Why Won’t My Steering Wheel Lock?

Many cars come with security and safety features that help protect your car when you aren’t using it. One of these features is the steering wheel lock. When it is engaged, your steering wheel won’t turn until you turn the car on again. This helps prevent someone from hot wiring it or rolling it away.

However, there are times that you might find that your steering wheel lock doesn’t come on, which leaves your car exposed. This is a serious concern, and you will want to get it fixed right away. First, you need to determine what is causing the problem.

Reasons Your Steering Wheel Won’t Lock

There are different reasons that cause steering wheel lock failure, and you need to know which one you are dealing with so that you can fix it.

Your Detent Is Broken

The detent is the section that allows your steering wheel to lock, and when it breaks or wears out, it will no longer perform this function. The detent needs to be there to actually catch the steering wheel and hold it in place, and it will deteriorate over time.

If you have a newer car, this is less likely to be the cause, as it takes a significant amount of wear to cause this problem. However, it is one possibility that should be considered.

The Wheel Isn’t Catching

When you park your car, you need to find the detent before you turn it off. If you have your wheel turned too far to the left or right, it may not catch. You can fix this problem by turning the steering wheel until you feel it catch. It will click and lock into place, and it won’t be able to turn while it is parked.

The Cog Is Broken

The cog works together with the detent to lock your steering wheel. The cog is what enables the wheel to lock into position. If it stops working, you won’t be able to use the detent either. The cog suffers wear and tear over time, and it can eventually break. Once it does, the lock mechanism won’t work. This is easy for a mechanic to fix, but it is an inconvenience.

You Have an Electric Locking Mechanism That Fails

Some cars have a manual steering wheel lock, but others are powered by electricity. If you have an electric locking mechanism that fails, it won’t be able to lock your steering wheel. You should get this repaired right away because it can actually fail in more ways.

It could lock the steering wheel when you don’t want it to. It can happen when the wires are worn off or when it short circuits. In this case, you need to have a certified technician look at it and repair it.

Your Steering Wheel Is Loose

Sometimes, your steering wheel can become loose, and it will no longer catch the detent correctly. You may notice that it is loose when you are driving. Even if it is able to catch the detent, it won’t stay in lock because it will unlock just by turning or shaking it. If this is causing your problem, you will know it because the steering wheel will feel loose all the time.

The Computer System in Your Car Malfunctions

Many cars today are operated with the help of a computer, and most of the functions depend on the computer to work correctly. If it malfunctions, it can cause all kinds of problems, including an inability to lock the steering wheel.

The computer tells the steering wheel when to lock it, and if it doesn’t communicate correctly, it won’t lock the steering wheel. You will need to resolve this problem by scanning the computer, which can be done at any auto repair shop.

Your Actuator Is Broken

The actuator is a part of your car that connects the solenoid to the wheel cog. It is an important part of making sure that your steering wheel locks. If it has an issue, it can interfere with the ability of the steering wheel to lock. This part also suffers wear and tear over time, and it can break or suffer other damage. If it deteriorates, you may need to replace it.

The Key Isn’t Completely Released

Your steering wheel won’t lock when the key is in the ignition, and there is a sensor that determines whether it is still in the cylinder. If there is a problem with your key cylinder, it can think that the key is still in the car, even if you have removed it.

This can happen when dirt accumulates in the cylinder over time, or if you use a heavy key chain. It is a result of normal wear and tear. You would need to clean the key cylinder to make sure that it is releasing the key when you remove it. You may need to replace it, depending on what is happening.

Do All Cars Have a Steering Wheel Locking Mechanism?

Most cars made from the 1990s on have a steering wheel lock mechanism. You can find models that don’t, but it is rare. They started adding this feature to make it more difficult for thieves to steal cars. When your car is parked and your steering wheel is locked, a thief can’t turn the steering wheel without having the key. If they hot wire it or try to roll it, they won’t be able to turn it.

Does the Steering Wheel Lock When You Are Driving?

The steering wheel shouldn’t lock when you are driving it because this is very dangerous. However, it can happen. It can be caused by an issue with your power steering pump, or if you make a lot of sharp turns at high speeds. You should make sure that the locking mechanism is functioning because if it fails and locks the steering wheel while you are driving, it can be fatal.

How to Fix a Steering Wheel That Won’t Lock

If your steering wheel isn’t locking, you will need to get it fixed. The solution will depend on what is causing the problem, but there are a few common solutions that you can try.

Clean or Replace Your Key Cylinder

One of the most common reasons that a steering wheel won’t lock is that the key cylinder is dirty. This happens easily because your keys deposit dirt and debris inside each time you use it. A small amount of dirt can prevent it from turning all the way.

You can clean it with an air intake or brake cleaner. Any type of lubricant that can penetrate will help you clear out the deposits inside so that it works again. If the key cylinder needs to be replaced, you may want to visit an auto repair shop.

Have Maintenance Performed on Your Steering Wheel

Another solution is to take your car in to have steering wheel maintenance done. They can identify the problem and fix it quickly. Although you may have noticed your steering wheel not locking, there could be a problem that leads to far more dangerous issues, such as the steering wheel locking while you are driving.

Take your car in and have them check the steering wheel and repair it for you. This will ensure that your car is safe while it is parked and while you are driving.

Perform a Computer Scan

If you aren’t sure what is causing the problem, you can take your car in to have the computer scanned. Even if the computer is making an error, it can be reset so that your steering wheel will lock. Once the problem is addressed, the computer will be reset so you won’t have to worry about it giving you an incorrect message. They will notice if there is a computer malfunction or an electrical issue, as well.

Unlocking the Steering Wheel

Sometimes, you may not have trouble with the steering wheel locking, but when you get in the car, it won’t unlock. If you push on the steering wheel when you turn the car off, you may need to apply pressure when you are unlocking it. Take care not to break the key, and apply some pressure as you turn the key until the steering wheel unlocks.

You can also apply pressure on the steering wheel while you turn the key. Be careful as you do it. Another option is to clean the key cylinder with canned air. If there is any dirt or debris inside, it will clear it out and allow the key to work normally.

Final Thoughts

Your steering wheel has a locking mechanism to protect your car from thieves. When you turn your car off, the steering wheel locks in place and can’t be unlocked until you turn the car back on. If it doesn’t lock, you need to find out why and repair it because it is vulnerable. There are a number of different causes for this problem, so you will be able to resolve the problem.

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