Key won't turn, steering locked up

Yesterday, my 2001 Sonata’s steering wheel locked up and the key wouldn’t turn, despite efforts to jiggle the wheel and key at the same time. The right front tire was in snow (the left front was not), so I got under the car with a snow scraper and banged the snow out of the wheel well and from the ground around the tire. This seemed to do the trick, and I was able to get the car started.

Later, I (perhaps stupidly) parked in the same spot (it was either park there, or run the risk of the car getting hit from being too far out into the street). I now find myself in the same situation, but can’t seem to remedy it. I’ve removed all the snow from the wheel well and all the snow surrounding the tire using hot water and salt. The tire is basically suspended in the air by a small-ish chunk of ice that won’t melt.

Any ideas? If I could get the car in neutral I’d do that and push it out of the snow, but I can’t do that without the key turned. As far as I can tell there is no shifter override.


Do you feel that the steering wheel is being held fast by the anti-theft feature in the steering colunm? It seems like you think it is some debris on the ground that is locking up the wheel.

It feels like it is being held fast by the anti-theft feature, and I’m thinking that the debris on the ground is preventing me from jiggling it enough to disengage the anti-theft and get the key to turn. Is that possible?

Not in my mind, as the anti theft feature is up high in the colunm. We all know (even you) to giggle the wheel and to remove any type of pressure pushing on the side of the tire. True you were able to get free once before,let me look for TSB’s (information from manufacture).

No TSB’s and the whell locking mechanicals are up high in the column

Thanks! I appreciate it.

I guess another reason I think it is related to the snow is that I didn’t have any problem starting it up again in a plowed parking lot before coming back home and getting it stuck again. Could just be a coincidence though.

I just stuck some lock deicer/lubricant in the ignition and that did the trick!

Interesting…I’m not sure being packed into the snow played into this, or if that was just a coincidence.

Just be sure you use cleaner and lube designed for locks. Note: despite what the manufacturer suggest, WD-40 is really bad for locks. If you have ever used it, the lock should be cleaned using a residue free cleaner and lubed with a “real” lock lubricant like graphite.