What is a collapsible steering column, what is its importance?

Categories: Collapsible Steering Column Sensor, DIY Auto Tips

The world is full of dangers. We have invented many things that include machines, technologies, and other things that help us get what we want. We are striving towards making life easier for us on all fronts. To do that our manufacturing lines are running around the clock and engineers are working day and night to design things that will make the future a better place for us.

Between all those things a prominent invention was that of the automobile. We can not pinpoint when the first proper automobile was invented. We can also say that with the invention of the wheel a lot of things changed. It started the era of transportation. With the engine attached things simply got easier. But is it so? Are things really that simple and easy now? We have fast modes of transport now. Cars that can easily go up to 250 km/hr. Are such speeds even safe for humans? Do we really need such speed and ease in our lives? Is the risk worth it?

We don’t have the answers to these questions but what we do have are the means to make cars safer. From the invention of a seatbelt to the concept of a collapsible steering column, it all plays an important part.

We need to make sure that the transports we use won’t cause us harm. Our lives are much more important than any means to save time and effort. Let’s look further and discuss the new features of car safety and how a collapsible column plays a role in all of this.

Frontal Impacts

It’s quite obvious that when cars travel on the road, accidents are bound to happen. We make mistakes because that’s only human. Every now and then cars crash into each other and the occupants are injured.

One kind of impact that is seen to be a lot more dangerous than other types of impacts is frontal impacts. These impacts are the ones that happen head-on or from the front.

Basically, if you are driving and you hit the front of your car somewhere it will come under frontal impacts. The severity of the accident keeps on increasing if we take into account different types of frontal impacts with respect to the object you collide with and its motion.

Various types of frontal impacts -Low to High

If you have a frontal impact with an object traveling at a certain velocity in a similar direction as yours then the impact will be a little less severe than the other ones we are about to state. Of course, the velocity of the other object is always taken into consideration. The slower the other object is moving, with respect to your velocity, the higher will be the gradient of the impact. Crashing into a still object head-on will cause an even larger impact. 

The most severe impacts are seen to be with objects moving in the opposite direction with a certain velocity or objects moving towards you. Here again, the gradient of the impact will keep the increase as the velocity of the other object increases. 

Of course, there are other factors at play here too. The severity of a crash also takes into account the weight, make, quality and other such specifications of your car and the other object.

Due to the high rate of fatalities in head-on collisions researchers came up with many solutions to make cars safer and one of those was a collapsible steering wheel which could be economically 

Collapsible steering column

Your vehicle has a passive safety system that includes a collapsible steering column. This advanced column is also known as an energy-absorbing column. This is used for most passenger vehicles instead of a regular steering one. This helps immensely minimize any frontal impact that can otherwise cause serious injury for the driver. 

The steering gearbox and its respective linkages are used in order to transfer the motion coming from the steering wheel to the ground wheels of your vehicle. This Collapsible Steering Column has replaced the use of a solid shaft, due to multiple safety reasons. A lot of research was conducted by many top engineers in the field before it was decided that the solid shaft can seriously injure the rib cage and head of the driver in case of a huge impact. 

If you think of it structurally, this can be said to have a ‘tube within a tube’ that is hollow and can be fitted into each other with the help of special sealing and bearing. Thus, it manages to absorb the energy of the impact and reduce the risk of fatal injury to the driver. The first prototype was invented in 1934 but was never introduced in the market. After a while, there was an increased need for vehicular safety, which is why it was introduced in commercial lines.

Collapsible steering column

Importance of collapsible steering columns

We have understood what a collapsible steering column is and now we need to understand why it is so important and why it needs to be incorporated into the design of every vehicle out there with a steering wheel. 

In the case of frontal impacts, we can understand that on average the harm caused to the occupants is maximum. The main reason being that the occupant is thrown forward into the frame of the car which, for the driver, includes the steering wheel column too.

Now before we understand how the steering wheel actually harms the occupants let’s discuss the physics behind the crash. 

A lot of it is due to the theory of inertia and momentum. When your car crashes into another object whether it be moving or stationary, the impact causes the car in totality to de-accelerate very quickly. You can probably go from 80 miles/hour to 0 in a matter of milliseconds.

The main problem is that when the car comes to a halt so suddenly your body does not. It will still be traveling at 80 miles/hour while the car will be motionless. This makes it appear as if your body is thrown forward. The force or the inertia at this moment is so great that any impact that your body deals with can cause some serious damage. The steering wheel is mostly the point of contact in accidents for the drive.

This is where the collapsible steering column comes in. Once the body hits the steering wheel, two things can happen – either a motionless steering wheel will put an equal and opposite force on your body causing serious damage, or the steering wheel column will collapse and absorb a lot of the impact and force causing way lesser harm to your body.

Potential injuries involved in a steering wheel impact

The injuries involved in a steering wheel impact during an accident are many. Just like any other accident, there are a host of variations that need to be considered. The angle, the velocity, the quality of the steering wheel and other factors all play a part.

The common ones are as listed –

  • Concussion
  • Fractured skull
  • Wrist injuries 
  • Dislocations
  • Internal injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Bruises
  • Strained muscles in the neck and back
  • Broken bones

All of these are the potential form of injuries that might happen when the steering wheel is involved. The seriousness and the extent of these injuries again depend upon a lot of factors. Whatever the case may be, the steering wheel has the potential to cause fatal injuries and thus should be taken seriously.

Working of a collapsible steering column

Now that we know what a collapsible steering wheel column is, what it does, and what injuries it prevents, we are ready to understand how it actually works.

We understand that the earlier design of the steering wheel column consisted of a long solid steel shaft that connects the steering wheel to the steering gearbox. This rigid rod was obviously the problem. It was responsible for a lot of fatal accidents where the driver would crash into the steering wheel and the solid rod would impale the driver in or near the chest. 

To avoid it the engineers had to come up with a solution where this would not happen.

The best solution to this came in the form of a collapsible column.

The collapsible column is basically to rods with one placed inside the other with ball bearing in the middle and pressed tightly together. The bearing and both the columns are held together by a tough safety resin. This safety resin is carefully manufactured in a way that on applying a certain amount of force on it, it would completely shatter. Once it shatters it allows for the movement of the ball bearings. 

In an accident, the collapsible column works in a similar manner. During a crash, the driver is thrown forward towards the steering wheel. This exerts a certain amount of force on the resin which shatters. This lets the two columns slide into each other with the help of ball bearings in a telescopic fashion.

When this happens a lot of force is simply absorbed by the collapsing mechanism and nothing is left to impale the driver. Thus the overall safety is increased by quite a lot due to smart technology and applied science.

Workings of a steering gearbox 

The steering gearbox is not a part of the collapsible column but in the end, the column is attached to the steering gearbox which converts the rotation of the steering wheel into the movement of the tires. 

There are 2 types of steering gearboxes –

Rack and Pinion

The rack and the pinion steering wheel are quite simple to understand. The rotation of the steering wheel is converted into the rotation of the gears which in turn are connected to the rack. The rack moves from side to side with the rotation of the gears which in turn moves the tires in the direction. 

This system is all in all, smaller and more efficient. It uses lesser moving parts and gives a better feel of the movement while turning the car.

Worm Gearbox

The worm gearbox also transforms the motion of gears into the lateral movement of the rack but it does so in a slightly different manner. The build of the work gearbox is much steadier but the operation is almost the same.

Car safety is a huge concern these days with cars becoming faster and more drivers behind the wheel to account for. Steering wheel safety is a concern that has to be addressed. The invention of the collapsible column paved the way for a safer drive especially in the event of a head-on collision. With the installation of the collapsible column in cars, the driver does not have to worry about being hurt by the rigid steering wheel rod which used to cause fatal injuries to them in the past.

Car safety

The primary objective of a car is to transport us from one place to another. Through the passage of time cars have seen a lot of transformation thanks to the development in technology. The framework has become stronger and lighter, engines have become stronger, comfort has increased, and so on.

Cars are now faster than ever. Stronger engines meant faster acceleration and higher overall velocity. To compensate for such high speeds development in other parts of the car was also necessary. The aerodynamics were made stronger, their brakes were tougher, ABS systems were introduced, and so on. All of this was done to make cars safer.

Every year thousands and thousands of people lose their lives in motor vehicle crashes. It is not a new threat but this problem has been there for a while. Road safety rules are already in place but people do not follow them at all times. Most people are lucky but every now and then they break some rules and the danger simply gets very real.

Car safety is slowly becoming a priority and people are now shifting towards safer and reliable cars. Companies are also becoming very aware of car safety and they are using technology to the fullest to make cars as safe as they can. we here at UpFix will resolve all those problems with you and for you, ensuring you, they won’t happen again.


We guarantee your satisfaction, and to prove this point further, if something were to happen or you are not satisfied with the repair, you can get your money back guaranteed. Be sure to check out all the services MyAirbags has to offer.

collapsible steering column