Why the Steering Wheel Locked Up While Parked: Problem Fixed
It’s scary and super irritating. When you get a steering wheel locked up while parked, it’s too annoying. Many people have complained about this for various models.
The common solution to this problem is to use the ignition or replace the ignition chamber. Here’s the catch-
Not always your car will start running after applying the common solution. For example, the electronic power steering of Ford or Tesla sometimes gets on track just by a simple switch off and on.
Here you’ll get a complete step-by-step solution to this annoying situation. Don’t go straight into applying the solution method. Go through the special cases first. You might get an easy fix.
So, let’s dive right into the details-
Table of Contents
Why do your steering wheel locked up?
There are several answers to this question. Both common and uncommon reasons make the steering wheel locked while parked.
A common reason for your steering getting locked is that, while parking the car, you’ve engaged in one of its safety features.
This happens if you turn off the car and turn its wheels a bit right or left. As a result, one of the lock slots will get blocked and you’ll have a stuck car.
The uncommon reasons include-
Sticky locks: Sometimes dirt and debris enter the chamber and lock it.
Damaged Key: It’s possible that you have a bent key or worn-out key that won’t work anymore.
Internal Wearing: Everything in a car wears with time. Ignition lock cylinders aren’t anything different.
How to unlock a locked steering wheel?
If you follow a step-by-step method, then you’ll get your car running in no time. So, let’s begin with the process.
Before beginning, we’ll clear something out. If you feel that you’ve applied any method already, then move on to the next one.
Step 1: Trying Through the Ignition
Some people ask, what is a manual disabling steering wheel lock? This method is the answer to that question. In this method, you’ll turn the key and steering wheel together.
- Insert the key into the ignition cylinder. Try to turn the key gently. Remember, a hard twist might break the key. Removing the ignition lock cylinder with a broken key inside will cost you 2-5 times more than the usual cost.
- If your car doesn’t start with the gentle key turning, then try to determine on which side is the locking pin on. See in which direction the steering wheel doesn’t move at all. That is your locked side.
- In this step, you’ll apply pressure on the steering wheel while on the free side while gently turning your key.
- Hopefully, this will start your car.
Note: Do not rock the steering wheel. You might make things worse in this way.
Step 2: Un-jam the Ignition Cylinder
You better have some WD-40, pressurized air sprayer, and aerosol cleaner near you. Because in this step you have to clear your key lock.
- Spray pressurized air with aerosol cleaner into the lock chamber.
- Next, apply a light lubricant like WD40 or liquid graphite inside the ignition cylinder.
- Now, gently slide the key in and out of the chamber and for around 10 times.
Note: Do not use this method on any vehicle with a high-security key
Step 3: Work on the Key
As the previous methods didn’t work, it’s time to focus on the key. There’s a possibility that your key is worn out. To solve this, we’ll go through another process.
- Free the key from other ornaments.
- Try the first method while pulling out a small portion (about the thickness of a nickel)
- You can also try to wiggle the key while turning it gently. If this works then there’s good news and bad news. Your car will work for now, but you have a damaged key.
Note: Try to replace the key as soon as possible. As a temporary solution, it’s better if you go to a locksmith and make a CODE key.
Step 4: Replace the Ignition Lock Cylinder
This is the ultimate solution. As the previous methods didn’t work, we can say that you now have severe problems with the key or the ignition lock cylinder.
Call up a locksmith and order a new cylinder (Assuming that you’re stuck in the parking lot).
Note: If you’re confident enough then you can follow the WikiHow guide and change the ignition lock assembly by yourself.
Not all cars have the same ignition and steering system.
Some have a push-button start, some have a highly advanced electronic steering system, and some might have an old hydraulic power steering system.
Here are three special cases that might help you out.
How to unlock the steering wheel and push it to start?
Push to start is a trendy feature in cars nowadays. It could be taken place either manually or with the help of an ATV winch rescuer. You’ll notice the following things if the steering lock engages in your push to start the car-
- Pressing the start/stop button after depressing the brakes won’t get your car started.
- The push-to-start button will begin flashing
- On the dashboard screen, you’ll see a message telling you that you have locked steering.
Solution: Depress your brake and push your start/stop button. At the same time try to move your steering both ways.
What is the Solution to a Sudden Shutdown on an Electronic Power Steering?
Although it might sound ridiculous, you can try to unplug and plug it in again. In this situation, the car starts but the steering wheel won’t turn.
Solution: Many Tesla and Ford users have faced this sudden shutdown problem. Some have recommended a power off-and-on cycle as a solution. If it doesn’t work, then it’s probably some intermittent wiring fault. The best solution is to take the car to a servicing center.
Any Special Solution for Hydraulic Power Steering Users?
Even today some people use hydraulic power steering systems. If your car has this type of steering system, then you need to check one final thing. See if you have enough power steering fluid.
Now, what is steering wheel fluid?
This is the fluid that enables your hydraulic power steering system to work.
Solution: Check if your car needs a fluid change or a power steering pump fix. If the fluid is the problem, then add it up. And if the pump is the problem then tow it to a servicing center.
Why does my steering wheel lock when parked?
Sometimes people press on the steering to get out of the car. If you pulled up the steering wheel and heard a clinking sound, then this is causing you to a locked wheel. This must be happening especially when you park and get out of the car.
Solution: Pull down the steering wheel gently and apply Step 1. This might ease your trouble.
This pain in the back problem can be solved within minutes if luck is with you. On the other hand, if you need a new ignition lock assembly then you’re in for a penalty of hours. Good luck with the fix and happy driving.
leo, thank you, thank you, thank you! this is just what i needed. now i don’t feel so helpless and don’t have to call anybody to come and help me…i can now “troubleshoot” and solve the problem myself in a few minutes
I parked my Toyota 2005 truck, standard, on a hill. I had turned the wheels to the right. The steering wheel locked-up to the left turn of the wheel. After reading this, thanks so much!, I turned the wheel a bit as possible to the free side, the right, and the key finally turned and it started.
WD40 is NOT a lubricant. It’s a solvent. When the carrier dries, it’ll accumulate dust and dirt. Only use graphite in whatever form you can get.
Another outstanding article from you, Leo!
I have the same problem with my 2004 Honda civic. However, the steering wheel sometimes tightens up when I’m making turns. And then, when I release it, the steering wheel returns to normal.
What might be causing this?