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Seat and Steering Wheel Alignment

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Occasionally one reads of an OE seat that is offset from the steering wheel centreline. This is generally explained away as a packaging issue, and seen to be a flaw. When I installed race seats in my BMW, the measuring involved forced me to consider this matter a bit more deeply. Until those measurements were taken and drawn up on CAD, I had not realized that while both front seats were symmetrically arranged around the vehicle centreline, and were facing directly fore-aft, the steering column was angled inward, and the wheel center was not laterally centred on the driver's seat. Once seen, this misalignment cannot be unseen, but why had I not noticed it sooner? This feature could not be explained away by packaging - the available space did not constrain BMW from centring the wheel with the seat, and aligning the steering axis with the longitudinal axis. A deeper dive explained why a non-centred steering wheel is a feature, not a flaw. Details here:


This is something I noticed many years ago with the Mk2 Escort, which has a very pronounced column angle towards the centre line, and through the pedals. While it was initially a bit off-putting, in time I got used to it.

As you mentioned, it may not have been a packaging issue, as it could be worked around, and I put it down to a higher than usual bias towards the arm that does most of the steering as the other is often being used for changing gear, operating controls, etc. It may seem strange, but it actually makes more sense than a strictly centred wheel.

What REALLY grinds my gears is excessive pedal offset, usually due to inner wheel arch intrusion - with LHD, it may not seem so important, but with RHD an offset throttle pedal can be uncomfortable after a while, as can the offset to the brake pedal. I've known several instances where people unfamiliar with a vehicle haven't allowed for excessive offset and repeatedly hit the throttle instread of the brake.

Thanks for bringing this up James, it's an interesting discussion. Makes me wonder how many factory-built race cars take this effect into consideration.

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