From Henry Ford’s Model T to Elon Musk’s Model X, car design has undergone radical changes. However, certain components have, by and large, remained consistent in both design and functionality—the steering wheel is a prime example. This is not to suggest that no changes have been made to steering wheel design. In this blog, we will inform you about the fundamental alterations in shape, design, adjustability, and safety features of steering wheels. These changes have given rise to various types of steering wheels. Here, you will find information on different steering wheel types and the key differences in their features.
Single-Spoke Steering Wheel
The bars connecting the outer rim of a steering wheel to the steering column are called spokes. A unique design involves a single spoke connecting the wheel to the central column, a rarity in the automotive world. First introduced by Citroen in the 1974 Citroen DS, this design prioritizes safety. In the event of a collision, the steering wheel can collapse in a manner that directs the driver to one side of the column, reducing the risk of chest injuries.
Double-Spoke Steering Wheel
Dual-spoke steering wheels have two bars connecting the outer rim to the steering column. These spokes can be aligned straight across or angled for a stylish appearance. Often, they feature a chromed metal horn ring that is pressed to activate the car’s horn. A notable example is the 1958 Plymouth Savoy steering wheel. Many contemporary cars adopt the dual-spoke design, incorporating electronic controls on the spokes for convenient access near the driver’s hands.
Three-Spoke Steering Wheel
Three-spoke steering wheels feature three bars connecting the outer rim to the steering column, offering a sportier look often found in flashy sports car models. In early versions, the spokes were slender and made of metal. However, modern designs have wider spokes to incorporate electronic controls, enhancing safety by allowing drivers to adjust internal electronic devices without removing their hands from the wheel.
Banjo Steering Wheel
Banjo steering wheels, whether dual or three-spoke, had a distinctive construction. The spokes were thick steel wires resembling bicycle spokes, with 3, 4, or 5 strands in each. The design, resembling strings on a banjo, aimed to reduce road vibrations transferred to the driver’s hands. The wires had a dampening effect on road vibrations, enhancing the driving experience.
Telescoping Steering Wheel
The telescoping steering wheel was developed to provide drivers with adjustable height and distance settings. Before World War II, these adjustments were fixed by a mechanic and tailored to the main driver. Jaguar introduced the first driver-adjustable telescoping steering wheel in the 1949 Jaguar XK120. This design allowed drivers to adjust the wheel from inside the car by loosening and tightening an adjustable sleeve around the steering column. The telescoping feature enabled a 3-inch or 76mm movement closer or further from the driver, simultaneously adjusting the wheel’s height. While not drastic, this feature offered shorter and taller drivers the ability to achieve a more comfortable and safer driving position.
Tilt Steering Wheel
Tilt steering wheels have been around since the early 1900s, offering adjustable positions for added comfort. In the 1960s, cars like certain General Motors models featured multiple fixed tilt positions. The tilt mechanism, working on a ratchet system, allows drivers to release and adjust the steering wheel to a more comfortable angle. Unlike telescoping wheels, the tilt motion doesn’t alter the distance from the driver. Initially an option in luxury vehicles, the popularity and safety benefits led to its inclusion in non-luxury car ranges.
Swing-Away Steering Wheel
The swing-away steering wheel, introduced in the 1961 Ford Thunderbird, prioritized convenience over enhancing the driving position. When the transmission was in park mode, the steering wheel and column could move a full 9 inches or 229mm to the right. This design aimed to facilitate easy entry and exit from the vehicle rather than focusing on improving the driver’s comfort while driving.
Adjustable Steering Column Steering Wheel
Unlike other adjustable steering wheels where the steering column stays fixed, this type allows the steering column itself to move for small adjustments to the steering wheel position. The range of movement is more limited, and adjustments are made using compression locks or electric motors. Electric motors offer the advantage of electronic adjustments with a memory function, letting drivers program their preferred position. This feature allows easy adjustment at the touch of a button, and it also enables the steering wheel to be raised when the car is parked for convenient entry and exit.
Quick-Release Steering Wheel
The quick-release steering wheel, known for its detachable feature with a button, was initially marketed as an anti-theft device. This design allowed the steering wheel to be easily removed and stored in the car’s trunk, deterring potential thieves. In the motor racing community, the quick-release feature was adopted to facilitate swift entry and exit from racing cars with limited cockpit space or for drivers wearing bulky safety gear. The easy removal also aided emergency personnel in quickly extracting drivers after accidents, preventing delays on the track. However, this steering wheel style is no longer considered street legal, especially with the advent of steering wheel airbags designed to protect drivers in significant collisions.
F1 Steering Wheel
In the early days of motor racing, steering wheels were large and circular, providing ample turning power for drivers navigating the track. However, the introduction of power steering and the confined spaces in Formula 1 (F1) cars necessitated a redesign of the steering wheel.
F1 cars now feature specially designed steering wheels with a quick-release mechanism and unique features. These steering wheels are not fully circular; the top and bottom thirds are removed. The remaining left and right sides allow drivers to grip and turn the wheel efficiently. Packed with sensors and readouts, the F1 steering wheel provides real-time information on the car’s performance. Due to the narrow cockpit in F1 cars, the steering wheel usually needs to be removed for the driver to enter or exit the vehicle.
We hope you enjoyed reading this blog. If you are in search of steering wheels, take a look at OLX Pakistan’s listings today.
Suggested blogs for you: