6 Reasons Why Your Steering Wheel Locks Up

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steering wheel lock up

Jane is a good friend of mine. It was just another day on the job for Jane. She was driving her usual route when, all of a sudden, her steering wheel got locked. She tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t budge.

She started to panic as she saw the car start to veer off the road. In a last-ditch effort, she put her foot on the brake and prayed that something would happen. Miraculously, the car stopped just before hitting a tree.

Jane let out a deep breath and thanked whatever force watched over her. As she started to get out of the car, she noticed that the steering had been unlocked all along – she must have just been gripping it so tight that it felt stuck. Was it? Or was there some other reason behind it?

In this article, we will find out why steering wheels are locked and what to do in such a situation?

How Does Power Steering System Work?

Most steering systems today are power steering systems. That means that there is a power assist mechanism that helps you turn the steering wheel. The power assist can be:

  1. Hydraulic
  2. Electrical
  3. Pneumatic

In a hydraulic system, power steering fluid is used to create pressure that assists in turning the steering wheel. An electric system uses an electric motor to provide power assistance. And a pneumatic system uses air pressure to provide power steering assistance.

The steering system is connected to the steering wheel through a steering shaft. The steering shaft is what you turn when you turn the steering.

At the other end of the steering shaft is the steering gearbox. Inside the gearbox, gears help in turning the wheels.

The power steering pump provides pressure to the hydraulic or pneumatic system. When you turn the steering wheel, that pressure helps turn the steering shaft and, in turn, the wheels.

Why Do Steering Wheels Lock?

One of the main reasons to use a steering lock is because it makes it more difficult for a thief to steal your car. A thief would need to know how to disengage the lock from driving the car away. This can slow down or even stop a thief from stealing your car.

Steering wheel locks can also help to protect your car from being damaged. If someone tries to steal your car, they may end up smashing the window or trying to break into the car in other ways. The steering wheel lock can help to prevent this from happening.

Another reason to use a steering wheel lock is to keep your car from rolling away if you need to park on a hill. This can be especially helpful if you have a manual transmission car.

Finally, using a steering lock can help protect your car in the event of a crash. If your car is hit from behind and starts to roll, the steering lock will keep it from rolling any further. This can help prevent further damage to your car and protect you from being injured.

6 Reasons Your Steering Wheel Lock Mights

If you are facing power steering problems, a few things could be wrong. Let us consider the following things:

  1. Malfunctioning Power Steering Pump
  2. Jammed Steering Column
  3. Frozen Steering Linkage
  4. Steering Wheel Lock Engaged
  5. Ignition Lock Assembly Failure
  6. Engine Control Unit (ECU) Problems

Now, we will see these reasons in a bit of detail:

1. Malfunctioning Power Steering Pump

A malfunctioning power steering pump may cause the car’s steering wheel to get locked while parked or driving. The pump can also start making loud noises.

There are many possible causes of a malfunctioning power steering pump. One common cause is low power steering fluid levels. If the fluid levels are not maintained, the pump may overheat and fail. Another common cause is a clogged filter, preventing the pump from circulating fluid properly. A leak in the system can also cause the pump to fail.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to have the pump inspected and repaired as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in losing control over the steering wheel.

2. Jammed Steering Wheel Column

The main purpose of the steering column is to allow the driver to control the direction of the car. If it becomes jammed, it can be a real safety hazard. It may cause the steering to lock up because the column serves as a physical barrier between the driver and the steering.

When it becomes jammed, it can prevent the driver from turning the wheel, which may cause the car to veer off the road or crash.

If your steering column becomes jammed, you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to have it fixed. Failing to do so may result in decreased safety while driving.

3. Frozen Steering Linkage

Frozen Steering Linkage may cause the steering to get locked while parked or driving. What steering linkage does is that it connects the steering to the wheels. If it is frozen, you may not be able to turn your steering wheel and lock cylinder. It can also cause damage to other parts of the steering system.

It will require the replacement of the Frozen Steering Linkage to regain function. Symptoms may include a stiff or hard steering wheel, difficulty turning the wheel, or a complete loss of steering. If left untreated, this condition can lead to a collision.

4. Steering Wheel Lock Engaged

If the steering wheels lock is engaged, it will get jammed while driving or parked. This can result in the car not responding to your turning of the wheel, and you may not be able to steer it. There are a few ways to tell if the steering lock is engaged.

One way is if the steering wheel is stiff when you turn it. Another way is if the car isn’t moving when you step on the gas. You can also check the dashboard to see if the steering lock light is on. If it is, then the steering lock is engaged.

5. Ignition Lock Assembly Failure

Ignition lock assembly failure may cause your steering wheel to lock up. Failure of car ignition can be a hazardous situation, as you will not control your car. In some cases, the only way to regain control of the car is to turn off the engine. If this happens while driving, you could end up in a serious accident.

There are a few things that you can do to prevent this from happening. Ensure that you always have a spare key in case the key fob fails. Keep your car in good condition, and have it serviced regularly. If you experience problems with the ignition lock assembly, take your car to a mechanic right away.

6. Engine Control Unit (ECU) Problems

Engine Control Unit (ECU) Problems may cause your steering wheel to lock up. The ECU is responsible for controlling the power steering system of your car. If there is a problem with the ECU, it may not send the correct signals to the power steering system, which can cause the wheel to lock up.

If your car’s ECU is malfunctioning, it can cause all sorts of problems. One common problem is that the steering may lock up, making it difficult or impossible to control the car. Other problems can include the engine cutting out, the car stalling, or the brakes not working properly. If you think your ECU may be malfunctioning, it’s important to have it checked out by a mechanic as soon as possible.

What To Do if Steering Wheel Gets Locked While Driving?

There are a few ways to try to fix a steering wheel that has become locked.

Firmly Grip Steering Wheel

The first thing you can do is grip the steering wheel firmly and turn it back and forth. This may loosen the lock-up and allow you to regain control of the car.

Use Power Steering Pump

One way is to use the power steering pump to force fluid into the system and loosen up the lock.

Try Turning the Steering Wheel

You can also turn the steering wheel back and forth quickly or jiggle the steering column. If these methods don’t work, you’ll likely need to take your car to a mechanic to have it fixed.

Pull-Over & Call For Help

When steering gets locked, it can be a very dangerous situation. If you’re having difficulty steering your car, pull over to the side of the road and call for help. Do not attempt to drive if you cannot control the car.

Turn Off the Engine

If your steering wheel becomes locked while driving, the best thing to do is turn off the engine. This will disable the power steering system and make it easier to control the car.


Steering wheel locked while driving can be a terrifying experience. You’re driving along, and all of a sudden, the wheel locks up, and you can’t control the car. This can lead to several dangerous situations, so it’s important to know how to handle a locked steering wheel.

There are a few things that you can do to try and prevent a steering wheel from getting locked or to handle it if it does occur. First, make sure that your car is maintained correctly. This includes keeping the tires inflated to the correct pressure, making sure the brakes are working correctly, and regularly changing the oil and filters.

You can also help to prevent a steering wheel lock-up by driving smoothly. Avoid hard braking, fast acceleration, and sharp turns. If you have to make a sudden stop, try to do so in a straight line.

If your car does experience a steering wheel lock up, don’t panic. Keep your hands on the wheel and slowly apply the brakes. When the car comes to a stop, put it in the park and turn off the engine.

If you’re traveling on a highway, try to steer the car to the side of the road. Be careful not to hit any other cars or objects while you’re doing this. Once you’ve stopped, put on your hazard lights and call for help.

Frequently Asked Question

Can you manually disable the steering wheel lock?

The answer to this question is yes, you can manually disable the steering wheel lock. However, it’s important to note that doing so will not make your car any safer in the event of a theft, as the thief will still be able to drive off with your vehicle.

Instead, disabling the steering wheel lock will make it easier for the thief to steal your car. So, if you’re worried about your car being stolen, it’s best to leave the steering wheel lock in place and contact your insurance company.

Can making sharp turns cause your steering wheel to get locked?

Some drivers have experienced this problem where their steering wheel gets locked after making a sharp turn. There can be different reasons for this, but one of the most common causes is when the car’s brakes lock up.

When the brake pads grip the rotor tightly, it can create a lot of friction and heat. This heat can cause the steering wheel to get stuck, especially if the car is traveling at high speed.

Can a locked steering wheel cause the low battery light to turn on?

The answer to this question is yes. If the steering wheel is locked, it can cause the low battery light to turn on. When the steering wheel is locked, it puts a lot of stress on the electrical system. This can cause the battery to drain faster than normal and turn on the low battery light.

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