What’s In A Steering Column: Multiple Controls

As vehicles are becoming more advanced, we are finding technology where it never was before. Sometimes it is in plain sight, such as infotainment systems, GPS, and a head-up display. However, sometimes it is concealed in places one may not expect.

Steering columns have gone from a basic shaft used to transfer movement from the steering wheel to the front wheels, to a highly complex part of the vehicle. Today’s steering columns have steering angle sensors, airbags, clock springs, heated steering wheels, and controls for multiple systems. Let’s take a look at steering wheel controls

It used to be the only control on a steering wheel was for the horn, then cruise control made its way to the front side of the steering wheel on some vehicles. Now there are controls for virtually everything, right at your fingertips. These controls are not limited to just the front of the steering wheel. They can also be found on the rear or even the sides of the steering wheel.

In recent years, paddle shift controls have gained popularity. These controls are often found mounted on the sides of the steering wheel and allow easy access to shift the transmission. Radio, cruise control, and climate control are commonly found on the front. The increase in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) has now found some of these controls to be located on the steering wheel as well.

With all of this technology located so close to the driver air bag, there is potential for damage to these buttons and switches after a collision. Some of this damage may be visible, like damaged connectors or wiring, but some damage may be more difficult to see and more difficult to diagnose.

Due to the complexity of the systems, most are computer controlled. This means diagnostics and repairs are more in depth. However, this also means that DTCs may be set if there are any malfunctions. A scan tool may be required to pull these trouble codes and diagnose any issues.

It is important to know if a vehicle is equipped with these features, what parts are used in the system, and where they are located. This will enable you to check for proper operation to ensure a complete, safe, and quality repair.

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