What Is Push-Pull Steering?by Rob Wagner
Push-pull steering is the standard and perhaps most recommended method of using a steering wheel to point the car in a specific direction. The method allows the driver to sit in a better position, with a better grip of the wheel and smoother turning. It’s also regarded as safer than other steering styles.
Drivers generally use four main methods to steer a vehicle. The hand-over-hand style allows the driver to use both hands alternating over one another to pull the wheel down. Drivers accomplish this by putting the hands inside the rim of the wheel, but also creating a weak grip. The cross-arm style places the hands at 9 and 3 o’clock on the wheel. The hands remain stationary while making half turns that lead to crossing the arms. The shuffle method is similar to the hand-over-hand style, with the wheel fed through alternating hands that originated at 10 and 2 o’clock.
Drivers place the hands at 10 and 2 o’clock in the push-pull method. When the vehicle turns left, the hand at 10 pulls the steering wheel down to 6 while the right hand at 2 pushes the wheel up to the 12. In turning right, the right hand pulls the wheel from 2 to 6 o’clock while the left hand pushes the wheel from 10 to 12. The driver reverses the maneuver to straighten the wheel by repositioning the hands at 10 and 2 o’clock. Some North American motor vehicle agencies suggest placing hands at 9 and 3 o’clock.
When using the push-pull method, the driver must sit properly with proper posture. The driver suffers less fatigue, especially on roads with curves. The hands never cross to opposite sides of the steering wheel and the arms remain at the same height. Push-pull also allows the driver to grip the steering wheel with the thumbs up, providing a better grip while pulling down the wheel. The hand-over-hand method requires the hand to momentarily leave the steering wheel, which could lead to losing control. The driver also can move the hands slower with push-pull than other methods, while still turning the vehicle in plenty of time.
The push-pull method is a standard in most developed countries. It has been so entrenched among driving school instructors and state motor vehicle driving testers that it’s often deemed the only correct way to drive a car. But society changes have loosened the grip of the push-pull requirement. Changing the dial on a car radio and drinking or eating in a vehicle were once frowned upon and could even result in a police traffic stop. But as driving habits change, so do steering methods. In the United Kingdom, for example, the country’s Driving Standards Agency recently modified its examiners guide, only requiring drivers to have the ability to control the vehicle and not consider whether the hands are at 10 and 2 o’clock or the driver is using the cross-hands or hand-over-hand methods. Such North American agencies as the California Department of Motor Vehicles may recommend different steering methods depending on driving conditions.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.