How To Unlock Steering Wheel

Have you ever gotten into your car and tried to turn it on, to no avail? Have you spent five or more minutes wrestling with it in the heat, getting frustrated because if it takes even a second longer, you’re going to be late? If you haven’t, count yourself lucky. If you have, know that you aren’t alone. Having a steering wheel that refuses to unlock is a common issue among car owners.

Irritating and time-consuming as this situation can be, a steering wheel’s locking feature is a critical part of your car’s security system. The primary purpose of this feature is to prevent your car from operating without a key in the ignition, or if there is an incorrect key present.

Your ignition experiences a lot of wear and tear over time which can cause it to fail or act faulty. In turn, this may prevent your steering wheel from being able to unlock itself. Here are some methods you can try to unlock a problematic steering wheel before reaching out to a mechanic or replacing parts..

First Method: Manually Unlocking Your Steering Wheel

This might seem obvious, but many people don’t know how to unlock a steering wheel. Your steering wheel probably locked itself because there was pressure on the wheel when you turned the car off. Here are the steps you should take to unlock it.

First, to test if the steering wheel is locked, insert your key into the ignition. Next, you need to turn the key slowly. If you notice the key is facing a little resistance when you do this but continues to rotate, don’t worry. This is a good thing. The wheel will unlock itself as the car turns on.

If the key does not budge, do not apply more pressure. It will not increase the chances of the key turning any further. You will also risk snapping your key inside the ignition or damaging the tumblers. Instead, maintain a light pressure as you move to the next step.

While still lightly turning the key, apply some pressure to the steering wheel. You won’t be able to move the wheel too much in either direction. However, one of these sides will not allow for any movement at all. This is the side with the internal locking pin. You’re going to want to apply pressure in the opposite direction of the pin while turning the key.

You might not get it on your first try, but applying pressure to the steering wheel and lightly turning the key is how you’ll unlock your steering wheel. It may require a little more force than you expect, but do not apply too much. This can result in causing further damage to both your steering wheel and ignition. If you find yourself getting frustrated, take a small break, and then try again. Whatever you do, do not shake, rattle, or jerk your steering wheel.

Second Method: Attempt to Loosen Sticky Locks/Clearing Debris

Your car’s ignition system is a sensitive piece of equipment. Over time, it will collect dust, dirt, and other small debris inside it from everyday use. This buildup can interfere with your steering wheel’s locking system, keeping it locked, or preventing it from locking.

If the grime inside has caused the ignition to seize up, using a small amount of electrical cleaner (or another lubricant) may be what you need to get it running smoothly again. You’ll want to be sure that you don’t use too much. Just give it a few short squirts. When you finish, insert the key and gently turn it back and forth to work in the lubricant, which should help to unlock the teeth.

An alternative to electric cleaner is getting canned air. While this won’t help with any stickiness, it will help clear away debris. Just place the straw extending from the nozzle directly into the ignition’s keyhole. Unlike the electric cleaner, you can use longer bursts of air for this. It should only take a few sprays to clean it, but there’s no harm in giving it a thorough cleanse.

You can also use the key to clear any possible debris from the keyhole. All you need to do is insert the key and then slide it back out. Repeat this several times, and try to turn the car on. If this works, you’ll want to purchase a can of air to give the keyhole a proper cleaning.

Third Method: Checking Your Key

You can also use the key to clear any possible debris from the keyhole. All you need to do is insert the key and then slide it back out. Repeat this several times, and try to turn the car on. If this works, you’ll want to purchase a can of air to give the keyhole a proper cleaning.

If you’ve cleaned your ignition’s keyhole and the steering wheel still won’t unlock, be sure to check your key. Time and use can take a heavy toll on car keys. Key teeth that have been worn down or chipped will fail to engage the pins in the ignition, which will keep your steering wheel from unlocking. Keys that have been will produce a similar result.

In this scenario, the best option is to have a new key made. Do not have the damaged key copied. You will need to receive a new key from the dealership.

Fourth Method: Replacing A Damaged Ignition Lock Assembly

If all else fails, you can simply replace the ignition lock assembly. While it might sound difficult, most vehicles have an easy way of doing so and can be done at home by most people. Before attempting, you will need to order a replacement from your preferred auto parts store. Make sure to give them all the necessary information to ensure your part is the correct one you need.

These are the steps you’ll need to replace the ignition lock on your own:

  1. Remove the ignition’s cover. Most vehicles have a plastic housing that covers the steering column.and lock assembly. Adjust the tilt-wheel to its lowest position and then remove the fasteners.
  2. Remove any components attached to the ignition assembly. Insert an Allen wrench (9/32”) into the release hole and turn the ignition key backward. This will allow you to remove the lock assembly. Compare the new switch and make sure that it matches.
  3. New ignition switches are pre-lubricated and ready to install. Make sure that your switch has grease on all of its outside part that moves.
  4. Make sure that your key fits into the new ignition lock and can rotate smoothly and easily. Your key should not get stuck or stagger on its way in and out.
  5. Re-insert the cylinder into place, reconnect the switch plug, and make sure it is properly locked in. Remember to reinstall anything that you removed earlier.
  6. Start the engine and make sure that your steering wheel unlocks. Do this by applying the first method: gently turning the key in the ignition while applying pressure to the wheel in the opposite direction of the locking pin. You’ll want to do this before you put the plastic cover back on. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the new lock assembly.

[ Know Also: Wheel Spacers Safe ]

Final Word

If all four of these methods do not unlock your steering wheel, it may be beneficial to call a licensed mechanic. Not only will they be able to fix your issue, but also diagnose it as well, which will help you prevent it from occurring again.

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