Steering wheel locked up while parked — causes and fixes
Discover the reasons for a locked steering wheel while parked.
A car is more than just a transportation device. For some people, it represents their personality or a representation of their affection. But occasionally, it may cause headaches, as people’s patience gets tested by issues like a locked steering wheel when parked. More significantly, you won’t receive any warnings before problems of this nature arises.
It’s possible to park your car without locking the steering wheel in some cases, only to discover that the wheel is locked when you get back in. Finding the steering wheel locked when you did not lock it is always unsettling and frightening.
We’ve all experienced situations where it would be more practical to move our car without starting it. But the steering wheel locks and makes it impossible. A distressing, even terrifying issue is when there is a sudden absence of steering wheel response.
The steering wheel locked up while parked is a problem that many people have experienced with several car models.Let’s look at some reasons the steering wheel locks up and how to fix it.
What does a locked steering wheel mean?
As you are aware, turning the steering wheel will also turn your car’s wheels, allowing you to move the whole vehicle. A steering wheel lock is a loss of steering ability that makes it impossible for the driver to operate the car. The front tires’ steering mechanism is locked, making it impossible to move the vehicle or turn the steering wheel without the key.
Your car wouldn’t move or will keep moving in the direction the wheel is facing since it will be trapped in its current position.
In cars, the steering wheel lock system serves as a safety element. A steering lock is one of the modern cars’ many safety systems to prevent theft. But, as a machinery function, it does not always follow the algorithm, which leaves you frustrated when it fails.
Why do steering wheels lock while parked?
If you just got in your car and are about to start driving, but the steering wheel is locked, there are possible causes. These causes could be common or uncommon.
One of the reasons is that the car’s safety functions may have been activated when parking the vehicle, which is a common reason for your steering to lock up. This occurs when the car is turned off, and the wheels are slightly turned to the right or left. One of the lock slots will become jammed, as a result, leaving your car trapped.
Here are a few other reasons why a steering wheel could lock up:
The steering lock’s internal parts may deteriorate with time. This can result in the locking mechanism getting stuck in the engaged state. If this is the case, lubricating the locking mechanism can help to solve the issue. You can use WD-40 dry lube, silicone spray, and other lubricants.
Try rotating the key to unlock the steering wheel after lubricating the mechanism. If this does not work, you might have to replace the locking mechanism completely.
Your car’s ECU, or engine control unit, is its brain. It keeps tabs on every component that enables your car to work, regulates it, communicates with it, and alerts any issues on your dashboard. Certain features of your vehicle won’t function if it is malfunctioning in some areas.
For instance, if the ECU is malfunctioning in the area of the power steering system, it will send conflicting signals to the dashboard and might also lock the steering wheel, making it impossible for you to turn it. It might also occur if the engine in your car fails unexpectedly.
Your car key might not turn on the ignition if it has been damaged, such as if it has been bent or is already worn out. The steering wheel won’t move in any direction, even if you successfully get the key into the keyhole.
Dirt in the steering lock chamber
The steering wheel may lock if dirt and debris in the chamber prevent the key from adequately engaging, thus preventing the steering wheel from turning.
The steering lock chamber should be the first item you check if you discover that your steering wheel is locked.
How to unlock steering wheel?
You may take a few easy actions if your car’s steering wheel becomes locked. It is important to follow these instructions carefully.
However, handling the issues will differ from one car type to another. You can try the following to unlock your steering wheel on popular car models. Make sure your car is in park or neutral before you begin. Then, follow the detailed instructions, and your vehicle will be fixed in no time.
Use the ignition
Insert the key into the ignition, then turn the key slowly, as a tight twist could shatter the key; keep that in mind. If the key is damaged inside, you may have to pay 2–5 times more to fix the ignition lock cylinder.
Try to identify which side the locking pin is on. If you can turn the key gently and the car won’t start, Watch the direction that the steering wheel completely refuses to go; you have your locked side. Now, turn your steering wheel in the opposite direction and try starting the car.
This step involves twisting your key slowly while applying pressure to the steering wheel on the free side to unlock the steering wheel. If the steering wheel is still locked and the key is stuck in the ignition, you may have to consider issues like a bad ignition switch or faulty key fob.
Work on the key
You can also try to wiggle the key while twisting it gently. Try pulling off a small section (about the thickness of a nickel). If this strategy is successful, you have both positive and bad news. Your car will still start for the time being, but you have a damaged key.
Free the stuck ignition cylinder
You can follow these steps to free up the ignition cylinder; Pressurized air with cleaner aerosol should be sprayed into the lock chamber.
Apply WD-40 or liquid graphite inside the ignition cylinder as a mild lubrication and slowly insert and remove the key from the chamber about ten times.
However, if none of the abovementioned fixes seems to work, you might need to replace the steering lock. This more complicated process calls for specific tools and car repair expertise.
You can always take it to a mechanic or dealership if you don’t feel secure repairing the steering lock by yourself.
Locking the steering wheel when parked is standard practice; it’s a security measure to thwart theft and any accidents brought on by the car rolling off. It would help if you turned the steering wheel while inserting the key and applying some pressure to unlock it. The steering wheel will unlock once you’ve located the sweet spot with the key.
However, other problems might also cause your steering wheel to lock up, such as a broken key, internal tumbler wear, sticky locks, dirt and debris on the steering lock chamber, etc. You need to carry out a troubleshooting procedure to determine the precise cause of the problem.
Why does my steering wheel lock when in park?
The steering wheel features a locking device that integrates with the ignition key system of the vehicle. The ignition lock mechanism stops the steering wheel from turning when the key is removed from the slot and places a metal pin into the steering column. This is a system to prevent theft.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eHowever, other problems might also cause your steering wheel to lock up, such as a broken key, internal tumbler wear, sticky locks, dirt and debris on the steering lock chamber, etc.
How do you unlock a parked steering wheel?
Insert the key into the ignition, then turn the key slowly, as a tight twist could shatter the key. Try to identify which side the locking pin is on; watch out for the direction the steering wheel refuses to go and turn your steering wheel in the opposite direction. Twist your key slowly while applying pressure to the steering wheel on the free side to unlock the steering wheel.
How do I disable steering wheel lock?
The steering lock mechanism can’t be turned off. It is a theft-prevention device, and carmakers cannot turn it off.u003cbru003eHowever, after parking your car, you need to be careful not to touch the steering wheel if you do not want the steering wheel lock initiated.
What happens when the steering wheel locks?
You won’t be able to turn your car left or right. Additionally, the ignition switch won’t work, making it impossible to start the vehicle. Also, some car models with a start/stop button have a warning light for a steering lock.