The steering wheel is one of the most frequently used controls in any motor vehicle. It is therefore important that the driver is able to operate the steering wheel comfortably. It is for that reason that the adjustable steering column was developed.

The first adjustable steering column took the form of a tilt wheel, which was developed in the early 20th century. Originally a luxury item on cars, the tilt steering wheel operates to adjust the steering wheel by moving it through an arc in an upward and downward motion. The mechanism involves a ratchet joint that is situated in the steering column. By disengaging this lock, the wheel can be adjusted upward or downward. In certain designs of adjustable steering columns, the pivot is positioned slightly forward, which permits a degree of vertical movement with minimal tilt, whilst in other designs the pivot is positioned virtually inside the steering wheel, enabling the angle of the steering wheel to be changed with virtually no alteration to its height.

Other, modern types of adjustable steering column permit the steering wheel height to be adjusted without any significant change in tilt. The majority of those systems operate with compression locks or electric motors rather than ratchet joints.

Whatever type of adjustable steering column is employed; it can make the driving experience considerably more comfortable for the driver.