Updated at: 22-08-2022 - By: Lucas

The steering wheel lock and the ignition cylinder are intimately coupled, so when one component fails, it can cause the entire system to seize up. The frequent symptoms are difficulty with turning the key, starting the car, as well as locking & unlocking the steering wheel. In certain circumstances, they can even combine into one problem that can be hard to adequately detect.

Failure to lock the steering wheel and start the car has numerous causes, with the defective ignition switch being the most likely. However, if the steering wheel won’t release and you’re not able to start the automobile, that suggests an issue with the steering lock.

You may assume both the ignition and the steering have failed, but in most circumstances, only one system is at problem. To help you find a solid answer, I’ll cover as many steering & ignition problem combinations as I can. As always, you should start troubleshooting with the easiest approach and work your way through the list.

Why Does The Steering Wheel Lock

Steering Wheel Locked Car Won't Start

Steering lock is one of the oldest car anti theft measures. By inserting the ignition lock into the steering column, steering becomes dependent on the presence of the key. It’s a really basic, yet ingenious technique of providing an additional layer of security to a car.

Without the steering lock, cars, especially those with manual gearbox would be incredibly easy to steal. All a thief would have to do is tie a towing rope to another automobile, break the window and maneuver the vehicle away while being towed. That’s why, despite occasionally being inconvenient at times, a steering wheel lock is a vital anti theft device.

The second reason is rarely acknowledged, but it is just as critical. When parking on an incline, we’ve all been instructed to spin our wheels toward the curb or the hill. An even more dangerous accident is prevented by the C-shaped movement that the car makes when the parking brake and gear lock fail for some reason. However, if the steering lock is engaged, the movement force can cause the wheels to straighten out.

Turn the steering wheel one way or the other until you hear a click while the key is not in the ignition. That is when you can no longer move your steering wheel until the key is entered and turned to the first or second position, respectively. The steering lock, on the other hand, could malfunction and prevent you from locking or unlocking the wheel.

Steering Wheel Won’t Unlock

A typical problem with steering wheel and ignition occurs when the wheel is locked and the key is inserted, but the ignition won’t turn. This is the most prevalent problem

In order for the engine to start, the ignition key must first unlock the steering column, but if the tension is too high, it will not be able to turn. The steering wheel can be simply moved left and right to reduce tension. When the door is closed and locked, you can still turn the key in the right location and open it.

Any longer and it will not start, which suggests something is wrong. To rule out the ignition, go back to the last time you tried to start the automobile and how easy or difficult it was. A worn ignition cylinder causes resistance and a mushy feeling while turning the key, but if the key turns easily, the problem lies within the steering lock.

Steering Wheel Won’t Lock

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For whatever reason, the steering wheel won’t lock. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick or inexpensive fix for this issue. However, you’ve probably already tried this out and found out that the steering lock isn’t engaging properly.

Many manuals on the internet suggest that the issue is with a worn-out or broken detent, cog, actuator, or ECU. Neither will I burden you with a lengthy explanation of these components nor pretend to be an expert in the field of steering column design.

Nothing else in the vehicle, outside the steering wheel and the ignition lock, appears to be malfunctioning. The best thing to do is leave it to a skilled technician, even if you’re sure you know what’s wrong. The steering and ignition locks can, however, be changed, which I will discuss in the following section. Please unplug the battery and airbag fuse before driving to avoid harming yourself by accidentally activating your airbags.

How to Change The Steering and Ignition Lock

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There are many different ways to change the lock on a vehicle, so I’ll give you a general guide to get you started. While removing the steering wheel provides you more room to maneuver, it also adds a layer of complication to the task at hand. To avoid activating the airbag, make sure the battery is disconnected before doing anything.

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Steps to Remove The Steering Wheel

  • Disconnect the negative, then the positive terminal of the battery.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes for the car’s electronic systems to fully drain.
  • Pull the airbag fuse from the fusebox as a precaution.
  • The steps to remove the front steering wheel cover depend on your vehicle. Some use hidden screws, while others have holes in the back of the steering wheel to slot a screwdriver and push the cover forward.
  • The airbag is contained in the front cover, so you’ll have to disconnect the wires before setting the cover aside.
  • To disconnect the steering wheel, you’ll need a socket set, wheel puller, and possibly a few special extension bits.

Steps to Replace The Steering Lock

  • Disconnect the negative, then the positive terminal of the battery.
  • Wait at least 15 minutes for the car’s electronic systems to fully drain.
  • Pull the airbag fuse from the fusebox as a precaution.
  • Remove the plastic cover surrounding the steering wheel column. There are either screws or clamps holding the pieces together.
  • The steering and ignition lock assembly is connected to the column with two screws. It will be difficult to get them out with the steering wheel in place, so take your time and work carefully.
  • Disconnect the wire connectors and pull the assembly out.
  • Configure the new assembly, and follow the steps in the opposite order to put everything back in place.

You should exchange the new and old ignition locks to keep the same key from working in both the steering and ignition assemblies. Simply follow the instructions in the next section.

Steps to Replace The Ignition Lock

The steering wheel and lock assembly do not need to be removed in order to replace the ignition lock. Disconnecting the battery is still a good idea for your safety.

  • Remove the plastic cover surrounding the steering wheel column. There are either screws or clamps holding the pieces together.
  • Set the ignition key to ACC (Accessory) or the first position.
  • Use a thin screwdriver to push inside a hole located at the top of the ignition lock while pulling the key out.
  • Slide the new ignition lock in place, and put all the plastic covers back together.


What are the symptoms of a faulty ignition switch?

Starting troubles and a faulty ignition switch are two unmistakable indicators of a malfunctioning ignition switch. Flickering dashboard lights and symptoms like a dead battery are possible side effects.

How do you unlock a push start steering wheel?

When using the push start feature, unlocking the steering wheel is the same as when using a traditional key. If you have an automatic transmission, depress the brake pedal and turn the wheel left and right while pressing the start button.


To solve the majority of your vehicle’s locking difficulties, learn how to swap out the steering and ignition lock assemblies. If a technician can quickly pinpoint the source of the problem, you’ll be able to avoid wasting time and money on ineffective fixes.

steering issues are intermediate in difficulty because they are both picky and dangerous to work on because of the airbag. You can replace the assembly in as little as a few hours if you’re well-prepared and patient.