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Road Accidents Caused by Steering and Suspension Failure

Safety - 03 April 2019

Faulty Steering is the cause of 2.9% of car crashes in South Africa according to the National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) for  2016 - 2030 report by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), the government agency tasked with ensuring safety on the country’s roads.

Experts believe road accidents caused by mechanical failure related to steering and suspension are less frequently cited because they may be harder to document and identify in the general damage incurred during a crash.

Why is Steering Failure Dangerous?

Road safety advocate ArriveAlive emphasises the importance of safe steering, saying that almost all other driving skills like parking, cornering, and overtaking rely heavily on the ability to steer in a fluid and precise way. Many fatal head-on collisions are directly related to failure to steer safely, and loss of control over one’s car at the wrong moment.

Tell-tale Signals and Causes of Steering Problems

There are easy-to-spot signs that your steering may be failing which can be easily remedied. An open stretch of road is the best time to evaluate your steering and to watch for the following:

Veering from Side to Side

  • A car that wanders slightly may be incorrectly or unevenly aligned, the steering gear may be worn or loose or the load could be uneven.
  • Premature steering gear wear can be caused by lack of lubrication from power steering fluid so check for leaks when replacing a worn steering gear.

Deviating to One Side

  • Deviating may be caused by a major difference between the left and right tyre pressure, improper rear wheel tracking, tyres that are not the same size or a broken or sagged spring.
  • Or any of the above faults that cause a vehicle to veer from side to side.

Difficulty in Turning the Wheel

A steering wheel that is reluctant to return to the straight-ahead position after taking a sharp turn or steering that requires too much effort, may be the result of:

  • Low tyre pressure, binding steering linkages, damaged suspension arms, incorrectly adjusted steering gear, or sagging front springs.
  • In a power-steering system, it may be the result of low fluid levels, a defective pump, a sticky valve spool, a loose belt, or a kinked or clogged hose.

Excessive Play

A steering wheel that requires more than 2.5 cm before the wheels begin to turn is a certain indication of a problem with the steering gear. Causes may range from:

  • Worn or loose steering linkages
  • Worn or badly adjusted steering box
  • Improperly adjusted front-wheel bearings
  • Air in a power steering system

Grinding or Screeching Noises 

Grinding noises when turning the steering wheel could indicate a steering gear problem.

  • Screeching sounds could result from a loose or worn power steering belt (the belt that connects the power steering to the engine).
  • Or indicate low power steering fluid levels.

Steering Wheel Vibration

Wheel vibration could be the result of both a problem with wheel alignment or with the power steering.

  • A build-up of contaminants in the system can cause the wheel to ‘pulsate’ when it is turned fully in one direction or another. A power steering flush should typically fix this.

Foaming or Discoloured Power Steering Fluid

  • The ability for the fluid to lubricate is hindered by air or water leaking into the system.

How to Prevent Steering Failure

Routine vehicle maintenance is the best way to prevent the risks of steering and suspension failure. This is the advice of top tyre manufacturer Bridgestone South Africa‘s Technical and Product Specialist, Ary Coetzee. He says, “always insist on a detailed report so you can proactively inform and assure yourself that there are no dormant issues.”

Supa Quick has over 250 tyre fitment centres in Southern Africa and a national team of more than 4,000 auto fitment experts trained to assist you. Stay safe on the road and have your car checked today.

Disclaimer:

This article is for informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only.

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