One technology that has spread to almost every new vehicle is electric power steering assist. Here’s how and why this system benefits you.
Read an enthusiast car magazine vehicle review and look for it. The section where the hot-shoe tester complains that the electronic power assist steering system (EPAS) doesn’t have the same road feel as the older hydraulic system used to. Ignore the wanna-be racer types and be happy your car has EPAS. The benefits are many and the chance that you can feel any negative impact almost zero. Here’s a quick rundown of why automakers moved so quickly to adopt this technology.
You thought I was going to jump right to fuel economy, right? Nope. The biggest benefit to automakers is actually that they can move your steering wheel when they want to. For example, have you seen automated parking? That’s when a driver simply pulls up next to a spot that would require parallel parking and then lets the car take over. EPAS is the key to this. The car’s brain needs to be able to move the steering in a very predictable and electronic way. Electric power steering is the key.
EPAS is also the key to lane keeping assist. This system helps to nudge your car back into its lane when you are texting on the highway. The car steers itself back to the center of your lane rather than let you drift into the ditch. Any system that helps move your vehicle’s steering wheel uses EPAS.
OK, here is another real-life reason you will love electric power steering. When you go for your 30K, 60K, 90K service there is no steering fluid to change. That will save you about $500 over the life of your car. The old hydraulic systems required the fluid be changed at some interval not usually longer that 30K miles. Some dealers would often encourage owners to do it more often at about $150 per change.
Saves Weight and Space
Plunk down an old hydraulic system and its many components and reservoirs on a shop table, and you have quite a mess. It was heavy and took up a lot of space in your car. EPAS is more compact, simpler, and lighter.
Yes, the system saves fuel, and not just a little. Most automakers estimate about a one MPG combined improvement. The video above explains how Chevy calculates that EPAS saves you about $500 over ten years of ownership just on fuel. Older hydraulic systems were attached to the engine’s accessory shaft and pulley system and constantly ran a pump even when it wasn’t in use. Getting rid of that is the key to the fuel savings.
Variable Drive Modes
When first released some sporty cars with EPAS had a slightly different feel tan they did with the older hydraulic steering, and true enthusiasts could indeed feel the change. Those days have come and gone, and most new sports cars benefit from EPAS. One way they do is variable drive modes. Not only can EPAs make steering super-light when you are in a parking lot, and nice and firm at highway speeds, it can be combined with other key systems to change the character of the car from sedate to sporty. That means that the “Normal” “Comfort” and “Track” settings on a car like a BMW M4 or Lexus RC F depend on EPAS to work. Enthusiasts love to use those systems, but often forget some of the hidden technologies that enable them.
Even the 2016 Mazda Miata has now gone to electric power steering (from manual steering). There is no going back now. The systems save you money, make your car lighter, work with your active safety systems and enable your variable driving modes. What’s not to like?