What to do in case you accidentally lock your steering wheel

We’ve been there, too
by Leandre Grecia | Jun 16, 2019
PHOTO: Ingo Joseph (from Pexels)

Steering wheels have a locking feature to prevent the front wheels from changing direction when no key is inserted into the ignition. It aids in preventing theft. Unlocking the steering wheel might be a problem for some drivers, especially newbies who aren’t familiar with this safety feature.

The first thing you need to know about unlocking steering wheels is that it should be simple and easy. If it isn’t, then that’s when you have a problem. Since not all drivers are familiar with this feature, most people who actually lock their steering wheels only do it by accident. We’ve listed below some pointers that would help those people to reverse the procedure.

What to do

All you need to do to unlock your steering wheel is to insert the key in the ignition, then turn the steering wheel left and right as you turn the key. You need to turn the wheel and the key simultaneously for this to work.

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When doing this, the steering wheel might seem locked at first. You just need to make sure that as you turn the key, you wiggle the steering wheel back and forth until you hear a click and are able to turn the key all the way.

If that doesn't work, turn the wheel in one direction at first, and then slowly add force. If you feel a slight movement, only then should you twist the ignition.

What if it doesn’t unlock?

Unlocking a steering wheel is simple and should be easy if done right. If you followed the previous instructions and it still doesn’t unlock, then you already have a problem.

Try using a different key

It should be an extra key for the same car, of course. But the reason to try this method out is that in some cases, a different and less-bruised key does the trick. The wear and tear on old keys, specifically on the ridges, may cause it to not turn easily especially when unlocking the steering wheel.

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You should grab your spare key and try it out instead. Chances are, you use one key in particular for your car and simply keep the extra for emergency purposes. If you don’t have a spare, then that’s a bit irresponsible. Time to go to the nearest key shop and have yours duplicated, lest an even bigger problem occurs in case you encounter anything worse than a locked steering wheel.

Use WD-40

That’s right, your trusted WD-40 can sometimes help in these situations, too. It’s best used to lubricate metal and get those rusted parts moving again. As for ignition assemblies, the lock tumblers might have worn out over the years and have frozen solid upon locking your steering wheel. In this case, loosening it up can serve as a temporary solution.

Just spray the WD-40 into the lock cylinder, then insert the key and try to turn it to loosen up the tumblers. Repeatedly do this until you finally free the lock tumblers and unlock your steering wheel. As mentioned above, this is a temporary solution. So in the event that it actually works, you still need to have your ignition assembly checked since it probably still needs to be replaced. Don’t risk delaying the repair for later and get your car to a mechanic while you still have it running. 

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Have your ignition assembly checked

If worse comes to worst, then it means the whole ignition assembly might be busted. Unless you have the know-how of a mechanic, then there’s probably nothing you can do. This isn’t a basic repair that you’d want to tinker with if you lack the knowledge.

You should call your trusted mechanic right away to check the ignition assembly. Better yet, have your car towed to the casa as soon as possible and have the manufacturer replace what needs to be replaced in your vehicle. Besides, a busted ignition assembly doesn’t only keep your steering wheel locked—it prevents you from starting (and driving) your vehicle as well.

Got any more tips? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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PHOTO: Ingo Joseph (from Pexels)
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