How to unlock a locked steering wheel of a car

Article by Christian A., on September 6, 2018

The steering wheel of a car does lock in position as part of the design to make the vehicle safe. The steering wheel won't get lock unless the ignition switch is turned off. When the key is taken out of the ignition switch, the steering wheel will lock to prevent vehicle movement. It will unlock once the key in the ignition switch is turned.

Sometimes, though, the steering wheel may get locked even though the key is in the ignition and has been turned. The steering wheel isn't designed to let this happen but there are already numerous cases in which the wheel gets locked and won’t turn in even though the key is in the ignition.

Outlined below are a number of methods you can apply if ever the steering wheel of your cars gets locked.

Method 1: Turn the key and the steering wheel at the same time

Most of the time, this method will unlock the steering wheel. Insert the key in the ignition then turn it and the steering essentially at the same. You can turn the steering wheel left and right. When successful, you will hear a click and the steering wheel will be unlocked. This will allow you to turn the key all the way in.

Method 2: Use another key

Your car key may wear out, and its ridges and patterns won't match with that on the ignition switch. This would cause the key -- or the chip in the key of newer models – to stop working, thus causing the steering wheel not to unlock when inserted. Using another key – a spare one – could save you the hassle. Having an extra key would always be a wise thing to do.

Method 3: Spray WD40 into the ignition lock cylinder

A locked steering wheel could be caused by lock tumblers that have been frozen solid. To resolve this, first spray WD 40 into the lock cylinder. The insert the key and rock it back in forth gently to loosen the frozen tumblers. If this method works, you may still need to replace the ignition lock cylinder.

Method 4: Replace the ignition lock assembly

If the steering wheel still won't unlock even after doing methods 1 to 3, then the ignition lock assembly might need to be replaced.

To do this, you need to follow these steps:

Step 1: Remove the steering wheel column panels. Loosen screws that hold the lower steering wheel column in place. Press the tabs on the cover to release the lower column from the top and remove it. Then remove the top half of the column cover.

Step 2: Press the release tab while turning your key. There is a release tab on the side of the cylinder. Press it and turn the key until the ignition cylinder can move backwards.

Step 3: Install the new ignition lock cylinder. Remove the key from the old lock cylinder, then install it into the new lock cylinder. Now, install the new cylinder into the steering column. Once installed, make sure that key fully turns and the steering wheel can unlock before reinstalling the column panels.

Step 4: Reinstall the column panels. Start with upper half and then the second half. Ensure that all screws are tightened.

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Topics: tips



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