The car has several functions. The steering wheel lock is one of the major functions. You can activate the steering wheel lock when leaving the car. To unlock the locked steering wheel lock, you must turn the key in the ignition switch. Your car’s ignition switch can go through many mechanical movements and afterburner timeouts before the switch fails and the steering wheel can no longer be unlocked. Do you know how to unlock the steering wheel without the key? This article mainly explains the methods of how to unlock a steering wheel lock.
Why is the Steering Wheel Locked?
The main function of the locked steering wheel is to stop the car from moving if the ignition key is missing or the wrong key is put in the ignition switch.
The following are the most common reasons due to that your steering wheel is locked:
- Ignition Lock
- Powertrain Control Module Problems
- Steering Linkage Failure
- Bad Power Steering Pump
- Power Steering Issues
1) Ignition Lock
The latest vehicles with turnkey ignition contain an ignition lock function. The faulty ignition lock is one of the major causes of a locked steering wheel.
You can activate the ignition lock by removing the key from the ignition switch and turning the steering wheel. This activates the locking pin and prevents the steering wheel of your car from being rotated without a key. This is an ideal anti-theft device. Even if the thief manages to start the engine, he cannot control the car because the steering wheel won’t move.
This feature may also lead to a worrying condition if you accidentally activate the steering wheel lock and are not familiar with its role.
Turn the key in the ignition switch to deactivate the lock. Remember that the lock cylinder is usually under a lot of tension, and the key can jam. To remove this tension, turn the steering wheel a little. This relieves the lock tension; the key can be turned, and the lock cylinder will be disengaged.
2) Powertrain Control Module (PCM) Problems
A problem with the powertrain control module (PCM) can cause the steering wheel to lock up. The PCM is responsible for controlling the vehicle’s power steering system.
An issue with the PCM may stop the correct signal from being sent to the power steering system, causing the steering wheel to lock up.
Read More: Bad PCM Causes and Symptoms
3) Steering Linkage Failure
In a very rare and almost unknown situation, sudden damage to the steering parts, such as the steering arm or steering column, may cause the car’s steering wheel to be locked suddenly. In such cases, stop driving as safely as possible and take it to your trusted mechanic.
In maximum cases, the sudden lack of steering response is not complete. You can still turn the steering wheel hard, but it becomes hard because the power steering system is failed.
4) Bad Power Steering Pump
A faulty power steering pump can cause your car’s steering wheel to lock up while you’re driving or parking. A bad power steering pump may also generate unpleasant noises.
However, a power steering pump may go bad due to multiple reasons. The low power steering fluid is one of the common causes of a bad power steering pump.
If your vehicle doesn’t have sufficient fluid, your pump can overheat and fail. Another common cause is clogged filters that stop the pump from circulating the fluid properly. The system leakage may also lead to pump failure.
If you experience any of these symptoms, have your pump checked and repaired as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in losing control of the steering wheel.
Read More: Power Steering System Working and Types
5) Power Steering Issues
If the steering wheel locks when you try to turn it in a certain direction or at certain points during the movement of the steering wheel, you also have a power steering problem. A problem with the power steering is one of the most common causes of a locked steering wheel.
There may be a mechanical issue with the power steering system itself. The power steering rack may be broken or stuck in the rack.
How to Unlock a Steering Wheel?
Follow the below-given steps to unlock a steering wheel:
- Insert the key in the ignition lock: The power steering wheel may be locked due to the force applied to the steering wheel when the ignition was last switched off. To unlock, the ignition key must be used in the same way as when starting the car.
- Turn the key carefully: If both the steering wheel and the ignition key remain locked, the key should be turned in the normal direction. Don’t apply excessive force to the key Because excessive force can twist or break off the key in the keyhole.
- Apply pressure to the steering wheel: Wiggle the steering wheel left or right, or upward and downward.
- Don’t Shake or Jiggle the Wheel: Don’t shake or jiggle the steering wheel back and forth while unlocking it because it reduces the likelihood of a successful unlock.
- Pull the key out slightly before turning it: If the key wears out, the ignition may not turn on. Inserting the key all the way in and then slowly pulling it out will engage the pins needed to start the vehicle.
- Unlocking by turning the handle and the key simultaneously: This process may take a few attempts, but if you turn the key and push the handle in the right direction, both locks will unlock, and the handle and vehicle will start moving freely.
How to Unlock the Steering Wheel Without a Key?
The ideal method to unlock a steering wheel without a key is mechanically removing the ignition lock.
However, you may follow one of the below-given methods to unlock your steering wheel without a key:
- Remove the Ignition Lock
- Use a Spare Key
- Break the Steering Wheel Mechanism
- Damage the ignition lock
- Pick the Lock
- Spray WD40
- Get a New Key
- Canned Air
1) Remove the Ignition Lock
One of the ideal methods to unlock the steering wheel without a key is to remove the ignition switch from the steering column. However, you need basic mechanical tools and knowledge to perform this method.
To get to the ignition lock, you require to eliminate the cover around the steering column. Underneath are the bolts that hold the ignition lock. Also, remove these bolts.
2) Use a Spare Key
You can try another key if the normal key doesn’t work or is lost. When you bought your vehicle, you must have received several keys. You won’t be using it every day, but don’t miss out on the value of taking a backup key on hand.
If you also have lost your backup key, then you should follow one of the above-discussed methods to unlock your steering wheel lock. Do not try to put the wrong ignition key in the ignition switch. Inserting the wrong ignition key can cause further damage.
3) Break the Steering Wheel Mechanism
In the case of some older models, it is recommended to break the steering column to unlock the steering wheel. To do this, pull the steering wheel hard, which can break the steering wheel lock pin.
However, this method is not suitable for the latest cars and may not be possible because the pin is forced. If you have an older car, we recommend you only use this method as a last option.
4) Break the ignition lock
Another way to unlock the ignition is by using a hammer and a large screwdriver. If you break off the pin in the ignition lock, you can turn the ignition lock which helps to unlock the steering wheel. But this method may damage your ignition lock. Therefore, you should try alternative methods first.
5) Pick the Lock
Another traditional way is to select the lock and turn the ignition to unlock the steering wheel. But this method might need some skill, and you can also pick a lock to unlock the steering wheel lock.
Most cars manufactured after the 1990s have a system that does this and prevents the car from starting. The engine immobilizer prevents the car from starting without the correct key. If you can pick the lock, the ignition will ultimately require to be replaced in order for the vehicle to function properly.
These methods are ideal if you don’t have your car keys, but let’s see what to do if you have your car keys and can’t unlock the steering wheel.
6) Spray WD40
What happens if the ignition key doesn’t fit in the ignition lock? Sometimes the ignition has dirt that should be removed. Also, the tumblers can stiffen and prevent the key from registering correctly. In this case, WD40 can help.
Properly spray WD40 directly into the ignition hole. After spraying, try reinserting the key. Hopefully, this method will help to unlock the steering wheel lock without a key.
7) Get a New Key
If your key is unavailable or lost, you may need to request a new key. When it comes to recovering the key, you have multiple opportunities. For basic keys, a locksmith may be one of the ideal options. Maximum locksmiths have low costs than dealerships and can get the job done faster.
Alternatively, the latest keys are more complex and advanced. Remote control keys and smart keys need to be reprogrammed to work with the vehicle. In some situations, it may make more sense to call the dealer.
8) Canned Air
We previously talked about how WD40 lubricates and cleans your locks. However, if your key won’t fit in the ignition lock just because it’s dirty, then compressed air is an ideal option.
Spray condensed air directly into the locking mechanism. As a result, you can see dust and debris flying around. After cleaning, try to insert the key again. You can also use an air compressor if you don’t have an air can.
Can I break a steering wheel lock?
Yes, you can break your steering wheel lock, but it depends on your vehicle’s model. In the case of old vehicles, the steering wheel lock can be broken by simply forcing hard on the wheel. But the latest models have forced locks that cannot be broken manually.
How can I manually unlock my steering wheel?
If you have the key and cannot unlock the steering wheel, try moving it slightly while turning the key. You can unlock the steering wheel by mechanically eliminating the ignition switch if you do not have the key.
Why is my power steering wheel locked and my car won't start?
It sounds like you have a steering lock or ignition switch problem. Most of the time, your steering wheel locks due to one of the below-given causes:
How do you turn off a steering wheel lock?
Turn the steering wheel back and forth and turn the key simultaneously. This will disengage the lock and help the car to start.
What do you do when your car key doesn't work?
- Inspect the key fob battery and replace it if necessary. Take the key fob apart and inspect for broken contact or misaligned button.
- Reprogram your remote yourself or have a professional do it. Replace your remote if needed.
Why is my car key not working after the battery change?
Most likely, your vehicle remote will reset during battery replacement. You can also reset the key fob by pressing a specific key. So, if multiple key fobs aren’t operating, that’s a sign that your vehicle key has been reset.
How to unlock a steering wheel without a key?
Follow one of the below-given methods to unlock a steering wheel without a key:
- Remove the Ignition lock
- Use compressed air to clean the ignition switch
- Use a spare key
- Break the Steering Wheel Mechanism
- Damage the ignition lock
- Pick the lock
- Spray WD40 to clean the ignition switch
- If your key is lost then get a new key