Last Updated on March 26, 2021
Speed-sensing steering is like a hybrid of power steering and manual steering systems. Since most vehicles have power steering systems these days, a lot of drivers complain that they don’t feel like they’re in control of their vehicles when driving on the highway at high speeds.
In essence, normal power steering gives them too much assistance with the steering and they don’t like it.
However, manual steering has its obvious drawbacks because it does not provide the driver with any assistance. This requires the driver to have to use more upper body strength just to rotate the steering wheel, especially while driving at slow speeds.
With speed sensing steering, you get the best of both worlds. It gives the driver more handling and control over their vehicle no matter what speed they are moving. And it won’t require expending a lot of effort to turn the steering wheel at lower speeds.
When the driver needs to slow down to maneuver or park somewhere, the speed sensing steering system will provide them with power assistance just like a normal power steering system would. However, when they’re traveling at high speeds, the speed sensing system will reduce that assistance so that drivers have better steering “feel” and more control.
Related: Average Power Steering Repair Costs
How Does Speed Sensing Steering Work?
A speed sensing steering system relies on a series of sensors and modules to provide it with information which will help it determine the amount of power assistance to give to the steering wheel.
For instance, these sensors will detect whenever you step on the gas pedal and cause the acceleration of your vehicle to increase. As the speed goes up, the sensors will feed this information to the speed sensing steering system. The system will then reduce the power assistance to the steering wheel.
If you apply the brake and slow down the vehicle, the system will receive this information too. Then it will provide more power assistance to the steering wheel. Since driving tasks like parking and turning require the driver to maneuver properly, it is better they have more assistance with their steering.
What Happens if There’s a Malfunction?
Speed-sensing steering systems are typically designed to revert back to full power steering mode if a problem is detected in the system. There could be a wiring issue or a complete failure of the computer module which regulates the system.
Any kind of wiring problem, electrical problem or sensor problem within the system will cause full power steering mode to turn on. This is not necessarily a bad thing because you will just have full power assistance no matter how fast you are driving.
It is certainly better than the alternative of having no power steering assistance at all, especially for certain drivers. At least with full power assistance, you will have the ability to safely drive your vehicle to the nearest repair shop and have the steering system checked.
See Also: What To Do If Your Steering Wheel Locks Up
How to Get Speed Sensing Steering
Speed-sensing steering is not actually a separate system from a power steering system. You could have hydraulic power steering or electric power steering in your vehicle and still have the ability to utilize speed sensing steering technology.
It is really just an added feature to enhance the basic power steering system technology. That is how it can revert back to full power steering whenever there is a problem with the speed sensors.
If you want a vehicle with speed sensing steering technology, you simply have to make sure the vehicle already comes with it from the factory. If it’s an “optional” feature on a model, it may be added later whether by installing an additional component or having the dealership reprogram the ECM to “unlock” the feature.
Many newer vehicles these days have some sort of speed sensing steering system but it may be called different things depending on the manufacturer.
In addition, many vehicles which offer various driving modes (ie: Comfort, Sport, Dynamic, etc.) allow you to fine-tune the amount of assistance depending on the mode.
For example, a sports car may have a “sport” mode which lessens the amount of power steering assistance which is perfect for autocross, a lapping day at your local race track, or even the Nürburgring.
Once done, the driver can switch it to a “comfort” mode where steering assistance is increased (especially at high speeds) so the driver can drive back home while steering with the effort of literally one finger if so they choose.
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4 thoughts on “Speed Sensing Steering (How It Works and Why You’d Want It)”
I would like to disconnect my 2019 Mazda Miata’s electric power steering altogether. The car is so light, it really does not need steering power assistance at any speed. In stock configuration the steering is overboosted, even at high speeds.
Of course I would never trust a dealership to do something so unusual. In the San Francisco Bay Area I’m hoping to find an independent service shop that specializes in Miatas used in competition.
Hey John, that is a good question for one of the following Facebook groups: Mazda Miata Club, Miata MX-5 Enthusiast Club, or Miata DIY.
I own an NA Miata with the factory manual rack. The steering is heavy in a parking lot (especially when backing into parking spots), but otherwise just fine. You might find the steering a bit too heavy on an ND because the rack in those is a much quicker ratio, which means you have less leverage over the front wheels. The more caster angle you have, the harder it will be to hold the wheel in corners as well.
What if you don’t want speed sensing steering at all? Just want normal power steering?
It’s pretty commonplace in newer vehicles since there is no real negative to it (unless you want to make sharp steering inputs at high speeds). Basically, at higher speeds you get almost no power steering assistance for the most direct feel. At lower speeds, you don’t have to get an arm workout. It’s really the best of both worlds.
But if you really don’t want the feature, you’ll have to do some research to see which vehicles don’t offer it. But like manual transmissions, they’re going to be harder and harder to find as time goes.