Maybe you’re someone who is familiar with every last detail and feature of your car, taking pride in knowing everything your machine can do. Or maybe it’s just a thing that gets you from A to B, and each time you get in, you pop the key in the ignition, turn it, and hope for the best (unless you have one that starts by pushing a button, but that’s a different story).
If you fall into the second category, you may have found yourself in a situation where it appears as though your steering wheel has somehow gotten stuck. No matter how hard you try to turn it, it doesn’t budge. It’s annoying.
But the good news is in many of those situations, it’s simply a case of the steering wheel being locked: a built-in security feature in many vehicles. Here’s what to do if that happens.
What are steering wheel locks?
There are different types of steering wheel locks, but for today, we’ll put them into to broad categories: the ones that are part of the car’s design (even if you don’t realise it), and external locks that you purchase separately and definitely can’t miss, like The Club.
If you have a built-in steering wheel lock, but aren’t aware that you do, there’s a good chance that at some point, you’ll activate it without realising it.
Here’s how that can happen, per Tony Markovich at The Drive:
Steering wheel locks can be activated as you’re exiting your vehicle. On select cars, this can be accomplished by turning the wheel after you shut off the car and remove the key. With the lock on, the wheels will be locked into a turn, either left or right, so even if a criminal can start your car, it’ll only drive in a really wide circle. Sucker!
What to do
Fortunately, it’s a quick fix that does not require any tools or skills. Here are Markovich’s instructions:
- Insert your key.
- Put pressure toward turning the key and maintain that pressure.
- Wiggle your steering wheel left or right, or up and down.
- Jiggle the key until it turns.
- Turn your car on, all done.
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However, he also notes that if you’re having problems getting the key into and out of your ignition, it’s probably the the dust dirt, and grime that gets into the ignition chamber over time and makes it sticky or frozen. In that case, instead of reaching for the WD-40 or graphite, Markovich recommends using Tri-Flow lubricant oil or 3-In-One dry lubricant oil.