How To Unlock A Steering Wheel

Man driving on country road

When your key refuses to turn in the ignition, it can appear as though your car’s steering wheel is locked. That’s why we hear so often from Fletcher drivers asking how to lock a steering wheel. Keep reading for our tips for how to unlock a steering wheel, and give us a call at if you’d like to speak with a certified Acura technician on any auto maintenance topic!

How Does a Steering Wheel Become Locked?

So how does a steering wheel become locked? Technically, your steering wheel locks every time you turn your ignition key to the “off” position. This is a safety measure designed to prevent vehicle movement when there is no key in the ignition. Normally, your steering wheel unlocks automatically when you turn the key to start your car. However, worn ignition tumblers (the internal components of the locking mechanism) may prevent the key from turning properly. As a result, your steering wheel can’t unlock.

Steps on How to Unlock a Steering Wheel

If your ignition tumbler or key are worn there’s no way to guarantee that your steering wheel will unlock without a trip to the mechanic. However, you’ll have the best chance of success with the following tips for how to unlock a steering wheel without damaging any internal components:

  • Avoid excessive force as you attempt to turn the ignition key. If you find yourself with a locked steering wheel, don’t try to unlock the wheel by force — you may unintentionally damage the steering mechanism or ignition tumblers. Instead, turn the key to the “start” position and apply varying amounts of pressure while wiggling the wheel back and forth.
  • Try different techniques to realign the ignition tumblers with the key teeth. If the key won’t turn to the “start” position, turn it slowly while slowly adjusting the wheel back and forth.
  • Try a different key. Sometimes the problem is that your key has become too worn to catch properly in the ignition tumblers. Your local Asheville-area Acura dealership can cut you a new key using your vehicle’s serial number — so you know the new key will be just the right shape.

What If My Steering Wheel is Still Locked?

If you run into this issue while taking care of errands in Hendersonville, you should attempt to turn your key in the ignition with the techniques we looked at above. If your steering wheel still won’t unlock, call a Johnson City-area mechanic. If your car is at home and you’re experienced with DIY repairs, you can order a replacement ignition cylinder and replace it yourself. At Apple Tree Acura, we only carry OEM replacement parts — exact replicas of your original Acura parts.

How to Lock Your Steering Wheel on Purpose

Did you know you can lock your steering wheel on purpose? It adds an extra layer of security when you want it, as it slows anyone from driving your car who shouldn’t be. If you want to lock your steering wheel on purpose, here’s how:

  1. Turn off your car and take the keys out of the ignition. 
  2. Turn the steering wheel one way or the other until you hear a click.
  3. Your steering wheel will lock until you return, unlock the steering wheel, and start your car. 

Rely on Apple Tree Acura for At-Home Car Care!

Now that you know how to unlock a steering wheel, how about tackling some more DIY car care projects? Our team is happy to answer any questions about replacing your Acura key fob battery, checking your oil levels, and more.

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