s Rav-4 has electrically-assisted power steering, and I like it very much. However the effort needed to steer the car is no different than the effort needed to steer my Outback’s hydraulically-assisted power steering.

Electric power steering is not inherently more “effortless” than other kinds of power steering. It just depends on how much assist the manufacturer decided to design into the system, be it electrical or hydraulic.

On the extreme end of “effortless” power steering were Chrysler products of the late '50s-early '60s.
I can vividly recall my uncle demonstrating the sensitivity of the PS on his '58 DeSoto FireFlite by tieing a thread to the steering wheel and steering the car with the thread while piloting the car down the NJ Turnpike.

Although he did not realize it at the time, he was endangering all of us with this ridiculous stunt. Trust me–you don’t want power steering like that DeSoto had!

I guess ‘spring’ is not the correct word. The diagram I found to explain the inner workings calls it a ‘torsion bar’. I got the info from this site:

I’m with you. One of the best driving cars I ever owned was a 1961 Corvair. I put a camber compensator spring between the two rear wheels and I thought the car handled very well. It didn’t have or need power steering.

In very few cases you can change that part (some older GM cars is all I’m aware of). Otherwise, it’s a fixed part of the system.

Besides increasing tire pressure, going to narrower tires will also slightly reduce effort.

You might be able to do this another way. Buy a car with electric power steering and pull the fuse. I intend to try this one of these days to note the difference in effort. I would want to know too, if this is acceptable long term, not for me but for the abandoned electric PS motor and its drive train.

I have to wonder too if this could be done with hydraulic power steering by plumbing out the pump but leaving PS lube in to lubricate the system.