Steering Wheel Locked Up While Parked: Situation’s Breakdown

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Understanding the reasons behind steering wheel locked up while parked is essential for car owners who struggle with this problem. Notably, a lack of steering oil commonly causes the steering wheel lock.

Steering Wheel is Locked Up While Parked

In this complete guide, our automobile team will explain other leading causes of this problem and how to fix it.

Why Is Your Steering Wheel Locking Up While Parked?

Your steering wheel is locking up while parked because of issues such as defective keys, debris and dirt on the lock chamber, and a lack of steering fluid. Also, sticky locks, a malfunctioning pump, and an ECU malfunction can result in your wheel locking.

Take note that it is not safe to drive with a locked steering wheel. If you are driving with the lock engagement, you might not be able to prevent emergencies and accidents. This can put you and other people in the vehicle at risk of injury or even death.

– Defective Key

If your key is damaged, it can get your wheel locked while parked. If your key has suffered any fault, it can malfunction, such as getting bent or worn. If there’s any damage to your key, the ignition will not be able to accept it. You might successfully insert it into the keyhole, but you won’t be able to start the ignition, and your car won’t start.

– Clinging Locks

If your steering is locked up while parked, there’s a high chance you are dealing with a sticky lock. This situation can arise when a backlog of dirt and debris accumulates in your car’s locking system. This will interfere with the action of the key when you try to turn it. It can lock up your steering and jam it from the inside.

– Impurities in the Steering Lock Chamber

Impurities and debris in the lock chamber are another reason why your steering wheels lock. Dirt and debris can enter your car’s keyhole while it’s open. Once they get into your keyhole, they block it and prevent the steering wheel from moving when you try to move it.

Possible Reasons of Steering Wheel is Locked Up

As a result of this, you’ll be unable to move your steering wheel whenever your car is parked.The steering chamber should be the first place you check once you discover your steering wheel is locked.

– Absence of Power Steering Fluid

Sometimes your steering is locked while parked because of a lack of power steering fluid. A power steering system helps you turn the wheels at lower speeds.
If the system malfunctions, then it might be difficult to maneuver at low speeds. This can cause the system to leak and the fluid pressure to become nonexistent. This will also lead to a stiff wheel while turning the vehicle.

– ECU Issues

Check your ECU if your steering is locked while parked. Your car’s ECU (Engine Control Unit) is its brain. It communicates with every car component and alerts you to any issue on your dashboard. Some parts of your car won’t function if some components are malfunctioning.

For example, an ECU malfunction in the area of the power steering system will send alerts to the dashboard and prevent the steering from working. This will make it impossible for you to turn it, even while parked.

– Ignition Lock Assembly Malfunction

A vehicle ignition system can suffer ignition failure, which will prevent the car key from turning in the ignition. This means your car won’t turn on the ignition. If your vehicle is already in motion, your wheel can lock up without warning.

– Steering Wheel Column Is Stuck

If the steering column is stuck, the steering will be locked. There’s a part of your car that connects the ignition system to the steering wheel. Over time, this system can wear and tear due to the accumulation of debris. This will prevent you from moving your steering wheel.

Even if you can move the steering wheel, you won’t be able to turn it smoothly. And as time goes on, it will lock and you won’t be able to drive the wheel at all.

– Defective Power Steering Pump

A pump can malfunction suddenly, making it impossible to move your wheel when it’s parked. This wasn’t a problem in the past because many previous vehicles didn’t have the pump. The pump is an innovation that has made driving convenient. Unfortunately, it is very delicate and its malfunction can cause your engine to die unexpectedly.

– Steering Linkage Is Stuck

Although this is a rare occurrence, a stuck or frozen steering linkage can cause the steering wheel to get locked. The linkage connects the steering to the wheels, and if there’s an issue, it can cause wheel stiffness. It can be a result of a bad steering rack that is due to either mechanical malfunction or debris.

It could also be due to a low steering wheel fluid. However, this is unlikely, given that it still has some form of functionality.

How To Fix Your Locked Steering Wheel While Parked

To fix your locked steering wheel while parked, you could turn the key, disable the key lock manually, or turn off the engine. You can also replace the steering wheel, push to start, rotate the wheel to a different position, or unlock the wheel through the ignition.

The price of repairing a locked wheel varies, depending on the severity of the problem. It can range from a few dollars to over a hundred dollars. It all depends on the cause of the lock and what it will require to fix it.

– Use the Key

One reason why your steering locks is because it’s a safety feature. As such, you might need to unlock the steering by going through the ignition. First, insert the key into the ignition.

Fixing a Locked Steering Wheel When Parked

You might hear a clicking noise as the lock disengages. After this, you may be able to turn your steering wheel.If this doesn’t work, try turning the key on and off rapidly. You might need to do this several times to see results.

– Replace the Steering Lock

If the solution mentioned above doesn’t work, you might need to replace the lock. This shows that you have a more severe case on your hands. However, this solution needs the expertise of a mechanic as you won’t be able to do it yourself.

– Undo the Jammed Ignition Cylinder

Another possible way to fix the issue is to unjam the ignition cylinder. You will need a small pick, a pressurized air sprayer, and a lubricant like WD-40. First, spray the WD-40 into the ignition, then use the pick to remove the dirt as well as other contaminants.

Once that is done, you will use the air sprayer to carefully blow out any remaining WD-40. You can then try the ignition key again to see if the problem is solved.

– Push the Vehicle To Start

Here’s another unique method of fixing your steering wheel lock. You can either have someone push your car manually, or you can use an ATV with a wrench. Step on the brakes and press the stop/start button to unlock the wheel.

Almost simultaneously, try to move the wheel from left to right. This should unlock it.

– Switch Off the Engine

If the wheel was locked while driving, switch off the engine. This will disable the steering wheel system and give you more control. While this is a temporary fix, this will buy you time to get an experienced mechanic for the appropriate diagnosis.

– Disable the Key Lock Manually

The easiest and quickest fix is to disable the key lock manually. Insert the vehicle key into the ignition and turn gently. Also, try to turn the wheel with slight pressure. This will open the steering wheel and cause it to move.
If this doesn’t change anything, it indicates that there’s a greater underlying condition, and it’s better to call a mechanic to look into it.

– Open It Using the Ignition

You can also manually disable steering wheel lock through this method. Turn your car key and steering wheel simultaneously. If your car doesn’t start, you might need to check the locking pin. Observe where the wheel isn’t moving, as that’s where the locked side is.

You should not try to apply pressure on the wheel’s free side while turning the key, as this can cause it to get worse.

– Turn Steering to the “Unlocked” Position

You can fix your locked wheel by rotating it to the unlocked position. Start by pulling the wheel in the same position you did while it was initially locked. Once it’s in the correct direction, insert your key and start the ignition.

If it doesn’t start, change the direction of the wheel and go through the process again. Your steering wheel should now be unlocked.

Replacing the Lock to Start the Vehicle


Having gone through this article and the frequently asked questions, you don’t need to panic if you find your steering wheel locked.

Here are our final thoughts and a summary of the main points discussed in the article:

  • The reasons why your steering wheel is locked up while parked include damaged keys, ignition lock, debris on the lock chamber, as well as a lack of fluid.
  • Other reasons include an ECU malfunction or a jammed steering wheel column.
  • You can fix steering wheel locks by turning the key, disabling the key lock manually, or turning off the engine.
  • You can also replace the lock or push the vehicle to start.

With the information in this article, once you notice that your vehicle’s steering wheel is locked, you should be able to diagnose the problem and fix it today!

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