Steering Wheels Information

Steering wheels are circular devices tAuto steering wheelhat direct a vehicle during its operation. They are most common on vessels and automobiles, but are also used in aviation. Steering wheels are typically located within an enclosed cabin with sightline of the vehicle's route. These devices most often have a mechanical linkage to a system that translates the wheel’s input into a change of the vehicle’s course. 

Automobiles utilize a steering wheel that dictates the orientation of the auto's direction-bearing tires. Steering output is provided either by a rack-and-pinion or recirculating ball mechanical system, which may be power-assisted. Electronic steering systems are becoming more commonplace. Many types of vessels, but not all, utilize a steering wheel (also known as a helm) to adjust the angle of the rudder that determines the direction of travel for the ship or boat.


Not all steering wheels are a full circle; some are a half circle or have an open circle design often called a butterfly design. Steering wheels are made from different materials depending on the application. Steering wheels made from wood, such as on an antique boat, are rare but valued for aesthetic. Modern steering wheels are often made of metal, plastic or composite. They are usually covered with a material to provide traction to the operator. Leather or simulated leather is common, wHelm on classic sailing shiphile plastic and rubber is another common grip material.

While other devices, such as joysticks, have been used to replace the steering wheel in some vehicles, none have been successful in gaining popularity. The familiarity and ease of use of a steering wheel have made it a mainstay.


In an automobile the steering wheel may serve many functions other than simply guiding the vehicle. Many modern steering wheels contain an airbag, a switch for a horn, and may contain additional controls.  Buttons sometimes found on an automotive steering wheel are for the radio, cruise control, telephone and gear shifting. Steering wheels for some race cars are designed to be removable so that the driver can easily get into the vehicle. Other steering wheels may contain gauges and other more advanced controls. 

Image credit:

Tuner tom / CC BY SA 3.0