Steering wheel lock

This never occurred to me before, but a steering wheel lock can be a problem to a new or inexperienced driver.

I needed someone to pick me up using my car, and she called and said she could not start the car. She is a very infrequent driver. I found out that the steering wheel lock had prevented the key from turning in the lock to the ON position.

I realized that I jiggled the steering wheel when this happened to me, but did it so automatically that I never thought to communicate that to the other person.

I suspect this is common to all cars, but probably more so to some than others. I know it happened to my last 3 or so cars. The lock is, my guess, very similar to the transmission parking lock, and has the same problem of jamming occasionally.

No question, just open to discussion.

PS, I checked my owner’s manual carefully, and there is no (ZERO) mention of this function.

This happened on my (then) new Insight. I called the dealer and he quickly said, “Give it a good yank,” which worked. I think I turned the car off with the wheels turned too much, and the electric PS allowed a residual torque against the lock. Keeping the wheels fairly straight when parking solved it.

Even if you know it, turning the wheel can be difficult if it is near the end of travel.

I find it amazing that all (?) relatively new cars have this function and yet there is no mention of it in the documentation.

One online reference had this very confusing statement:

Do not shake or rock the steering wheel. Turn and hold the steering wheel with a constant and even pressure in the direction that it feels springy . When you feel the steering wheel wanting to spring back you have turned hard enough, do not turn the wheel too hard, turn the key with normal pressure (Do not force key). If a locked steering wheel is the problem this will fix it.

I don’t know what you are calling rellatively new but steering wheel lock’s have been around for many year’s I don’t know how long but my 82 dodge truck has it.

My folks called AAA because of it on a 2003 Gm minivan, that was almost as bad as they tried to return a tv because the input got changed, then there was the vcr flashing 12:00 all the time, reminds me of a Jay Leno story about how his mom kept the remote in a drawer in the end table, she was afraid if she missed the tv she might blow up a vase, or my great aunt who thought if you did not have something plugged into every outlet electricity would be running out all over the floor.

Steering wheel locks have indeed been around for many years.

These locks were introduced on many General Motor products in 1969, and on Ford, Chrysler, and AMC products in 1970.


It occurred to me: how do these steering wheel locks work for a car without an ignition switch? Must be more complicated, but it still has to be mechanical.

Motors. At least, that’s how the 4th gen TL did it. A motor turns the wheel slightly when you hit the start button.

A motor engages the lock pin into the steering column. Some vehicles have a warning message if the lock pin is binding due to tension on the front wheels.

Steering lock

Once, as I was walking to my car in a grocery store parking lot there was an elderly couple standing by their car looking lost. Their car door was open so I suspected a dead battery. I inquired if they had a problem and they said they couldn’t turn the ignition key. I replied that I could fix that. I attempted to turn the key while “wiggling” the steering wheel back and forth and the key turned on and I started the car. The problem can be caused when the driver is applying turning pressure to the steering wheel at the same time the ignition key is turned off.