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Steering Selection Techniques

Manufacturers of steering system components share some of the more common mistakes made by customers, and how to keep racers steering in the clear.

By David Hakim

Chassis builders, racers and performance parts retailers should be aware of some common mistakes when selecting the proper steering system for specific racing applications. Following are recommendations from a variety of sources about how to detect mistakes as well as how to avoid them.

If a racer is using a power steering system, keeping the fluid clean is paramount to proper performance. Some companies such as KRC Power Steering in Kennesaw, Georgia, manufacture a remote reservoir tank that has a cleanable mesh screen built right in. Both dirt and asphalt racers benefit from filtering, preventing particulates from entering the tight tolerance finishes within the power steering system.

Chas Howe from Howe Racing Enterprises in Beaverton, Michigan, warned of mistakenly mismatching components. “With power steering, most often the wrong rpm, flow volume or pressure does not match their system or setup. Other times it is a mismatch of tie rods, spindles and linkages that create bump steer problems,” he said.

Another common mistake occurs when an amateur racer tries to use a remanufactured steering box, rack and pinion, or pump and assumes it’s equivalent to a new or rebuilt product from a reputable parts manufacturer. Certain remanufactured steering products may not be suitable for racing and survival in extreme conditions. Indeed, not all remanufactured components have been carefully inspected, assembled and tested before they end up in the hands of the racer.

Racers and chassis builders also should consider steering geometry when choosing the correct steering joints, as problems with run-out between two halves may result. To address the issue, Argo Manufacturing in Wasco, Illinois, uses two steering joints on one shaft. This helps to eliminate any binding, and is helpful in oval track and road racing applications.

“We’re always looking at the design of the steering joint to increase the maximum flex without binding,” said Darlene Mitson. “The other key element is run-out between the two halves. We have developed assembly procedures that the TIR (total indicating reading) of our steering joints is less than .003 of an inch. This is very important when assembling a steering shaft with two or more steering joints that you do not have a binding feeling.”

Looking to the future in steering systems, there are new designs, materials and processes in developing better parts coming down the road. Lightweight and durable components are a must for racing, and that trend will continue.

“We have power steering kits that are designed to be tough and lightweight,” observed Jeff Butcher from KRC Power Steering. “Our engineers have created kits that allow for the pump to be mounted low and left on the engine. Increasing left side weight and lowering the center of gravity create more corner speed by leveraging our design and manufacturing abilities.”

Retailers also may benefit from offering complete steering system packages, as they’re more likely to get better traction with the sales staff at the wholesale and retail levels. This, naturally, eliminates the need for salespeople at the counter or on the phones to piecemeal pulleys, pumps, belts, drives, etc. for a customer.

And, some manufacturers will offer options for racers’ specific needs. “We manufacture our own pulleys, mounting brackets and pumps,” explained Butcher. “Our lightweight pumps are compact and can be built with available PTO (power take off) options, allowing racers to drive fuel pumps off the same belt. By driving fuel and oil pumps off the power steering system, racers save weight while increasing reliability and increasing horsepower. Every engine can be ‘tuned’ by selecting pulleys that turn at optimal rotation rates. We offer tech support, and racers can always contact us to get detailed information resulting in measurable performance.”

Remember, listening to customers is paramount for any successful business, especially when racers are constantly pushing the boundaries of their cars (and at times their driving skills) against fellow competitors. But it’s equally important to do one’s homework, research what’s available, and communicate to the manufacturers in order to keep you—and your customers—in the groove and shiny side up.

Steering Selection Techniques

Unfortunately, some racers may pay little attention to choosing their steering components and properly utilizing them as a system. However, this is where the valuable advice of the local racing retailer or chassis builder can direct competitors to parts that are proven to work together, and deliver the results expected on the track.

Performance Racing Industry