Three common symptoms indicate an issue with the steering-wheel lock, including difficulty turning the steering wheel when driving, automatically locking the steering wheel as soon as the vehicle is started, and locking the steering wheel when driving. Ignoring the symptoms could be fatal.
Steering-wheel lock issues range from a slight inconvenience to a pretty significant issue.
The steering and suspension help drivers deal with different road conditions. Most importantly, they help direct the vehicle in the direction we want to go. One of the most vital parts of this process is the steering wheel.
The older a vehicle gets the more wear and tear we subject it to. It is common to have an issue with the steering-wheel lock due to normal wear and tear. There are also times where it may be due to the steering wheel column, lock mechanisms, or the vehicle’s computer.
With proper diagnosis and a few hundred dollars, a steering-wheel lock issue can be repaired without much time or stress. In the worst-case scenario, your steering wheel could lock while driving and cause an accident. This could lead to extensive repairs at an even higher cost.
Understanding the symptoms and having a proper diagnosis by a mechanic can help determine why the steering-wheel lock has an issue and estimating the repair. This repair is vital in making sure the driver can properly steer the car.
This article answers some common questions about the steering-wheel lock, why it isn’t working, symptoms, and repair costs.
What Is Steering-Wheel Lock and What Does it Do?
The steering-wheel lock is a solution to theft. The steering wheel will lock should anyone try to move the vehicle without the key in the ignition.
Any movement of the steering wheel will release a lever causing it to lock the steering wheel. If repeated many times, this exerts strain on the system and could wear out the locking mechanism.
The module, however, is tricky. Many people don’t know how to use it or that their car even has it. Some vehicles engage the lock automatically and others have to be set. Imagine setting the wheel into lock mode without even knowing the car has it or how to release the lock. It’s frustrating.
To make matters worse, in old cars, sometimes the mechanism that unlocks the steering wheel lock fails.
Why Is My Steering Wheel Not Locking?
If the steering wheel doesn’t lock into place, this could be a pretty big problem. There are several reasons a steering wheel won’t lock.
The most common reason a steering wheel won’t lock into place is that the catch becomes worn down or broken due to regular use. The steering column has a cog that connects to the aforementioned catch. Sometimes, this cog can break down and needs to be replaced, as can the actuator.
Something as simple as turning the steering wheel too far may also cause steering-wheel lock issues. The steering wheel needs to connect to the catch on the steering column to lock into place. Try pulling the wheel to the left and then right to make the connection.
Driver education teachers and passenger-seat parents have been right all along: it isn’t good to turn the steering wheel of a car all the way to the side. The vehicle isn’t designed to make such sharp turns.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you may have an electronic lock mechanism. If this is broken, it means your steering wheel won’t lock into place. This could happen due to a wiring issue or normal wear and tear. Electrical issues a special type of mechanic.
Additionally, the computer could malfunction and cause an issue with the steering wheel. Any damage to this system will cause communication issues. If the steering wheel lock isn’t properly communicated to, it may cause a problem.
Finally, the steering wheel could be loose. If the steering wheel doesn’t feel normal when driving, there could be a problem where the steering wheel is held into place.
If your vehicle presents any of the symptoms mentioned, it’s best to have a mechanic inspect it. Many of the issues require looking in hard-to-reach areas.
Symptoms of Steering-Wheel Lock
If the steering-wheel lock has failed, you may notice one of the following:
- Difficulty turning the steering wheel while driving
- Steering wheel lock as soon as the car is started
- Steering wheel locks while driving
If the steering wheel becomes more difficult to turn while driving, especially at low speeds, you may have an issue with the power steering system. The power steering system could become jammed or spring a leak resulting in the loss of ability to turn.
If you move the wheel before turning on the car, the steering wheel will lock into a place to prevent theft. If this happens, try mildly moving the wheel while turning the key in the ignition.
Although it is highly uncommon, and thankfully so, your steering wheel could lock while driving. If this happens, there is more than likely a problem in the suspension or steering column. Try to remain calm, turn the wheel slowly, and safely move away from traffic.
Having regular maintenance performed on the vehicle could help prevent the steering wheel from locking. Also, keep an eye on the power steering fluid level and never pull on the steering wheel after you turn off the engine.
Will a Car Run with a Bad Steering-Wheel Lock?
Although rare, driving with a bad steering-wheel lock could lead to several issues. This is a substantial issue and shouldn’t be ignored.
The steering wheel allows drivers to control their vehicles. If the steering wheel locks while driving, the driver won’t be able to maneuver the car. If this happens, the driver risks getting into a serious accident.
It is safer not to drive a car with steering-wheel lock issues. Once you notice symptoms, take the vehicle to a mechanic – you may even want to have it towed there.
Don’t ignore steering-wheel lock symptoms and cause an accident. Although you could drive the car, you shouldn’t.
How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Locked Steering Wheel?
Because the steering system is made of various components, the repair costs of a steering-wheel lock depend entirely on the part, labor, and reason for replacement. Most repairs range from $150 to $1000.
If the computer in the car has malfunctioned and is not properly communicating with the power steering system, repairs range from $150 to $300. Meanwhile, if a steering wheel cog needs to be replaced, it costs between $600 and $800. A steering column replacement can cost as much as $1,000.
It's clear to see this small repair could actually be major one, as is common with a trip to the auto garage. If your car is newer, you need to check with the dealership to know if there is a recall or warrantee option to help cover the costs associated with the repair.
Unlocking the steering wheel is a fairly easy and affordable repair; even some locksmiths can unlock a steering wheel.
However, your auto professional may need to make elaborate repairs, meaning you need to know your options. If you’re tired of dealing with repairs, you could just sell the car to a junkyard.
Can I Repair a Steering-Wheel Lock Myself?
The best thing to do with a steering-wheel lock issue is to take the car to a mechanic as this is not an easy repair to fix. If you don’t know how to fix this, and you don’t already have the tools on hand, it’s simply not something you can resolve with a Saturday afternoon DIY project.
This repair requires getting to some hard-to-reach areas (including the steering column). You don’t want to cause damage to other systems trying to get to the steering column to make repairs. A mechanic has the right equipment and knowledge to get the job done.
You can save money on this repair by knowing the usual charges for car repairs in your area and having them done at a reputable garage. However, if you don’t want to pay for the repair, just send your car to a junkyard.
Is Fixing a Vehicle with a Locked Steering Wheel Worth It?
Steering-wheel lock issues can be a frustrating issue to deal with. Luckily, unlocking a steering wheel is often simple.
Once you know what is causing the steering wheel locking issues, it is much easier to determine if the repair is worth it. Repair costs range from $150 to $1,000. If this is the price to pay to safely maneuver the vehicle, it is worth it.
If your mechanic makes a diagnosis and the repairs are both more intricate and more costly than anticipated, you have other options. You could sell the car to a mechanic or professional willing to make the repairs. You could also scrap the car at a junkyard.
Old cars tend to have steering wheel problems. In fact, they tend to have a lot of problems. What’s frustrating is going in for a steering wheel lock problem and finding out it’s also the brakes, the transmission, and the head gasket. All of the sudden your $1000 car needs thousands in repair.
To avoid the problem, send the old car to the junkyard. There are better alternatives than paying too much for repairs for a car that isn’t worth the money. A new car might cost more month to month, but it won’t let you down. If that’s not in the budget, ride sharing, buses, and walking shoes come to mind.
If you are tired of dealing with repairs, contact a junkyard and ask about their process. They will happily take your vehicle for valuable parts, recycle what remains, and offer you payment in cash.
Most Steering-Wheel Locking Is Only a Minor Inconvenience
Steering is one of the most important aspects of a car. A steering-wheel lock is frustrating and troublesome, especially when you are in a hurry.
Understanding why a steering wheel locks is important in having repairs done. If the symptoms are minor, a few hundred dollars will repair the issue. This is vital to a driver as they need to properly steer the car to avoid any serious collisions.
The best first step is to have a proper diagnosis by a professional. This will help you determine the underlying cause of the steering-wheel lock issue and whether or not you can afford the repair.
If you cannot afford to repair the issue related to the steering-wheel lock, you shouldn’t drive the car as it leaves you little to no control over the wheels. You could store the car and use other transportation options available to you.
If you decide to drive and know that you have a steering-wheel lock problem, know that although rare, your steering wheel could lock while driving. An accident may lead to more damage which then leads to more costly repairs.
The repair may not be worth the investment. If that is your assessment, contact junkyards in your area and tell them you have a vehicle to sell. Give them the make and model of the vehicle and damage the vehicle has. Confirm procedures, deliver the vehicle, and get paid in cash.
Compare all of your options and costs. Only you can decide how to get your car back on the road or get paid cash for it.
The potential causes of steering-wheel lock issues are common and only a slight inconvenience. If you face them, take a deep breath, explore the options, and steer yourself in the right direction.