Steering comfort with yokes
New car sales in Europe rose by 14 per cent in February 2016 thanks to the economic recovery in the UK, Germany and Southern Europe, which led to a boost in consumer confidence and increased disposable incomes.
Of particular interest, is the performance of luxury car models, with the high-end marques of major European automotive manufacturers outselling high-volume brands. The luxury brand Audi, for example, outsold its sister brand Skoda by some 40,000 units. This trend is projected to continue, especially in China, where luxury auto sales are quickly catching up with US luxury sales.
To stay competitive against rival marques, luxury car manufacturers have to do all they can to incorporate technological innovation to ensure their vehicles strike the right balance between quality for consumers and manufacturing efficiency. With the right parts in place, functional elements, such as the steering yoke, for example, can make a big difference to the performance of the car, offering the low friction necessary to ensure the steering is as responsive as possible. This increased responsiveness creates enhanced confidence in the vehicle’s ability to handle road conditions, contributing to an enjoyable driving experience, while reducing stress and fatigue levels.
A low-friction yoke improves steering feel for drivers, transmitting information about the state of the road beneath the car and helping to adjust the effort required according to the roughness of the terrain. As a result, the enjoyment of the journey is increased – a crucial factor in consumers’ perception of quality.
To ensure that consumers will benefit from the potential offered by the steering yoke, manufacturers have to ensure they select the right components for the mechanism, and the yoke bearing in particular. Selecting a good quality bearing is crucial to provide a perfect fit between mating components to achieve responsiveness that consumers demand from their car.
Choosing a bearing based purely on price point might save money in the manufacturing stage, but can result in a higher co-efficient of friction in the yoke. This can have a negative impact on steering feel. Moreover, it can lead to premature wear and tear that eventually creates clearance between the yoke bearing and the steering rack. The larger the clearance between these components, the looser the steering system becomes, causing vibration and a rattling noise, which has a detrimental effect on the drivers’ perception of the brand.
However, bearing technology is moving forward all the time, and it is now possible to source bearings that are able to lower friction values and provide noise-free steering throughout the life of the vehicle. Composite bearings, for example, featuring a liner of specially formulated polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) on a lightweight laminated metal backing, can provide the consistently low friction values required to ensure smooth, noise-free movement between steering components every time the car is driven, allowing motorists to ‘feel’ the road and respond accordingly.
By using such solutions, manufacturers can ensure their steering yoke supports them in meeting consumer demands for a safe, high-quality driving experience and making their luxury brand well placed to continue to appeal to consumers.