Straight and narrow

Here, we look into the latest on steering and suspension systems and how you need to be dealing with them

Published:  30 November, 2020

The steering system has undergone a radical transformation, but tech advancements represent plenty of opportunity for those who are willing to embrace the change.
“For many drivers,” said Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager, Delphi Technologies, “the steering of a car starts and stops with the wheel in front of them, but what they don’t know is that while the basics of the steering system remain the same, it’s come on leaps and bounds in recent years.”

He continued: “Representative of how steering technology has evolved with new components, new materials and new service procedures is the steering angle sensor. While the steering angle sensor was introduced in the early 90s, only recently has it become necessary to reset them after performing a wheel alignment or replacing a component that can alter athe toe and thrust angle.
“Critically, the procedure to do this differs significantly between manufacturers; some vehicles can self-calibrate by having the wheel turned from lock to lock and then centred and cycling the key, some need a quick test drive and others a diagnostic routine. The result is that either way, steering angle reset should now be part of a standard wheel alignment.”

What has this meant for garages who are tasked with ensuring that the steering systems of their customers’ cars are always on the straight and narrow?
According to Julian, steering advancements have meant that the aftermarket has had to evolve its servicing offering to fall in line, but the changes can certainly be for the better in terms of increasing revenue streams: “The modern-day steering system is a complex affair, but there’s no need for independents to miss out on the work that’s involved in maintaining it. In fact, they really should embrace any new servicing techniques if they are not to limit their customer base and lose potentially lucrative work to franchised outlets.
“To make it easier for independents, Delphi Technologies transfers its OE learnings to our aftermarket offering, ensuring that garages have quality steering components and, importantly, the technical support to efficiently and competently complete repairs.”

Julian went onto say: “Currently, Delphi Technologies’ ever-growing range of steering components comprises over 6,000 part numbers and provides coverage of well over 90% of the UK vehicle parc. Reassuringly, these come with a comprehensive three-year, 36,000-mile warranty and all accessories that are required to undertake a hassle-free replacement.
“It’s the same for our suspension components. Both our steering and suspension offerings provide garages with a quality one-stop solution which allows them to keep abreast of automotive technological advancements, yet still safeguard their established levels of service without the worry of taking a chance on unproven or substandard parts.
“Such a benefit is particularly welcome as we edge into winter. We always see a spike in demand for the likes of steering and suspension parts as these exposed components can all suffer corrosion from extreme weather and salt, while potholes can easily damage a spring or lower suspension parts. Add in normal wear and tear, plus the increased chance of collision damage through icy or slippery driving conditions, and it’s no surprise that demand for these repairs can noticeably rise in the colder months.”
He concluded: “There’s definite potential for workshops to grow business as a result of winter’s impact on a car’s steering and suspension and, importantly, claw back lost revenue from earlier in the year when MOTs were suspended, but they must have access to quality products and even adapt how they inspect a vehicle to take account of the change in season.”

Tie rod end assemblies
Let’s get into some specifics. The steering system plays a key role in vehicles, transforming the circular motion of the steering wheel into a linear motion, which is carried out by the steering gear. “Tie rod assemblies with ball joints are necessary to ensure the driver can steer the vehicle in the right direction,” said Thomas Schwarz, Product Manager at MEYLE. “Because tie rod end assemblies are susceptible to heavy weights and the strain of poor road conditions, MEYLE added 70 new tie rod ends to its range in 2020 including 54 in technically refined MEYLE-HD quality.”
Thomas continued: “The ball pin diameter of the optimised MEYLE-HD ball stud is much larger than that of OE parts. This increases its service life, as the forces applied to the ball are distributed over a larger surface, thus reducing the surface pressure on the plastic socket of the ball joint. This also minimises wear on the ball stud and significantly increases the service life of the MEYLE-HD tie rod end assemblies.
“All MEYLE-HD tie rod end assemblies also feature high-performance grease in the joints, further reducing the wear on these sensitive parts. With this expansion, MEYLE offers more than 700 tie rod ends solutions for a variety of vehicles, including more than 200 in improved MEYLE-HD quality.
“The new MEYLE HD tie rod ends will be joined by new products in the steering and suspension range at the end of the year, with nearly 100 new axial rod solutions in the pipeline, of which more than half are MEYLE-HD axial rods.”

High demand
Thomas added: “Due to the high dynamic loads and forces of driving, tie rod ends assemblies need to be replaced eventually to maintain driving safety. In a video tutorial on the YouTube channel MEYLE-TV, the Hamburg manufacturer demonstrates clean and safe tie rod end installation using a VW T4 as an example.”
Steering and suspension parts also look like they are going to be moving fast for the foreseeable future, partly as a result of COVID-19 and the lockdown.
“With the six-month MOT exemption now over,” said First Line’s Global Marketing Director, Jon Roughley, “workshops need to prepare themselves for the high demand that is there now and will continue into the first quarter of 2021.
“For factors, now is the time to check that their stock levels are ready and they are prepared to cope with this increased demand, particularly for the parts that are regular MOT failures, such as steering and suspension components.
“For technicians, First Line’s full range consists of premium quality products that are relied upon for an efficient and accurate fit. Plus, with all ball joints, link bars and suspension arms, where applicable, being supplied with the necessary fitting components as standard, technicians can also be sure of a hassle-free efficient installation.
“Now, with more and more people back on the road and the MOT extension period over, workshops and factors are working even harder to keep up with demand.”

Natural step
Providers continue to offer new products for steering and suspension systems, including Dayco, which recently introduced a new line of wheel bearing kits.
“The introduction of wheel bearing kits marks a significant, but natural step for Dayco, to add safety related products alongside its established drive systems expertise,” explained Dayco’s National Sales Manager,
Steve Carolan.
“The Dayco range encompasses Generation 1, 2 and 3 technology as well as bearings integrated into the brake disc, reflecting the complexion of the current European vehicle parc and thereby providing workshops with the replacement products they need day-to-day.
“Another strength is Dayco’s longstanding commitment to not only provide technicians with the very best replacement components in terms of their quality, but also to assist them when it comes to their installation. This practice continues with its wheel bearing kits, which, as well as coming complete with all the necessary ancillary items, such as nuts, bolts, pins or circlips, also include fitting instructions and technical tips that can be viewed via a QR Code on the product packaging, to ensure they are installed correctly and in the most efficient manner.”
Steve added: “Naturally, the full range of products are hosted on the Dayco Webcat. This provides users with multiple search routes from make and model or OE/Dayco part numbers, to linked components on related searches.”

Meanwhile, Schaeffler has introduced a steering and suspension range under its FAG brand.
Schaeffler UK’s Managing Director, Nigel Morgan said: “The FAG chassis component range has been developed from the ground up to benefit from the company’s intelligent repair solution ethos. Ball pins are nitride-treated to maximise longevity, while all exterior surfaces have market leading zinc flake coating technology to resist corrosion. They are further protected by clear thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) boots with a micro-sealing lip design that adapts perfectly to the ball contour.
He continued: “As well as being unique to the UK market, they are also highly resistant to liquids and mechanical loading, while the transparent material allows the mechanic to see the quality and quantity of the grease inside.”
Nigel added: “Everything we do is geared towards helping professionals carry out the best possible repairs using the highest quality components. The addition of the FAG steering and suspension range is therefore a significant development, allowing us to provide workshops with a viable alternative from a trusted supplier, along with the market leading workshop support that we offer with every Schaeffler product.”

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