7 Reasons Your Steering Wheel is Locking Up
7 Reasons Your Steering Wheel is Locking Up – The steering wheel is one of the most vital controlling parts of a vehicle.
It is the wheel that the driver controls to make the vehicle move. It could be terrifying if the steering wheel locks up while driving.
Steering wheel lock-up can only make the driver unable to control the vehicle. This can cause serious accidents if it happens while driving.
A sudden steering wheel lock-up is dangerous for the driver and others on the road. It is important to check your steering wheel before driving out with your car.
You must attend to your vehicle immediately when the signs that the steering wheel could lock up become visible. Although a sudden steering wheel lock-up rarely happens, it can be very fatal if it does.
What Does it Mean When Your Steering Wheel is Locked?
For security and safety, steering wheels are usually designed to lock up under some conditions, one of which is to prevent your car from moving if there is no key to ignite it.
This means that burglars cannot make away with your car when packed outside except they have your key.
This is an anti-theft feature but could create a dangerous situation if you mistakenly activated this feature and you are also not familiar with it. In this case, you can unlock your car once you turn the key in the ignition.
However, this is not always the case if there is a mechanical issue. The steering wheel can lock up due to a faulty ignition system.
At this point, your car key will not ignite the vehicle and even if it does, the steering will not still unlock. This means that your vehicle is faulty and you’ll need to see a mechanic as soon as possible.
Here are the reasons your steering wheel can lock up.
7 Reasons your Steering Wheel is Locking Up
Low power steering fluid
Power steering fluid is the hydraulic fluid that transmits the power in a power steering system.
It lowers the amount of effort required to move the steering wheel.
If the steering fluid has dried up or is contaminated, there is a tendency for your car to lock up while in motion.
Low power steering fluid makes it difficult to steer at low speeds or turn the wheel with ease.
Other times, it can lock up the steering wheel.
It is important to change the power steering oil once it gets dirty or tops it up when it becomes low.
Defective power steering pump
The power steering pump makes steering smoother. It is an innovation that had made steering vehicles easier and more convenient.
In the past, cars didn’t make use of steering pumps but arm muscles were used instead to turn. This time, wheel lock-up wasn’t much of a problem.
The power steering pump can jam unexpectedly, causing the steering wheel to lock up while driving.
Signs that your power steering pump is defective include;
- Slow response of the steering wheel.
- Whining noises from the hood of the car.
- The vibration of the steering wheel when idle.
Where your power steering pump is faulty, it’s best you replace it to avoid additional problems as a result.
Ignition lock assembly problem
You might wonder why your steering wheel locks up unexpectedly and without making any noise, this is an indicator that there is a problem with the ignition lock assembly.
When the ignition fails, it can lock up the steering wheel without notice.
The ignition lock assembly is the tumbler used to start the vehicle when the key is inserted and is located on the right side of the steering column.
If experiencing challenges in either inserting or removing your key or your ignition isn’t turning, these are other indicators that there is a problem with your ignition lock assembly.
If the lock assembly fails, it will lock up the steering wheel suddenly and this will be very dangerous if the vehicle is moving at a high speed.
Replacing the ignition lock assembly can be done in a few minutes by a professional auto mechanic.
Engine stalling is another reason your steering wheel can lock up while driving.
Engine stall refers to a sudden stoppage of the engine. The engine abruptly stops operating.
If your engine stalls while driving, it can cause your steering to lock because your engine will lose power and, in the process, trigger the steering wheel lock.
Your engine could be stalling due to faulty crankshaft, mass airflow temperature, faulty ignition coil, damaged spark plugs, or bad engine.
If your engine stalls, you need to take the car in for proper diagnosis and repairs.
Malfunctioning of the Engine Control Unit (ECU)
The Engine Control Module or ECU is responsible for managing all the engine processes.
One of such processes is to regulate the vehicle’s fuel consumption to ensure optimum engine performance.
Another responsibility of the ECU is to control the sensors located inside the steering wheel and steering column.
If the ECU of your vehicle is not working properly, it will initiate sensors that cause the steering wheel to lock up.
Diagnosing ECU problems could be quite challenging. Nonetheless, you should seek the services of an auto professional.
Faulty steering column
The steering column is a device that connects the steering wheel to the steering mechanism.
It is a highly complex part of a vehicle.
The steering column facilitates the movement of the steering wheel. If faulty, it can lock up the steering wheel.
Some signs that indicate your steering column is faulty include;
- Grinding sounds while turning the steering wheel.
- Stiff steering wheel.
- The steering wheel shifts to one side.
- The steering wheel tilt function does not lock.
The best solution to a faulty steering column is cleaning it because debris and other materials can get stuck in it and disrupt the proper functioning of the steering column.
There are options to easily clean your steering wheel.
- Using steam cleaners.
- Using a microfiber cleaning cloth.
- Interior scrub pad for tough grime.
- Applying protectant.
Making sharp turns
Making sharp turns frequently can hurt the engine of your car and can eventually cause the steering wheel to lock up.
It can also affect the transmission of the car as it may cause the steering wheel to lock up. It is important to take slow and gentle turns to avoid this problem.
Easy Tips to Quickly Fix Up a Locked Steering Wheel
There is no need to panic when your steering wheel locks up because it is relatively easy to fix it as long as you have been able to diagnose what the problem is exactly.
Find below are quick and easy tips to fix a locked steering wheel.
- Insert the key into the ignition and turn it gently.
- Apply pressure to the steering wheel.
- Do not rock the wheel or shake it.
- Slightly pull out the key before turning it.
- Turn the wheel and the key together.
The above steps are applicable if your steering wheel is locked up as a result of the safety feature installed in the vehicle which can prevent a thief from making away with your car.
If this is not the case, other ways you can fix a locked steering wheel as well as general safety measures.
- Find a mechanic to diagnose the problem.
- You might need to replace your power steering pump.
- Clean your steering wheel column.
- Avoid making sharp turns.
- Replace your ignition switch if there is a need to do that.
- Apply power steering fluid.
People usually ask questions like “why does my steering wheel lock when my car is parked?” Here’s a quick answer!
Your steering wheel locking up while the vehicle is parked is usually not a very serious problem as your vehicle can lock up due to the safety feature installed in the car.
The steering lock feature can be activated if you turn your car off and its wheels are turned to the left or right.
Once this happens, your steering wheel gets locked.
Other reasons your car’s steering wheel could lock up when parked include;
- A bent or worn-out key.
- Dirt and debris getting into a steering wheel lock chamber can contaminate the chamber and cause it to lock.
- Other internal components wearing out.
You can prevent your steering wheel from locking up often when parked with these basic steps:
- Figure out where you want to park your car and steer it to this spot.
- Release the steering wheel once you get where you want your car parked. If your car is an automatic transmission, put the car into park. If it’s a manual transmission, put on the car’s parking brake and put the car into neutral or first gear.
- Do not touch the steering wheel while the car is parked until you are ready to drive your vehicle again.