Steering is the collection of components, linkages, etc. which allow a vessel (ship, boat) or vehicle (car, motorcycle, bicycle) to follow the desired course. An exception is the case of rail transport by which rail tracks combined together with railroad switches (and also known as 'points' in British English) provide the steering function.
The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania has a number of Budd-built cars in its collection in Strasburg: The 1937 observation car built for the Reading Company "Crusader", a Lehigh Valley Railroad rail diesel car of 1951, a pair of 1958 "Pioneer III" cars for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Pennsylvania Railroad 860, a Metroliner cafe-coach built in 1968.
The most conventional steering arrangement is to turn the front wheels using a hand–operated steering wheel which is positioned in front of the driver, via the steering column, which may contain universal joints (which may also be part of the collapsible steering column design), to allow it to deviate somewhat from a straight line.
Other arrangements are sometimes found on different types of vehicles, for example, a tiller or rear–wheel steering. Tracked vehicles such as bulldozers and tanks usually employ differential steering — that is, the tracks are made to move at different speeds or even in opposite directions, using clutches and brakes, to bring about a change of course or direction.
The basic aim of steering is to ensure that the wheels are pointing in the desired directions. This is typically achieved by a series of linkages, rods, pivots and gears. One of the fundamental concepts is that of caster angle – each wheel is steered with a pivot point ahead of the wheel; this makes the steering tend to be self-centering towards the direction of travel.
The steering linkages connecting the steering box and the wheels usually conforms to a variation of Ackermann steering geometry, to account for the fact that in a turn, the inner wheel is actually travelling a path of smaller radius than the outer wheel, so that the degree of toe suitable for driving in a straight path is not suitable for turns. The angle the wheels make with the vertical plane also influences steering dynamics (see camber angle) as do the tires.
Some race cars use reverse Ackermann geometry to compensate for the large difference in slip angle between the inner and outer front tyres while cornering at high speed. The use of such geometry helps reduce tyre temperatures during high-speed cornering but compromises performance in low-speed maneuvers.