What to Do When Your Steering Wheel Locks

It’s frightening the first time it happens. You sit down in the driver’s seat of your car, put your key in the ignition, and your steering wheel refuses to budge. The wheel locked. You have no idea how or why it happened. Immediately panic sets in. You worry you need to contact a garage, pay for a tow truck driver, and cancel your plans for the day. The good news is that you probably won’t have to do any of those things. While we can’t guarantee your wheel locking is not the sign of a major issue, it’s probably a minor thing with an easy fix. The cause is usually the car was turned off with the wheel too far in one direction or you leaned on the wheel when climbing out of the car.

If you discover your wheel locks, it’s ok to get startled. No one expects a car in perfectly good condition to simply not start. However, you have this under control. The first step is to remember not to force the wheel to turn. You don’t want to turn a minor setback with an easy fix into an expensive repair bill. Next, turn your key in the ignition. If it turns, gently wiggle the wheel back and forth until the lock releases.

Even if this doesn’t work, don’t give up all hope. It’s just going to take a little more effort to unlock the wheel. For extremely stubborn locked wheels, the process is generally the same. The main difference is that you need to turn the key in the ignition as you turn the wheel. Usually, you will feel the wheel is much tighter on one side and moves a little in the opposite direction. You want to push the wheel in the direction it moves toward. Eventually, the wheel will release the lock. If it doesn’t, there may be dirt in the ignition or some other issue that needs to be diagnosed by a mechanic.