What Causes Steering Wheel to Lock Up? Easy Solutions

What causes steering wheel to lock up?” is the natural question drivers ask when their steering wheel is not responsive. The main reason your steering wheel gets locked is that your power steering is failing or your steering components are damaged.

what causes steering wheel to lock up

Issues with your ignition lock also contribute to this problem. Our automobile team discusses the leading causes and solutions for a wheel that locks up.

Why Did Your Steering Wheel Lock Up?

Your steering wheel locked up because your power steering is faulty or you have a defective ignition lock. A bad ignition cylinder or steering rack and rough driving also contribute to this problem. You may also need to check the fluid level as a possible cause of the problem.

– Faulty Power Steering

Having a faulty power steering can be responsible for a locked steering wheel. This steering is a critical component of the steering system, as it makes it easy to turn the wheel. Inadequate fluid levels, exerting too much force, and a broken pump can result in a defective steering. When this happens, the wheel will become unresponsive because it’s locked.

Your power steering might not be working because it lacks the right amount of fluid needed to rotate. It could also be that the pump is wrong, or you’re turning the wheel with too much force.

– Defective Ignition Lock

A defective ignition lock assembly can also cause an unresponsive wheel that locks. It engages the starter motor to begin the ignition process. The ignition assembly can get damaged from excessive use or broken components like the key and ignition lock cylinder.

Why Did Your Steering Wheel Lock Up

Aside from having a locking steering wheel, you’ll also experience difficulty turning your key in certain positions. Overall, starting the car will be difficult.

– Failed Power Steering Rack

Also known as the steering gear, this component transmits steering wheel rotation to the tires on the car’s body. The steering gear can start to fail when there’s a leak in its tie rod attachment area. Corrosion, temperature changes, and dirt buildup can also cause damage to the steering gear.

Your steering wheel will lock more frequently, and you’ll also notice a weird grinding noise. A burning smell is another tell-tale sign of a failing steering gear.

– Damaged Steering Lock Bar

A damaged steering lock bar is also responsible for steering wheels locking unexpectedly. The lock bar is an anti-theft feature to prevent thieves from gaining access to your vehicle.

A problem with your steering column and rack is a significant reason the lock bar is activated.

Damaged Car Steering Lock Bar

When this happens, your wheel gets locked, so you cannot drive.

– Rough Driving

Reckless driving contributes to power steering failure, especially when you make sharp turns often. Making sharp turns too often will cause your transmission and engine to break down. In turn, your steering wheel will get locked and be unresponsive. This can be particularly dangerous when you’re driving.

– Bad Ignition Cylinder

A bad ignition lock cylinder is one of the common triggers for faulty steering and ignition problems. If this cylinder gets damaged, it will affect other steering components like the steering column, rack, hoses, and pumps.

It will also affect the ignition system, especially the ignition switch. A bad cylinder can also affect the readings on the engine control unit, causing it to malfunction.

What Solutions Can You Try When the Steering Wheel Gets Locked?

Solutions you can try when the steering wheel gets locked include checking the power steering fluids and fixing steering components. You can also scan your car with an OBD-II scanner if you are unsure what to do. You can still consult a professional mechanic for the proper diagnoses and repairs.

– Top Up or Replace the Power Steering Fluid

One of the first solutions to freeing a locked steering wheel is to top up or replace its fluid. The fluid plays an essential role in ensuring the smooth rotation of the wheel and other parts of the steering system. Inspect the fluid to be sure it isn’t low or dirty. If it is, you should replace it immediately.

After replacing or increasing the fluid level, your steering should be able to move more freely.

– Repair the Power Steering Pump

Another quick solution for a defective steering is to repair the steering pump. This pump distributes steering fluid to critical parts of the steering system. If you notice it is damaged, you should replace it as soon as possible.

However, a power steering pump repair or replacement can be complicated, so it’s best to leave the repairs to a professional mechanic.

– Replace Damaged Steering Components

Having an adequate fluid level or a working pump is not enough. You should also ensure that other parts of the steering work well. Check the steering linkage, rack, lock bar, and steering hoses.

A car’s steering arms are also connected via tie rods. These rods connect the steering arm to the wheels to ensure they turn correctly. Without the tie rods, the steering components wouldn’t be able to function correctly.

If any of these do not work correctly, you shouldn’t hesitate to repair them. Having a functional steering system guarantees your safety when you drive.

– Drive Responsibly

You may also need to watch how you drive to avoid getting the steering wheel locked. When you encounter a speed bump or obstacle, you should go gently across it rather than racing over it. Similarly, it would be best if you were careful when making turns. Avoid making sharp turns so that your steering wheel doesn’t get jammed.

Remedies of Steering Wheel Gets Locked


You can prevent your steering wheel from locking in the future by driving gently and carrying out regular maintenance after repairs. You should also pay attention to the fluid level and ensure it remains consistent.

– Fix the Ignition Lock Cylinder

Another way to avoid getting your steering wheel locked is to fix the ignition lock cylinder. The best option for this repair is to take your car to an authorized auto repair shop. Once you fix your cylinder, your steering will become less tight and easier to move. You will also find it easy to power your vehicle.

– Carry Out a Scan on Your OBD-II System

If you are unsure what the exact problem is, you can carry out a scan on your vehicle’s OBD-II system. An OBD-II scanner works best for this, as it will highlight diagnostic codes that identify the specific problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

– How Is Tire Life Affected When Your Steering Wheel Is Locked?

Tire life is affected when the steering wheel is locked because it prevents the tires from moving correctly. In this case, the wires will rub excessively against the ground, causing wear. The tread depth will become thinner, requiring a replacement in no time.

– How Can a Steering Wheel Lock Be Extended?

A steering wheel lock can be extended when you use a longer ignition key. You may also need to get a piece of metal and place it over the key as an extension. That way, your wheel’s lock becomes extended.

Steering Wheel Lock Up Causes and Fixes Conclusion


The steering will get locked once there’s a problem with the steering system.

Here is an overview of the key points we’ve discussed in this article:

  • The solutions to steering wheel lock up are essential to fix jammed steering wheels that are capable of causing accidents or tire wear.
  • The leading causes of a locked wheel include faulty power steering, issues with the ignition assembly, and defective steering components. Driving too roughly can also cause this problem.
  • You can fix jammed steering by ensuring consistent fluid levels, repairing defective steering components, and driving safely. You can also get diagnostic codes by scanning the OBD-II system.

You no longer need to spend time wondering why your steering is locked. With this article, you can quickly identify the culprit and fix it immediately!

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