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Electronic Power Steering

Before I buy a new car with electronic power steering, I would like to know what kinds of experiences other people are having with their new electronic power steering. I understand that not running a hydraulic pump constantly improves fuel economy. But why do compact and subcompact cars even need power steering at all? Back in the 60s, my VW Beetle didn’t have power steering. Nor did my MGA or my Volvo P544. Why do car makers consistently respond to new challenges with more and more technology? Why not respond instead with more simplicity? Rant, rant, rant.

The Z4 BMW has electric power steering and major problems and expensive repairs,all to save some gas?

It would be nice if the system was any good. Talk about money going down the drain. My Saturn experience was good except for the steering feeling like it could not find a center during the first 1,500 miles. It felt like the steering wheel was indexed in an off-center position. It worked like it had notches, one click at a time until the electric motor was broken in. The system is lighter and has no fluid to leak or store at the factory.

I also remember that smaller cars did not need power steering many years ago. In fact, they didn’t need power brakes either. I can only guess that car makers are responding to the majority of car buyer preferences.

I have a 2009 Corolla with electric power steering. It has no feel to it, but I have not had any problems driving it.

Most FWD cars use rack and pinion steering. With the heavy weight up front and rack and pinion gear, the parked steering effort is very high without power steering. So most cars have power steering.

The MGA and Volvo had steering boxes, I believe. Therefore they could be geared to provide reasonable effort. Also on a lot of manual steering cars, the steering wheel was of large diameter allowing better advantage. The VW used a steering box but also was light on the front end. I believe the Porsche 912 and 911 used an unpowered rack and pinion but also was light on the front end. The Datsun 240 had a unpowered rack and pinion which was pretty difficult to steer at slow speeds but a snappy handler at road speeds.

I think most drivers will not stand for a heavy steering effort unless they are looking for the precise sporty handling.


I also remember that smaller cars did not need power steering many years ago.

That was before fwd vehicles. It’s so cheap these days to add it in it’s just standard equipment. Same as AC. 20 years ago most cars didn’t have AC…now you’re hard pressed to find one that doesn’t.

I thought that most cars had AC in 89?

To answer your first inquiry: We have electric power steering on our 2008 Passat. The feel is fine, and we have had no problems at all. VWs have used electric power steering for the past few years with no significant problems.

The advent of Electronic Stability Programs has encouraged the adoption of electric power steering also. The system can give “hints” as to what the appropriate action the driver could take in an emergency situation where traction loss is detected. Of course, the driver can override this suggestion, but the suggestion would be difficult to implement with the older hydraulic steering.

I thought that most cars had AC in 89?

That could be…maybe it was 25-30 years ago…My 90 pathy didn’t have AC as standard. And we had to buy the EX or Lxi model 87 Accord to get AC.

A close friend has a 2008 RAV-4, equipped with electronic PS. I drive this vehicle frequently, and I can report that it works very well.

The steering is much more precise than is typical with Toyota hydraulic power steering, and it also has decent “road feel”. Overall, I am very impressed with this design.

My '06 Ford Escape Hybrid has electric power steering. Works pefectly.

Even GM admits theyn were in a hurry to install electricm power ateerring in the Saturn, and it was a bad installation from a sensitivity point.

As with most new things introduced by GM, the customer is the guinnea pig. Reports are most dealers don’t know jow to fix it, and repairs are costly. In any case, the Saturn division will be sold or dropped, so I would avoid that brand.

In answer to the question why do this to gain a little gas mileage, the CAFE standards are tightening and manufacturers will use very trick available to get the corporate average up to avoid penalties. Americans are big people, and selling small econoboxes like we did in the 80s won’t work. Hence all the technology fixes.

In general I would not buy new automotive technology until it was in wider use, and independent garages could service the item. This hold true particularly for continuously variable transmissions (CVTs); even Nissan dealer don’t fix these, they jut replace the whole transmission! When the warranty runs out on a Nissan Versa, all your gas savings will be wiped out by one major transmission repair.

Here’s a follow up to my original question. If you have electronic power steering and it malfunctions, can you just pull the fuse and then drive the car as though it had no power steering, or are you just stuck?

You may be stuck because some have an armature around the rack and if the power is off, the thing might be really hard to turn. It looks like trying to push a bolt into a nut and asking the nut to turn by itself. I hope I’m telling a big lie. The thing should work well enough to take most of the worry away.

We had an 05 Chev Malibu with electric power steering. It seemed no different to me than our 03 with hydraulic power steering. I was often tempted to remove the PS fuse to see what it was like but didn’t and traded the car for newer, now with hydraulic again. The 05 was extremely good with gas for a car of its size, got a consistent 32 mpg overall with a V6 engine.

Last I checked, Malibus had hydraulic PS with the V6 and electric PS with the fours.

I have had no problems with the electric power steering in my Yaris so far. The only thing that gives away the fact that the power steering is electric is the fact that the power steering still works if the engine is off and the car is rolling. When I just need to move the car 50 ft or so and it is on an incline, I just turn the key on to unlock the steering and release the parking brake and after it starts rolling a couple of feet, I can feel the power steering turn on and the car suddenly gets easier to steer.

I don’t think any car manufacturer would dare make an electric power steering system that was totally unsteerable should the power to the steering fail.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind getting an upper body workout each day from driving a car without power steering. I don’t think my girlfriend would like it though, and I can understand why car makers want to make cars that almost anybody can drive. Something like this makes a difference for those who are disabled.

Technology is a good thing. It makes our lives easier, allows us to communicate here, and in the long run should save more than it costs. If your arm is ever in a cast, or you end up with a condition that weakens you, you will be glad for power steering. We aren’t as immortal as we sometimes think and act.

My '07 Prius has electric PS, with no problems.

my Acura had an electric power steering system. Fewer parts, longer reliability, less fluid and belt worries, mechanical hydraulic systems wear more and faster, and with the electronic systems you can do a lot with computers to change the feel and progressivity as the speed and load vary…

Weight distribution could be part of the story; it could also be an effort to reduce the number of turns “lock to lock” (the tradeoff is a harder to turn wheel). If the OP doesn’t believe that PS is needed on most cars today, take a typical car to a wide open paved area (e.g., a parking lot). At low speed, shift into neutral and kill the engine (but don’t lock the steering column). You’ll be amazed at how much additional effort is needed to crank that wheel around! And don’t forget, most of the boost is at low speeds – at high speed, there’s very little boost.