Why do you need a steering damper in a car: what it gives and why it is important

The steering damper is an important safety feature of a car and motorcycle, most often found on the latter, but also seen on SUVs. In particular, it is used on off-road vehicles equipped with a continuous front axle, prepared for overcoming difficult terrain areas on which there are no roads. However, the steering damper can also be installed on passenger cars.

Why do you need a steering damper?

The purpose of this damper is to damp the lateral vibrations of the steering elements, which can lead to dangerous consequences.

If we broadly take the need to use the device on some types of cars (we are talking about jeeps prepared for serious off-roading), then we can say the following: the element is capable of absorbing sharp, sudden, and therefore extremely undesirable vibrations of the steering rods in the plane, which can occur after the car has driven along irregularities in the road (off-road) that can transfer significant shock loads to the steering elements and the front axle.

In particular, if we take the main purpose of using a horizontally located damping element, we can say the following: the main purpose of the damper is to damp unwanted vibrations of the steering elements, which can greatly interfere with vehicle control due to the accumulation of fatigue by the driver, and also affect the wear of suspension elements and steering, as well as other parts of the car, in particular tires.

It is especially important to use it on irregularities that, during their passage by car, respond by twitching, moving the steering wheel from side to side. The driver has to deal with them, often endangering the safety of the vehicle.

Also part of the steering damper is to return the steering wheel to its original position in order to keep the vehicle in a straight line.

But, perhaps, the most important part of the damper’s work is to increase the directional stability of the car when driving on asphalt roads and avoid such a phenomenon as shimmy (aka wobbling), spontaneous vibrations of the front wheels during taxiing arising from – for a backlash of fastening, deformation of the wheel support and lateral vibrations of the vehicle – a negative and extremely dangerous phenomenon:

As you can see, with this phenomenon, the wheels, steering, suspension begin to walk uncontrollably in a horizontal plane, increasing the amplitude and striving to turn the car around its axis. It is almost impossible to drive a car in such a state.

The phenomenon of shimmy is caused when hitting an obstacle or after one of the front wheels hits a pit. It is the installation of a steering damper, which is also called a shimmy damper, to eliminate or minimize the negative behaviour of the front suspension. It is he who will extinguish all vibrations that will subsequently arise between the steering rods and the bridge.

From here, you can draw several important conclusions so that your SUV does not fall into such situations:

1. It is important for Jeepers to monitor the serviceability of the front suspension and steering;

2. Monitor the steering damper serviceability;

3. Do not make unauthorized changes to the steering and suspension elements of the car (tuning).

The principle of the steering damper

According to the principle of operation, the steering damper is both externally and internally similar to shock absorbers. Technically, this is a shock absorber, that is, a container divided into two parts by a rod, with a certain number of holes through which a liquid – oil flows at a certain speed. The resistance created by the fluid also dampens the resulting vibrations on the wheels transmitted to the steering wheel , making the trip not only more comfortable in any conditions, but also safer.