Identifying Paint Problems

How To Fix A Locked Vehicle Steering Wheel

It's a scary feeling to think your steering wheel could lock up anytime. However, the vehicle steering wheel locks when it doesn't detect a key, which prevents theft.

There are also many other reasons why steering wheels lock, such as debris in the linkage or a stuck steering valve. You should be able to fix the problem yourself by following these instructions

Insert the Key

To fix the steering wheel, gather screwdrivers, a socket set, and spray lubricant or compressed air. Insert the key in the ignition, and turn the wheel to the left and right. 

In most cases, this is all it takes to unlock the wheel. Locked steering wheels commonly occur when you applied too much force after you turned off the engine, or the pin fails to disengage.  

Rotate the steering wheel hard, and determine which direction it won't turn. Apply pressure to that side while turning the key. Turn the key gently, avoiding too much pressure, which may break the key. 

If the key has worn, insert the key completely, then slightly pull it from the ignition one-sixteenth inch. When this works, it means you may need a new key.

Try a Different Key or Lubricate the Lock

If the key doesn't work, try a different key. Sometimes, the patterns on the old key wear down, and they won't match the ridge. Bent keys won't turn at all in the ignition.

The vehicle's lock tumblers could be frozen. For a temporary fix, spray lubricant on the lock cylinder, insert the key and rotate it to spread the oil. Alternately, spray compressed air into the cylinder.

Replace Ignition Lock

Use the screwdriver to detach the steering column screw, and set parts aside. Detach the bottom cover half from the top half by pushing the tabs. 

If your vehicle steering wheel isn't adjustable, it will hang after you detach the support brace. Remove the top part of the cover, in the same manner, insert the key, and pull it to free the assembly, being aware of wiring. You may need to insert a socket and wrench into a release hole on some models. 

If this doesn't work, buy a new ignition lock, and remove the steering wheel ignition again. Locate the release tab on the side of the cylinder. Insert the key into the ignition, and push the tab as you rotate the key. Keep turning the key until it moves backward.

The new ignition cylinder should be lubricated, but check it by trying the key. Place the lock cylinder in place with the tabs fully seated, and test it before reinstalling the panels. To learn more, contact an auto body repair shop.