Causes for a Locked-Up Steering Wheel

So you're driving when all of a sudden, your steering wheel locks up. What are you supposed to do now? It can be dangerous to have a steering wheel lock up on you unexpectedly while you're driving on the highway and everything.

You can't turn and your control of your car has been reduced significantly. This can even lead to the off-chance of fatalities if you're really unlucky. You can also end up with unusable car if the steering wheel lockup happens as soon as you start your vehicle.

Therefore, you should have your steering wheel checked post-haste in case it does get locked up before it happens to you at the most inopportune of times!

Causes for Steering Wheel Lockup

  • Steering Wheel Lockup Is by Design: A steering wheel will by design lock up if messed around with while the car isn't turned on, with it serving as a safety measure. Certain conditions make it lock on its own, like preventing your car from moving when the key isn't there to start it. Some cars will have the steering wheel lock when you hotwire your car instead of using your car key to start it, in fact. Usually, the best way to unlock the steering wheel is to insert your key into the ignition keyhole and starting the car. This isn't always what happens.
  • Mechanical Issues and Lockup During Startup: Mechanical issues can lead to your steering wheel locking when it's not supposed to, like when you're in the middle of driving and you've long ago started your car to do so. You should contact your mechanic ASAP if you're in a situation wherein your car keys won't start your car or ignites your car but your steering wheel won't unlock, so you won't be able to control or drive the vehicle.
  • A Problem with the Power Steering Pump: Your steering wheel can lock up if your power steering pump itself were to get jammed. Power steering pump jams weren't a thing for vintage vehicles when power steering wasn't a thing, but it is an existing problem now. When your engine dies unexpectedly while you're driving, your pump will too, leading to a jam and the power steering lockup. So watch out for this issue since the pump can be quite sensitive.
  • Sharp Turns and Car Ignition Lock: Did you know that frequent sharp turns can affect your transmission system, thus hurting your engine and making your steering wheel lock up? Sharp turns can also jam your power steering pump, leading to steering wheel lockup as well. Avoid lockup by turning safely not sharply. Also, your ignition can lock up too, which also leads to steering wheel lockup. When you key can't turn your engine on or off, that's called an ignition lockup. Contact your mechanic if you notice anything weird about your ignition contact.

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