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Don't you hate it when your steering wheel falls off?

According to an article in USA TODAY, today, the NHTSA has received complaints from a few Fusion owners who had a loose nut behind the wheel (steering wheel).

One person claimed that their steering wheel fell into their lap while turning! NHTSA is taking this seriously and opened a “probe” (Ford Probe, get it?).

What do you suppose is going on here?
Have you ever heard of such a thing?
CSA

It happens to my jalopy lawn mower all the time. It is not a serious as traveling 75 mph on the highway and it happening.

Back in the 80s Subaru had a Recall going on loose steering wheel nuts which (in theory) could come off and allow the steering wheel to separate from the column.

I did many of these Recalls and never found a steering wheel nut loose nor did I ever hear of a st. wheel coming off. Better safe than sorry…

Sometimes these kind of things take on a life all their own.

I haven’t had a steering wheel off for a few years and that was GM, but seems to me there was also a clip (more like that round clip that fit in a groove) that had to be taken off after the nut. So you had the nut, the clip, plus the serrations on the post that made it hard for the wheel to come off. Did they skip one of these I wonder?

That actually happened to me, on a fleet Ford Focus. I was assigned to do a routine scheduled service. While moving the car from the back parking lot to my work bay, the steering wheel came off in my hand.

As far as I know, nobody had ever worked on and/or removed the steering wheel prior to the incident. I spent considerable time looking into the car’s service/repair history.

There was no discernible steering column damage. The threads were fine. We drowned the nut in blue loctite and torqued the heck out of it. That was several years ago, and the vehicle’s been serviced several times since then. It’s never loosened again.

Of course, it’s also possible some mechanic DID work on the steering wheel and/or column, and for some reason did not want to be associated with the repair. In other words, maybe somebody ________ the pooch, knew it, and kept quiet about it

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Now I remember. On GM you had to pry on the wheel to get that clip either out or back on again. It was a bear without a wheel puller and I made a pry bar to do it. So Ford only has a nut holding the wheel on and that’s it? Not even a spring clip or something to make sure the nut doesn’t come off?

My Honda Service Manuals show no extra clip, and a “steering wheel puller” to get the wheel off after the nut is removed. Must be tapered splines. Nut torque is only 29 ft-lb (no Loctite specified).

It seems like a taped splined shaft and 29 foot pounds of torque ought to do the job. Maybe Ford had a tool failure on the assembly line and a few cars went through before someone noticed.

We don’t need no stinkin steering wheel!

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I have removed a lot of Mopar steering wheels, tapered and splined shaft and never had one that didn’t need a lot of persuading after you took the nut off.

On the Saginaw steering columns used on GM and Chrysler vehicles in the 1970’s and 1980’s, after removing the steering wheel there is a round clip retaining the steering lock plate. An inexpensive tool is used to hold the lock plate down to remove the clip. This type of steering column hasn’t been used in the last 25 years.

I tend to disagree with your statement, that this style hasn’t been used in the last 25 years

We have tons of GM vehicles in our fleet that use exactly the system you described. I use the lock plate depressor tool set all the time, at work. The vehicles in question are only a few years old.

Not on that particular Ford Focus I’m thinking of. It had a nut, and no kind of clip. I seem to remember looking it up, and there was no clip called for in the exploded view parts diagram. Even some of the GM vehicles at least have a cheesy clip, to prevent the steering wheel from winding up in your lap, were the nut to back off

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In his funniest movie–The Bank Dick–W.C. Fields is forced to help a bank robber escape, and Fields is driving the getaway car in a really wacky & dangerous manner. When he is told by the bank robber in the back seat to give him the wheel, Fields’ character matter-of-factly pulls it off the steering column and hands it to him.

Funny on the screen.
In real life… not so much…

Db, I know it’s been a while… is it possible the wheel is held in place by a bolt and not a nut?

I watched a couple of TV news shows and they report this story and talk about a bolt. I reread the article and it does say bolt.

I tried to look up removal on one of these beauties and it’s hard to tell by the illustration, but it looks to be a bolt.

I’m thinking if it’s a bolt it has to be small enough to fit inside the column, not outside like a nut.
CSA

I believe I didn’t read very well. The article says bolt. Perhaps I mistakenly thought all steering wheels were held by a nut.

My local TV News shows are reporting this like it’s a recall, but it’s not (not yet, anyhow).

The article says concerned owners should contact their dealer. What do you suppose the dealers tell them?
CSA

People like journalists who have no knowledge at all of mechanical things, often confuse the terms nut and bolt and don’t know the difference. Even non-journalists and guys call nuts bolts.

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There are a number of late model cars out there that use a bolt that threads into the shaft to retain the steering wheel rather than the old nut/shaft setup.

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It certainly has been a few years

Well, whatever fastener it was . . . that came off

As I mentioned earlier, Benz traditionally used a bolt. I haven’t worked at the dealer since 2009, and possibly things have changed since then

Like I said its been a while taking a wheel off and would have been on 80’s era and before. Yeah I believe it was that plate that had to be taken off to get to the turn signal switch to replace the cancel springs. They must have changed the turn signal cancel device since then because I’ve never had the problem after that. In the past I used to stock the 50 cent springs, they broke so often.

I’m with @bing on this. If a mechanic that worked on the vehicle tells me it’s a nut, I believe him. If a talking head on TV reads copy from an editor that is likely just as baffled by automobiles, ill look for a second opinion.