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How to Unlock a Steering Wheel

Has your car steering wheel locked? Don’t panic. No matter what the cause, it can be quite easy to unlock a steering wheel.

But before you explore the how, we need to explore the why.

Why do Steering Wheels Lock?

A car’s steering wheel lock is an essential safety feature that stops your car from rolling if you park on an incline. It can also help prevent theft. Thieves might break into your car, and they might even succeed in getting it started. But if your car has a steering wheel lock, then they won’t be able to steer. So they won’t get very far!

If you turn the wheel after having taken your keys out of the ignition, it can engage the steering wheel lock. Also, the steering wheel lock is linked to the ignition cylinder. Usually, starting your engine will unlock the wheel. But sometimes, you may struggle to turn your key in the ignition, which means you won’t be able to unlock your steering wheel.

How To Unlock a Steering Wheel

If your steering wheel’s locked, it might actually be a problem with your key, or with your ignition slot. Your key might be a bit worn through everyday use. So if you’ve got a spare, try using that. Or perhaps your ignition slot is worn, or clogged.

A quick blast of canned air could dislodge anything clogging up the cylinder, while some lubricant could get things moving again.

When it comes to lubricant, avoid WD40, as it may leave some residue that could cause further damage in time. Instead, use silicone lubricant, or liquid graphite, which will do the same job but with less risk of lasting damage.

Though if you need to resort to lubricant to loosen your ignition slot, it might suggest you’ve a much bigger problem on your hands. You might have to replace your ignition cylinder completely before long, so head to a garage as soon as you can.

In any case, if you can’t fix the issue this way, try this approach:

How to Unlock a Steering Wheel: Step by Step

If your steering wheel locks, then don’t try and force it! This might damage your car’s steering mechanism.

Instead, follow these steps:

  1. Put your key in the car’s ignition.
  2. Try to turn the key, applying gentle yet continuous pressure on the turn.
  3. Gently turn the steering wheel, first left, then right. You should be able to move the wheel a little in one direction, but not at all in the other. This is due to the locking pin that’s holding your wheel in place. You don’t want to damage that locking pin, so find the direction in which your wheel will turn, and apply gentle pressure in that direction.
  4. While doing this, keep jiggling the key in the ignition.
  5. Eventually, you should succeed in turning the key. This will turn on your engine, which will unlock your steering wheel.

While doing this, take care not to bend or break your key. Do this, and you’ll need a new key, and perhaps a new ignition cylinder.

What to do if your Steering Wheel Keeps Locking?

If your steering wheel keeps locking, it might indicate a more serious problem with your mechanism. And if you can start your engine but you cannot turn your wheel, then you’ve most likely got a problem with your power steering system. In either case, it’s time to head to the garage!

Indeed, if your car has an ignition button rather than an ignition key, then obviously there’s no ignition slot to lock. So if your steering wheel becomes locked, then it probably means there’s a problem with your power steering system.

Other Things to Consider

A locked wheel is just one of the problems you might encounter with your steering. You might also start to hear noises when you turn the steering wheel. Head here to read our guide to what to do if you hear a noise when turning your wheel.

You can sort these and many other issues long before they become serious problems with regular servicing. Head here to read our guide to servicing your car – which includes advice on how often you should do it, and on what sort of service you should get.

Finally, consider getting breakdown cover as an add-on to your comprehensive car insurance. That way, if anything happens to your car when you’re miles from home, you’ll be able to get the assistance you need quickly, easily, and cheaply.