Steering – ‘the old pull and push’

Blog post posted on 20/05/16 |

Shaun Cronin - Regional quality manager

As Regional Quality Manager for the South I get to travel about visiting different IAM groups and test Masters and National Observer candidates together with a few IAM RoadSmart Advanced Driver Tests. And steering as a core subject is often raised with me. Now as it’s IAM RoadSmart, several days could be lost in a discussion on the minutia of many subjects, but steering is a classic case.

Back in the midst of time when Roadcraft was introduced, ‘pull-push’ steering was where it was at together with ‘driver deportment.’ Gigantic steering wheels were fitted to cars as there was no power assistance and steering mechanisms were in their infancy. Steering boxes meant that you had to keep gently rocking the steering wheel back and forth to take up the slack in the worn system. My Grandfather used to do this on his old Ford Zodiac, which to me was as large as an aircraft carrier with exactly the same pin-sharp handling! So pull-push steering was needed to shuffle those big wheels and provide the leverage required for the task. And it worked.

Step forward to 2016, we still mainly use pull-push steering, but modern vehicle steering systems are light years away from those early days. Don’t misunderstand me, pull-push steering works well in most circumstances, but not in all. (Check out Roadcraft (Car) 2013 page 112-117, it suggests other valid methods). Fact: there are other very valid steering techniques that are often overlooked or even completely discounted because ‘It was good enough for me lad so it’s good enough for you, just do it’.  Vehicle technology has moved on, but sadly not so much the human factor. 

I’m a big advocate of good steering techniques, but not the slavish adherence to pull-push steering so often associated with Driving Schools of the 70’s and 80’s. Personally, I use a blend of pull-push, rotational, fixed grip, single input and pre-positioning.  But, what about the 270 degree Swedish hold, and the ‘Fangio shuffle’? There are many other highly developed steering techniques, they work well when employed correctly for the prevailing circumstances and they are safe. Does that make them wrong? Sadly, in the eyes of some it is pull-push or nothing.  For me to even suggest that there might be another way will cause many flat caps and string back driving gloves to instantly self-combust! Those old steering box days are over and now’s the time to accept and employ modern steering techniques safely and correctly.

Enjoy the drive!