What You Need to Know About GM's New HD Steering Assist

2016-GMC-SierraHD-AllTerrain-003 II

By Bruce W. Smith

Wireless phone charging, a factory-installed gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer hitch and locking a tailgate with the key fob are all available features heavy-duty pickup truck buyers will find appealing in Chevrolet's 2016 Silverado 2500/3500 and GMC's 2016 Sierra 2500/3500 models. Even the most advanced technophiles will appreciate the ability to access more apps directly from their cellphones through the new 8-inch touch-screen's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto option.

But the best available feature for the 2016 Silverado/Sierra HDs is not what you see or hear — it's what you feel while through the steering wheel courtesy of Digital Steering Assist, a new technology from GM (not available on Work Truck trims or regular cab models).

DSA is a computer-controlled hydraulic variable-assist steering system that makes GM HD pickups feel just as nimble as their half-ton counterparts, which have programmable electric power steering.

We had the opportunity to talk with Mike Symons, global vehicle performance manager for GM trucks, about DSA during a recent ride-and-drive event featuring Chevrolet HD pickups and the new 2016 Colorado with the Duramax diesel engine.

PickupTrucks.com: How does this new Digital Steering Assist technology make the 2016 models drive differently than previous versions?

Symons: Compared to a normal hydraulic system [or recirculating ball] that's in our older HDs, the new models have Digital Steering Assist that adds a torque overlay to allow heavy-duty users to get some of the same advantages they would get on the light-duty pickups with electronic power steering. Essentially what we've given the HDs is an electronically controlled variable-assist hydraulic power steering setup that reduces the amount of work the driver exerts to steer and control the truck depending on speed and other inputs. As a result, the truck feels easier to control, especially with better stability at higher speeds or on surfaces such as crowned roads or areas with constant crosswinds.

PUTC: Why not put heavier-duty electronic power steering in the HDs like GM has in the half-ton and midsize pickups?

Symons: The EPS rack-and-pinion components aren't robust enough to handle the weights and steering loads heavy-duty pickups place on them. That's why we've stayed with hydraulic recirculating ball steering systems in the HD and added Digital Steering Assist. It's the best of both worlds.


PUTC: How does DSA make steering easier?

Symons: What we have done is overlay the standard [hydraulic] steering system with two additional computer-controlled valves within the steering pump that add or subtract torque [via fluid pressure] depending on the software parameters that have been established. What that essentially provides is speed-variable assist — offering a lighter turning effort at lower speeds and heavier, slower responses at higher speeds to enhance directional control and stability.

PUTC: How does the DSA know how to make those adjustments?

Symons: The system gets its data from multiple sensors in the truck, including wheel speeds and in the steering wheel, that sense if it's being pulled over time in one direction or another. That data shows how much effort the driver is putting on the steering wheel and how fast or slow the truck is moving. The algorithms within the Digital Steering Assist make continuous changes accordingly so the driver isn't constantly fighting with or needing to provide the same inputs into the steering wheel.

PUTC: What are examples of the differences owners of older HD models would feel when driving a 2016 Silverado HD equipped with DSA?

Symons: [Something] someone familiar with driving an older HD would feel right away is how light the new truck's steering feels during low-speed trailering or parking lot maneuvers. They will also notice how quickly and easily the steering wheel returns to center after those hard lock-to-lock steering maneuvers. We call that active returnability assist. The idea is to give a nice, consistent steering feel similar to that of a light-duty pickup in a heavy-duty package.

PUTC: Is there a big difference at highway speeds?

Symons: Yes, that's another area we spent a lot of time with the DSA overlay. Drivers will notice the 2016 HD requires far less steering effort to compensate for driving in strong crosswinds or on long stretches of crowned road or highway. This system actually learns as you drive and adjusts the steering assist accordingly. For example, Digital Steering Assists' "pull compensation" programming recognizes when a hydraulic pressure offset is required while driving on a sloped road or in those prolonged crosswinds you find across the Midwest. The computer adds more hydraulic torque to the steering pump to help compensate so the driver doesn't have to put in as much steering input. The truck drives straighter, requires less input from the driver and, as a consequence, the driver is less fatigued when he gets to his destination.

PUTC: Does DSA make any changes to steering when the truck is in Tow/Haul mode?

Symons: Yes. That's the beauty of DSA and how the integrated computer technology really benefits those who tow trailers. When Tow/Haul is activated, we've optimized the system so the [steering] effort curve is changed accordingly. DSA adds a little more assist to the slow-speed steering maneuvers, so when backing up a bigger trailer you'd get lighter steering than you would in a non-Tow/Haul mode. Conversely, on the highway when in Tow/Haul mode, the truck will actually take away some assist, making steering effort a little higher, which helps improve trailer control and stability when pulling a big trailer.

PUTC: Does DSA help compensate for an improperly setup trailer with too little or too much tongue weight on the truck?

Symons: We don't have any type of sensing in the suspension, so there's no way to monitor front or rear axle loads, but that's a great idea. However, Digital Steering Assist's increased effort curve in Tow/Haul mode will help to some degree, but the system is not set up for those types of unsafe situations.

Manufacturer photos





Very stupid move! Just a new contraption to direct crashes. When a sensor goes bad you wont be able to turn the wheel or it will turn in a direction you dont want to go. Put a plow on front and have one computer controlled valve go bad it will turn you into a wall because you wont be able to correct it. This is completely unnecessary AND WILL CREATE PROBLEMS IN MANY OTHER UN THOUGHT OF WAYS

Great innovation by GM. It just puts GM's HD trucks another step a head of the competition.

I think it's rather ingenious. For years and years we GM owners complained about that "clunk" in the mechanical steering systems. GM never could get that right. So now they switch to electric steering which effectively eliminates that clunk sound. Good job, GM! Or did you build that feel and sound into the new system?

Most of the vehicle sensors are pre-existing on the vehicle for stability control functions. If part of the system were to fail, it defaults full assist, making the truck a bit more twitchy, but allowing for good control.

Dale, the steering is still fully mechanical, with hydraulic assist. The only difference is a solenoid that can decrease boost in certain conditions.

All HDs are going this way. It's will be on the new Super Duty, too. Haven't heard from Ram. They are probably going to wait it out as usual.

GM's HD trucks are really nice and this new feature will no doubt make the big boy a bit nicer to drive too. There's nothing to worry about with the electronics; this stuff has been around for awhile. Just new to the HD.

cool article but a bit of a stretch to call it the best available feature in the truck.

Another high-tech solution to a problem nobody had.

I'm not picking on GM. They're all doing it. Too bad you can't get the good parts without option in up to a trim level that has all this junk.

The GM HD's already handle MUCH better than the Ram and Super Duty, this feature will put them even further ahead.

@Greg, HOW????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

A very good answer to a question nobody asked. Hey let's make the truck more complicated and add another computer. These guys can't even make a simple ignition switch that works.

Some people seem to wear rose colored glasses for their favorite, and then blinders for other brands. As for complexity, I'm pretty sure this is not a complicated change... Heck it uses mostly existing sensors to enable better control, however until I can drive it, I guess I'll have to wait and see what I think after actually driving it... Seems like a great idea, to comment on what you actually have experience of, vice just bad mouth whatever brand you don't like...

Looks like a fairly logical refinement of HD pickup Power Steering through the introduction of computer assistance/control and sensors. There are few systems left on a modern car to not have such features/tech integrated into them and eventually there will be none.

This type of technology has been out for 20+ years. In the 80s ford had VAPS for variable assist power steering. Everyone has electric power steering to some extent so I do not see anything scary about this system. With the exception of the module location. I would be worried about road grime or salt contamination but we will see the what the final product will be. GM trucks do need something like this. Their steering is way over boosted for highway driving and some times not boosted enough with a load on the front end during parking lot maneuvers. Hopefully it will give the GM trucks a better steering feel.

Overboosted steering is so classically American. I kinda think the majority of American are lazy vehicle "operators" (drivers they certainly are NOT), with the overwhelming preference for automatic trannys and inability to realize that one should only use the left lane for passing its a sad trend that overboosed effortless steering is more the norm than the exception. And as such has come to be a bad expectation by a group of consumers largely clueless about it... Kinda like how Americans think al-dente pasta is undercooked or people that think steak should be done/well done. Im not saying there are exceptions but catering to those with bad taste is a legitamte market strategy especially when they outnumber those with good taste or know better.

Im not saying there ARENT exceptions but most Americans are not drivers. (I missed up the ARENT) part above for the small %age of American "Drivers" out there.

There's no computer nonsense on this kw and she steers just fine. Are consumers really asking for all these electronic assistants?

Whether you like it or not roadram consumers, the market, competition, and even the government are DEMANDING enhancements only practically available through the integration of technology. Its called progress believe it or not. You are either leading, following or dying depending on your level of integration of it. That's not to say there aren't miss steps, issues, mistakes, and setbacks but being left behind in strategy and integration has traditionally with near certainty led to bankruptcies, bail outs, and sell offs.

Ford and Ram are "claiming" best in class torque , HP , towing etc.. It's good that GM is perusing even better handling and ease of operation which ultimately contributes to a safer, more enjoyable driving and towing experience.

The Denali HD IS best in class. The technology suite on these trucks is second to none. And there is no better performing powertrain in the world, period. And that is what these trucks are all about. This enhancement, I imagine will contribute to a better driving vehicle. Wish I had waited, though I have no complaints, I do like the idea of a better return to center.

Thanks for encapsulating in the first sentence the changes the 2016 HDs have. I knew about the DSA already, but I heard that was really the only change, and a couple sites likened it to trailer sway control, which is not what this is. This is definitely a big tech upgrade for the 2016 trucks.

The factory gooseneck hitch is a move that sounds like it has Nissan's name all over it. And at this rate, even though Nissan announced that feature as a first a year ago, GM will be first to market with it. Can they just release the Titan XD already?

It really is a great truck. To learn some more cool features about this truck check out http://www.danielslong.com/chevy-silverado-2500

In my opinion this is the worst feeling Silverado hd for me yet.after owning 2004,06,09,10,11,12,13,15 and now a 2016 this new digital steering feels loose and sloppy driving on all roads at all speeds. You feel like you have to continually move the steering wheel back and forth while driving.Also please fix these weak headlights.

What about sensor failures. My 1997 K1500 had a steering angle sensor failure which didn't throw a code and resulted in the variable steering assist trying to drive it off the side of the road whenever I made a slight steering correction at highway speeds. When misalignment or worn tires cause a truck to pull to one side, how will the new system distinguish that from a crowned road. Did Chevy actually TEST this system out to 80,000 miles to see what happens when stuff wears, fails, or gets old? Or is it just another computer/sensors destined to fail the day the truck leaves warranty and cause 2nd, 3rd owners heartaches and big repair tickets.

Have 2016 GMC Sierra HD Denali with DMax. Received in October 2015.
DSA is atrocious or my truck has a failure.
Great at low speed, light steering effort. Don't care for the immediate return to center at slow speeds as you have to pay more attention to steering when leaving a parking lot, for example, as it will force the truck to stop making a gradual turn and straighten out. Not the worse thing ever, but compared to my other GMCs, yuck. Requires behavior change on my part and doesn't provide any real benefit to me. Lighter effort = great; return to center = blah.

Biggest gripe is steering heaviness/feel above 70MPH. Little to no assist at those speeds. Gradual expressway turns are painful on longer trips. More so with trailer connected and T/H engaged. Sometimes you can feel the steering adjust after a long fight against a crosswind, but for gusty areas you are constantly fighting a steering wheel with basically no power assist. Similar for non-banked turns, especially to the left, need to grip the wheel with two hands or risk having it "snap" to center and wag the trailer.
Horrid design or component failure on this truck, not sure which.

This truck has been at dealer for 21 days now for multiple issues. Would not recommend.

If you are considering purchase, strongly advise driving one for a day or two in your conditions/situations.

It is junk. I have it and it has failed with less than 3000 miles on it. This thing will get someone killed. When it fails the steering has no feedback and become very loose. It will be just a mater of time before GM will have a recall on this new junk.

Just bought a 2016 GMC Sierra 2500 hd Denali. Spent almost as much as a small house on this truck and it drives like sh*t. Can't hardly steer the thing on the highway without running off the road. Headlights also bounce bad when you hit little bumps in the road. Head marker lamps whistle in the wind. Worst purchase decision I have ever made. I can deal with those things other than the steering. Does anyone have a fix? I'm getting Gmc to buy this piece back if it's not fixed.

I carried mine back to my dealer and he basically told me to get used to it it's the new way. The truck feels like it's got a low tire so it won't stay in it's Lane constantly correcting drove on a 240 mile vacation trip and was tired when I got to my destination like I was fighting it the whole way. It is a 2016 Silverado HD, wish I had my 2008 HD back.

Chevrolet is doing it again. In 1997 they introduced EVO steering (Electronic Variable Orifice). It allowed high pressure power steering at low speed. It was supposed to shut off at high speed. The units failed and allowed high pressure at highway speed. This was like steering in a video game, on ball bearings. There was no road feel. It caused a lot of serious accidents. The government and Chevrolet agreed it was a safety hazard, so GM quit making replacement units for liability concerns. Now there was no way to fix it. They abandoned the system 3 years later, but they never did clean up the mess they made. Chevy offered a bypass, but that just made it high pressure all the time. Suburbans of that vintage are death traps, due to he steering defects. Now they do it again with "digital assist." It's a truck. Quit trying to make it steer like a Ferrari.

I have a 2015 Silverado HD2500. When making tight turns (ie;parking spaces, etc.), the steering wheel feels like it loses power steering, making it extremely difficult to turn the wheel. The dealership said it's just the steering assist and that's normal. It seems dangerous to not be able to turn properly when needed. Is this normal?

I think this is just another example of GM innovation. I'd always been a Ford gut, but that was until I experienced GM.

Correction: Ford GUY*

I just purchased a 2016 Silverado 3500 HD and I pull a 28ft enclosed trailer. It pulled terrible the truck was swaying and felt really unstable. Regardless of pulling the trailer the truck alone at higher speeds is still very unstable and sways alot with just a little turn of the wheel. Love the truck but need to figure out how to remedy the looseness and stability. Any sugestion??


There is a bulletin out addressing issues with the steering box losing torque on the adjustment nut.
I just took my in to dealer about loose steering. They said to drive with one hand, not two. The computer re-adjusts and over corrects that results in a sloppy feel. They found no mechanical issue.

Yes I have a2016 Chevy 3500 and the steering system is leaking and there is a lot of play in the steering and Chevrolet in Roswell NM says that there is no eta on getting a new one is this true ,they told me there not making them yet . What are my options with this I need the trk for work

After 40,000 miles, I can tell you that my number one complaint with my 2015 Silverado 2500 is the Digital Steering Assist. It's a great feature when navigating city streets or when doing a three point turn into a tight parking spot. It complements the ride and cabin noise upgrades nicely. However, unlike many vehicles with different forms of electronic steering (including two vehicles my wife has owned, a Lexus RX350 and an Infinity Q50 Sport), GM's Digital Steering Assist DOES NOT become more firm at high speeds and IS NOT driver-seat-adjustable. On the interstate, it feels as though bushings have been replaced with marshmallows; with any amount of a load I feel unsafe. I actually came across this article looking for information on removing or reprogramming it, and hope to find a solution.

I have a new 2017 Yukon with this system. It's nice when maneuvering the boat into ramps and gas stations.
I don't particularly like it on the open road at highway speed... it's too sensitive and causes you to over-steer or over drive the vehicle, especially with any cross wind input.

2016 High Country. 2500 Duramax Allision. 8500 mile. Steering issue of concern. Back Lash in steering, 3-4 inches on steering wheel between turning the wheels left to right. Spooky on some road conditions, windy days, middle of narrow 3 lanes. Took to dealer service and was told it was fine without driving it. Have appointment next Monday with dealer service. Going to insist someone drive this vehicle. I found a few posts on goggle with similar issues and concerns. Now I.m reading someone had their steering lock up...Very concerning. If I get the lack of concern Monday at the dealer.. I.'ll park my truck and contact. Safecar.gov... actually I,ve read enough that need to be done anyhow.

Going on my 3rd Steering Rack. Total garbage.

2014 GMC Sierra All Terrain. Going on my 3rd steering rack. Total Garbage

Maybe beef up the tie rods and center link so they don’t deflect and bend during off-road or heavy torque situations in 4lo.
That’s what drove me away. Every time I went into really rough stuff I needed, at the minimum, an alignment. After beefed up aftermarket parts were added other weak points appeared. I went with a competitor and have zero issues.
GM trucks are great, but their HD market share tells a different tale. The fact that Ford dominates, especially in the Triton and 6.0/6.4 powerstroke years, says something.
So, I guess if this Steering effort thing is an issue for you and the pizza cutter GM tires, good for you and them. One thing I never felt was that the Steering effort was bad.
But I used to wheel Moab and Colorado in a Scout II with 33x12.50x15s, a locker out back and limited slip up front, and NO power steering or brakes. I had arms like a pro footballer from driving that thing all the time.

I have purchased a 2016 this new digital steering. The steering feels loose and sloppy driving at low speeds below 1700 RPM. You feel like you have to continually move the steering wheel back and forth while driving. When you are pulling a load or at RPM above 1700 the steering firms up and has better control. I really don't like this feature. GM has fixed something that worked. Why mess with success?

I have a 2016 Chevy Silverado 2500hd the steering is sloppy and has 3 to 5 inches of play and iv read on many threads and forms that lots of people are having this issue. There is a tsb out that a dealer can perform on the truck but most people say it doesn't last and that the only solution is better gearbox but I can't seem to find any aftermarket ones for this truck. I hope gm finds a way to fix this issue because it seems unsafe....

The comments to this entry are closed.