Steering wheel

From Academic Kids

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A modern road car's steering wheel
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A modern Formula One car's steering wheel that has buttons and knobs to control various functions

A steering wheel is a type of steering control used in most modern land vehicles, including all mass-production automobiles. The steering wheel is the part of the steering system that is manipulated by the driver; the rest of the steering system responds to the movements of the steering wheel. This can be through direct mechanical contact in rack and pinion steering, with the assistance of hydraulics in power steering, or in some concept cars entirely through computer control.

Steering wheels for automobiles are usually circular, the wheel being attached to the steering column by two or more spokes. Other types of vehicles may use the circular design, a butterfly shape, or some other shape. In countries where cars must drive on the left side of the road, the steering wheel is typically on the right side of the car; the converse applies in countries where cars drive on the right side of the road. The steering wheel is centrally located on certain high-performance sports cars, such as the McLaren F1, and in the majority of single-seat racing cars.

As a driver may have his hands on the wheel for hours at a time, steering wheels are designed with ergonomics in mind. However, the most important concern is that the driver can effectively convey torque to the steering system; this is especially important in vehicles without power steering. A typical design for circular steering wheels is a steel wheel with a rubberized grip molded around it. Some drivers purchase steering wheel covers to enhance the grip or comfort of the wheel, or simply decoration. Another device used to make steering easier is the brodie knob.

Besides its use in steering, the steering wheel is the usual location for a button to beep the car's horn. In addition, many modern automobiles have cruise control and even radio controls built into the steering wheel to minimize the extent to which the driver must take his hands off the wheel. The airbag to protect the driver in event of a frontal collision is mounted inside the steering wheel. Therefore, to prevent injury from the airbag deployment, it is important that the driver does not sit too close. Typical recommendations are a distance of at least 1 foot (30 cm) between the surface of the airbag cover and the driver's chest.

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Steering wheels from different periods

Certain input devices for computers and console games are designed to look and feel like a steering wheel, and are intended for use in racing games. Some go so far as to employ force feedback to simulate the tactile feedback a real driver feels from a steering wheel. This good feedback from the steering contributes to steering "feel" and is one of the hallmarks of a true "driver's car" or sports car.

A similar device in aircraft is the yoke.


On April 1, 2005, advertisements by BMW in Britain's broadsheet press claimed that forthcoming EU legislation would prohibit the use of right-hand drive vehicles on the continent by 2008. The advertisements furthermore claimed that BMW had devised a centrally-located "no-hands drive" control system, developed by a "Dr Bitt-Fischi"; a tie-in website was located at ( These claims were however made on April Fool's Day, and no such legislation


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