When your steering wheel locks, you shouldn’t panic at all as it can be easily fixed. There are various reasons why the steering wheel normally locks itself. First and foremost, it locks itself as a safety measure. The wheel doesn’t turn if the key isn’t inserted into the ignition. Another reason why the steering wheel locks itself is when the car is being towed so that it can prevent theft. Ignition tumblers undergo a lot of mechanical movement and force over the years which can lead them to fail, thus in return preventing the steering wheel from unlocking. This article will guide you on how to unlock a locked steering wheel before you acquire a mechanic for assistance if you fail. Normally, the issue might be with the steering wheel, sticky locks or ignition lock assembly.
If you have other problem(Or good to know to avoid problem) like Why steering wheel Shakes or Why steering wheel shakes at High Speed?
Unlocking the steering wheel
Put the key into the ignition
When there is force on the wheel as you turn the car off, this might cause the steering wheel to be locked. To unlock, you will need the ignition key just the same way you start the car.
Turn the key gently
In case both the key and wheel are locked, you will be required to apply pressure to the key in the direction that you usually do. Be careful not to apply excess pressure on the key as you may cause it to break. Apply gentle pressure until the ignition is unlocked.
Put pressure to the steering wheel
The steering wheel is normally locked in position using a pin on one side. If locked, the wheel will not move in any direction at free will, but one side will not allow movement whatever the case. Detect which side the wheel can’t move, then put pressure in the other direction while turning the key with your other hand.
Avoid shaking or rocking the wheel
Don’t shake or rock the wheel back and forth when trying to unlock the wheel as this may drastically reduce your chances. What you need to do is steadily apply pressure in one direction until it unlocks.
Pull the key slightly before turning it
When the key starts to wear out, it may fail to turn the ignition on. But still, you can be in a position to engage the pins required to begin the car by putting the key in all the way, then pulling it out slightly.
Turn the wheel and key right away to unlock it
When the right amount of pressure is applied to the wheel in the right direction while at the same time turning the key, it will unlock both, enabling the wheel to move freely and the car to start. The moment it is unlocked, the car can now be driven.
Making loose sticky locks
Apply a little dose of electrical cleaner in the key hole
When the ignition cylinder has seized, spraying a little amount of electrical cleaner into the key hole may lubricate it enough to turn.
Spray canned air inside the ignition
Also, debris caught in the ignition can stop the key from turning, which might in return stop the steering wheel from unlocking. Insert the canned air directly into the key hole. This should simply take a few short sprays to clear the debris.
Slowly slide the key in and out several times
When removing the debris, some may get caught in the cylinder. Place the key in, then slide it back out. Repeat the procedure a few times to attempt moving any debris caught in the cylinder.
Make sure the key is not bent or damaged
If the key doesn’t turn when placed in the ignition, it might be damaged. In such a situation, replace the key immediately and try igniting the car.
Replacing the ignition lock assembly
- Buy a new ignition lock assembly
- Get rid of the cover over the ignition
- Apply an Allen wrench to release the ignition assembly
- Ensure the fresh ignition switch is well-greased
- Make sure that the internal lock pins can move at free will
- Slide the cylinder into place and reconnect the switch plug
- Start the engine to make sure the steering wheel disengages
Related: If you have car alignment problem then this article is for you.
The three methods discussed above are the possible causes of a locked steering wheel and the procedure for tackling them has been elaborated as well.
Summary of Contents
- 1 Unlocking the steering wheel
- 2 Making loose sticky locks
- 3 Replacing the ignition lock assembly