Ever since cars have become a popular mode of travel, different mechanical issues have emerged. One of them is ‘what to do when your steering wheel locks?’. This is an experience pretty much everybody had while driving their own or someone else’s car.
Due to the added self-locking feature in new cars, getting your steering wheel locked has become a common phenomenon. However, sometimes the steering wheel gets locked for reasons that need some attention.
Most often, it is due to faulty mechanisms that need fixing. Therefore, let us get to know more about this topic in the coming sections to solve this dilemma.
How to Fix a Locked Steering Wheel?
The simplest way to fix a locked steering wheel is to slide the key in the ignition, turn it gently sideways. Wiggle the steering wheel from side to side while turning the key. At one point, the lock will loosen and unlock.
It’s All About What to Do When Your Steering Wheel Locks
You need to understand that your steering wheel may lock up for various reasons. Sometimes it is the automatic anti-theft feature activation, while sometimes it is due to a malfunction in the steering wheel mechanism.
So, when you notice the steering wheel locking up on you, try to figure out the cause. If it is just the auto-lock feature, you can easily unlock it. Inserting the key in the ignition, and trying to gently start it can unlock the steering wheel as well.
The ignition chamber may be dirty or frozen due to cold. You can lubricate the ignition slot with Tri-Flow lubricant oil, but avoid graphite and WD-40.
Furthermore, if your steering wheel is in the middle of the highway, alert the other cars, and move yours to a safe location. Then, check the power steering fluid to see whether it is clean or finished. If things did get this far, you have to call the mechanic to service the vehicle properly.
Reasons Your Car’s Steering May Lock Up: 5 Best Strategies For Beginners
The mystery is going to be solved here at last! I have described all the possible reasons for your steering wheel to fail you when you were least expecting it. Let us get to it!
Reason#01: Because of Power Steering Issues
It is possible to identify a power steering problem when the steering refuses to move when you are trying to turn it in a certain direction. The possible causes are jamming of the internal steering racks and low power in the steering rack.
When you take your car to the mechanic, he will suggest that you change the steering fluid. The fluid can relieve the jam in the rack without needing further work.
Reason#02: Because of a Lack of Power Steering Fluid
If your steering wheel stops working while the vehicle is in motion, there may be a shortage of power steering fluid or bad hygiene. You can get confirmation about this condition if you are at the parking lot.
When you are moving your car at a lower speed in the parking lot, it should be easy to maneuver. If it is not, then you know who the culprit is!
Furthermore, if upon taking your vehicle to the mechanic, he finds that the power steering fluid is not circulating properly, then the power steering pump needs to be replaced.
Reason#03: Because of a Steering Mechanism Failure
Your steering wheel may lock up when the steering arm or mechanism has failed in some way. Running into a problem like this is very dangerous, if it occurs in the middle of the highway. For your and everybody else’s safety, try to take the vehicle to a safer spot, and call the car’s company.
Although it may sound risky, a regular maintenance of your car prevents incidents like this from happening. Sometimes, even after such a failure, the steering can still manage to turn. So, you can drag the car to safety after turning on the hazard lights.
Reason#04: Because of the Ignition Lock
Modern cars are armed with an ignition lock feature. This feature is activated after the key has been withdrawn from the ignition. Therefore, what happens is that your steering wheel refuses to move in the absence of a key in the ignition.
The main purpose of this feature is to prevent theft. But it can also end up locking up the steering wheel when you want to drive your car. So, if you have this feature included in your vehicle, you should know how to operate it.
You have to deactivate the lock by turning the key in the ignition. Sometimes, this can create a massive amount of tension in the lock cylinder, and you may feel like your steering is stuck. So, move the key slightly in one direction letting the tension dissipate.
Reason#05: Because of a Temporary Steering Jam
Sometimes, your steering wheel can get jammed for no apparent reason. The good news is that you can solve this problem quite easily.
Your car can prevent you from turning the key in the ignition, and it is common with a number of vehicles. First, stay calm, and try to move the steering wheel from side to side. At the same time, turn the key in the ignition.
When these two actions are done at the same time, the steering wheel loosen its grip, and start moving normally.
Why is the Wheel Locking Unintentionally?
This can happen due to several reasons not limited to temporary jam in the steering wheel, lack of or dirty power steering fluid, and anti-theft locking feature malfunctioning.
Tips to Keep in Mind When Unlocking a Steering Wheel
- It is so important that you do not lose your calm when your steering wheel fails you all of a sudden.
- If you are trying to use your car key in the ignition to unlock the car, do so gently.
- You can use some tools to unlock the steering wheel, such as a screwdriver.
- Do not mess up the steering lock by forcing yourself onto it. Just let the experts handle it.
How to Prevent a Steering Wheel from Locking Up
There are various ways to prevent yourself from getting stuck with a jammed steering wheel in the middle of nowhere. Let us look at all the possible solutions.
- Disengage the Ignition Lock
Detach the ignition lock to prevent your steering wheel from locking up on you. Take a breath, put the key back in the ignition slot, and turn the engine. Even if you encounter some resistance from the car, as you turn the key gently, it will work!
- Learn to Drive Safely
Sounds cliche, but this is absolutely important to prevent yourself from encountering dangers when you are out on the road. Part of safe driving is to check your car for repairs and fixes on a timely basis.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Let us get to know more about locked steering wheels in the section below.
Q1. What Do You Do When Your Steering Wheel is Locked and Won’t Turn?
A) It is possible that your steering wheel got locked when you turned your car a little too forcibly last time. To unjam it, you have to use the ignition key carefully. Insert the key into the ignition and turn it gently.
Nothing may happen. But if it works, then it is great. If not, apply pressure to turn the key in the usual direction. Of course, do not use too much pressure unless you want to break the key or the ignition slot.
Now, continue to gently turn the key until it unlocks. If you have the money to support it and not enough patience, feel free to call the automotive locksmith.
Q2. Why Does My Steering Wheel Lock When Parked?
A) Often, when your car is parked, the safety mechanism that prevents theft may get activated, and end up locking your car. The feature turns on when you turn off your car while the steering is turned right or left.
This is very common, so there is no need to panic. The most possible reason behind this happening is one of the steering's lock slots getting paralyzed in some way.
Moreover, the uncommon reasons for this occurring are bent key, broken ignition slot, or some internal wearing.
Q3. Why is My Steering Wheel Not Unlocking?
A) Patience is the key. If you have calmly tried to turn the key in the ignition slot, and the steering is still stuck, remove the key, and take a breath.
You need to check some other areas of the vehicle to figure out the cause of locked steering wheels. There may be power steering issues, lack of power steering fluid, any steering mechanism failure, or a temporary steering jam.
Q4. How to Lock Your Steering Wheel Intentionally?
A) While I went on and on about unlocking the steering wheel, let us talk a bit about how you can lock it! Some drivers may lock it up by mistake or due to negligence, but you can also lock it to keep your car safe from theft.
By locking the steering wheel, even if some clever person breaks in, he would not be able to turn the steering wheel. So, to lock your steering wheel intentionally, firstly, turn off the vehicle and unfasten the key.
Then, gently turn the steering wheel either right or left. When you hear a click, that is the sign that it is locked now. You should check with the car manual or the sales person whether your car model supports this feature or not.
Q5. Do Steering Wheel Locks Actually Prevent Car Theft?
A) Different brands of vehicles have different locking systems in place. If your steering wheel comes with a u-shaped steel piece and a thick rod with it, it will be very hard for a thief to drive your car away.
The metal plates in the car enclose the lug nuts of the steering wheels, making it impossible for the steering wheels to move when locked properly. However, many modern steering wheels are made of soft metal and are quite frail. So, it is super easy to cut through them.
Q6. Why is the Steering Wheel Locking Unintentionally?
A) Your steering wheel may lock unintentionally if you have turned it by force, some mechanism has failed internally, or if the anti-theft system has been activated. The anti-theft mechanism can start up if you have not disabled it or if your key fob battery is dead.
Q7. Isn't My Steering Wheel Locked without the Key in the Ignition?
A) Some steering wheels are designed to lock themselves when the key is removed, but exceptions exist. Otherwise, sometimes the steering wheels can turn a certain way and end up locking. To be sure, check your car’s user manual.
Q8. How Should I Care for My Steering Wheel Lock?
A) To ensure that your steering wheel lock is properly functioning, make sure that it is clean and free of unwanted dirt. Most importantly, take your car for a checkup every 6 months to be updated on the condition of the steering lock mechanisms.
Have you found the answers behind what to do when your steering wheel locks? Or did you find this article by chance when you were encountering this issue? Your steering wheel needs to have an anti-theft feature for the car’s security and your peace of mind. Although some people deactivate it precisely to prevent it from locking on its own.
Despite the hassle the anti-theft locking feature has brought about, it is still a useful component of the vehicle. Let us not blame it all on the steering wheel lock, but also focus on the other possible reasons for the steering wheel to jam up.
If your vehicle is old and has not been serviced in months, not just your steering wheel, a lot of other things can go wrong! So, let us just be careful from now on about our steering wheels. Treat it gently and take it for maintenance whenever required.