Types of Adjustable Steering Wheels

An adjustable steering wheel is specifically designed to make the driving easier and allow the driver to have more control over the driving view. It works by tilting up and down, depending on what makes it easier for the driver to drive.

It was first developed by Edward James Lobdell at the start of the 20th century. However, it was probably after General Motors introduced it as a 7-position tilt wheel that it became popular.

The adjustable steering wheel quickly became a kind of luxury feature in the 60s, and is widely used even today in most cars and trucks. While the tilt wheel is the most popular type of adjustable steering wheel, there have also been some other types of adjustable wheels that we will be discussing in this article.

Tilt Steering Wheel

This is a 7-position tilt wheel that was developed by General Motors and used in all but one of their passenger cars as soon as it was designed by GM’s Saginaw Division in 1963. It offered a much better level of control and handling to the drivers, which made it a highly sought-after luxury feature of that time.

Telescopic Steering Column

In order to take on the Chevrolet's Corvette, Ford introduced the Thunderbird that boasted a rare combination of sportiness and a great level of driver comfort. Something that contributed greatly to making the Thunderbird a “personal car” while still helping it retain its sporty touch was the telescopic steering column.

It allowed the drivers to adjust the steering column to a great extent depending on their individual preference, which took the driver comfort to a whole new level while also letting them have a “personal” touch to their driving.

Swing-Away Steering Wheel

The swing-away steering wheel, too, was introduced through the Ford Thunderbird, but in the all-new 1961 models. It was different than the telescopic steering column in the way that it focused more on allowing for a more comfortable entry and exit for the drivers.

Tilt-Away Steering Wheel

After the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) updated its requirements with respect to the rearward movement in the event of an accident, continuing with the swing-away steering wheel was no longer an option for Ford as it didn’t meet the updated safety requirements.

However, in order to prevent GM from getting a competitive edge over it, Ford quickly came up with the tilt-away steering wheel in 1967. While technically it was an update to the swing-away tilt wheel, operation-wise it was something very different than its predecessor.

While it had to offer limited movement compared to its swing-away counterpart to meet the new safety requirements, it was a lot more convenient to use thanks to its automatic popping over feature. Then there were also the tilt function with 9 different positions, which certainly offered a much better level of handling than most other types of adjustable steering wheels available at that time.

Author: Matthew King is an automotive enthusiast and runs the Forever Sharp family business. When he’s not busy researching new designs and products, you can find him at the local classic car shows.

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