Drivers and plenty of different people who are always on the road usually throw a lot of different terms that they use whenever they are trying to explain the kind of “feel” that they experience while driving. One such term is numb steering, which you already know refers to steering the car.
But what does numb steering even mean?
Here’s what a numb car steering mean
Numb steering refers to the feeling of being disconnected from the road while you are driving. The car and the steering wheel works fine but the driver doesn’t feel any sort of feedback from the road while steering. For some drivers, numb steering doesn’t offer an interactive driving experience.
The next time you hear someone throw the term numb steering around, you should know that this isn’t necessarily a problem because there isn’t even a problem with the vehicle, in the first place. It is more of a subjective experience that some drivers do not mind not having but others prefer to have while driving.
What does steering feel mean?
In the modern times we live in today, we cannot argue against what the new wave of different power steering systems can do such as electric power steering or EPS. This system is much more efficient because it relies completely on electronics to assist you with your steering.
As such, it isn’t the same as what the older hydraulic power steering system was able to provide because those older systems were more mechanical in nature.
But the fact that hydraulic power steering systems had a mechanical feel in them makes them capable of providing that “feel” that the driver tends to experience while steering. That is because of how the road tends to have a torque that is fed back to the steering wheel through the different linkages that connect the steering wheel to the power steering system, which is also connected to the wheels.
All that said, what we are talking about here is that the steering feel is essentially the haptic feedback that you get while you are steering. It is the experience of feeling what the wheels are feeling as you are steering the vehicle precisely because of how the information from the wheels is fed back to your steering wheel from all of the different connections that allow the hydraulic power steering system to work.
But why are we talking about steering feel, in the first place?
Well, there are a lot of cases where drivers rely a lot on the steering feel whenever they are driving on tougher and more challenging roads. For example, when driving on a snowy road, you get a sense of how the wheels are reacting to the surface because the information is fed back to your hands while they are on the steering wheel. This will allow a driver to react quickly to different road conditions based on the information that is fed by the steering feel.
If you have experienced playing video games through gaming headsets or if you frequently watch movies in the cinema, you might get what we are talking about when we are referring to steering feel. Even though the sensory experiences are different (one is through touch and the other is through hearing), it still is worth talking about this in brief.
Try playing a shooter video game with a good pair of gaming headsets on, and you will know how immersive the experience is. You will be able to have a sense of where the opponents are all while you are experiencing more immersive gameplay because it’s as if you are placed squarely in the action. As such, you will be able to react and perform better, albeit by a margin that probably isn’t too much to make a lot of differences.
The same thing can be said when it comes to steering wheel feel because of how there are some drivers that prefer to have a more immersive experience while driving. While the difference in terms of performance won’t be a lot when it comes to regular city driving, it might come in handy when you are driving on tougher roads or if you are a performance driver.
What does numb steering mean?
Now that you know what steering feel means, what does it mean when someone says that the steering feels numb?
Numb steering basically refers to having little to no feedback from the steering wheel while you are driving. The steering feel is almost non-existent to the point that it is basically you and the steering wheel with almost no connection to what the wheels are feeling as you are driving on the road.
Think of it as playing a video game racing simulator that may be able to simulate the course or the road you need to drive on but cannot give you the same kind of haptic feedback that you will feel on the steering wheel as you are driving.
In most cases, this shouldn’t be a problem because not all of the road conditions actually require that you have a “connection” with the steering wheel while you are driving. This should be the norm when it comes to city driving or when you are driving on a smooth road such as the freeway.
However, performance drivers tend to see the difference when they are behind numb steering wheels because a lot of drivers actually rely a lot on the feedback from their wheels to understand how to react better to a certain situation while driving.
Most racers and performance drivers tend to gauge the traction they have based on the feedback coming from the steering wheel. The steering wheel will essentially feel firmer or stiffer when you are driving on a rougher road or if you are trying to gain traction.
Still, numb steering does have its advantages, especially when it comes to when you want a comfortable ride during a long road trip. When the steering wheel is numb, you get to focus more on enjoying the long ride.
Of course, there is hardly any reason why you need a firm and responsive steering wheel while you are driving on a regular SUV on the freeway.
What causes unresponsive steering?
In most cases, what causes the steering to feel unresponsive or numb is the advancement in the power steering system. This is quite common in cars that run on electric power steering systems, but there are also some hydraulic systems that may feel numb.
The reason why electric power steering systems can make the steering wheel feel numb or unresponsive is due to the fact that the connections between the steering wheel and the different mechanical parts that operate the wheels have been minimized. The electric power steering basically does all the work for you so that you no longer have to put in a ton of effort while steering.
On the other hand, older power steering systems or even manual steering systems allow the steering wheel to have a more direct connection with the wheels such that it is easier to feel how the wheels are reacting to the conditions on the road. This is why older steering wheels tend to be firmer and stiffer compared to the newer ones that we have today.