BDR Automotive

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Ask Brian: Why does my steering wheel lock after parking?
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BDR Automotive

Why does my steering wheel lock after parking?

If after you’ve parked your car and you’ve tugged the wheel sharply in one direction or another as you are getting out, the steering wheel is likely to lock. Your car has a feature that is meant to lock your wheels when you park on a steep incline and this tug has activated it. Oftentimes, the driver may use the steering wheel as an aid to exit the car and in doing so, tugs on the wheel in one direction, resulting in a steering wheel lock. 

How to fix it if the steering wheel locks after parking

When you get back into the vehicle and want to start up the ignition, you may find that the key and/or the steering wheel won’t turn.  Here’s what to do and what not to do.

If you’ve activated this special locking feature, you’ll need to turn the wheel in the direction you turned it when it locked (most likely toward the driver’s door as you were exiting the car).

If the wheel doesn’t budge at all, try turning in the other direction. When you feel the wheel move a little bit, insert and turn your key. The steering wheel should unlock.

If the key won’t turn…

Gently wiggle your wheel back and forth as you try to turn the key to the “on” position. The “key” word here is “gently.”

What not to do when the steering wheel locks after parking 

Don’t use brute strength to try to overpower your steering wheel. You can’t rely on muscle to unlock the wheel and in fact, you may break something in the process.  Remember to insert your key in the ignition and gently jiggle the steering wheel back and forth while turning the key to the “on” position. Take a deep breath and make another attempt without becoming frustrated, if you can. If the key doesn’t turn, gently try again to realign the mechanism which will free the steering wheel and enable you to start the car.

What if it locks when I’m driving?

If you find that your steering wheel becomes hard to turn, it could be a lack of power steering fluid or dirty power steering fluid. To make sure this doesn’t happen, always have your power steering fluid checked at suggested intervals.

A more serious mechanical problem may be the culprit if the steering wheel locks when you try to turn in a particular direction while driving or at a particular point in the steering wheel’s rotation.

A sudden locking of your steering wheel is called a steering linkage failure. This rarely happens, and it is important to bring the vehicle safely to a stop and get a tow to your nearest automotive service center. In most cases, during a sudden lack of steering response, you’ll still be able to turn the wheel a bit with some effort.

If you have questions if there is a steering wheel lock, or if it is time for a power steering fluid change, call our service department or to make an appointment call 508-429-4720, or contact us on our website.

Jarred McGee
Jarred is not only an amazingly competent and capable technician, he is a confident leader and source of incredible knowledge. Known for being a tireless and dedicated technician, he is always friendly and professional, always willing to go the extra mile to ensure BDR customers leave with peace of mind about their vehicle. Jarred attended Mass Bay Community College where he earned his Associates Degree in Automotive Technology. He went on to receive a Toyota T-TEN Certificate while working in Toyota’s dealership system. Jarred has also worked at an auto-body repair shop that specialized in complex high-end vehicles such as the Tesla.

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