A steering wheel is one of the most important controlling parts of a motor vehicle. It is very common in land vehicles like cars, buses, trucks, etc. It is the wheel that the driver himself has to control to make the vehicle run. That is why it is very troublesome and terrible when the steering wheel locking up while driving.
As a result of the steering wheel locked up while driving, the driver won’t be able to drive the car. If it happens, it can cause serious accidents. Therefore, it is very dangerous as well as risky.
Although this crux is not a common phenomenon, you still have to be enough conscious. There are several reasons why you may have your car steering wheel locked up. If you know the causes, you can detect and solve them easily and get rid of tension.
Causes Behind Steering Wheel Locked Up While Driving
In general, car steering wheels are locked up as it is its common safety feature. To unlock it, you just have to put a key in the ignition. Nobody can unlock the steering wheels and drive the car if he doesn’t have the key.
But sometimes faulty locking systems, technical errors and some other factors make your car steering wheels lock up while driving. It is definitely a matter of great concern and you should immediately undertake measures to solve this issue. Let’s have a look at some of the causes behind this trouble.
- Power Steering Pump
Nowadays most of the motor vehicles include a pump with power steering. The pump helps the steering to turn smoothly. There are valves and linkages in the pump that could have been stuck because of road debris.
To diagnose the cause, you can call a car mechanic and get your car checked when you find that your steering wheels locked up suddenly when driving.
In the past days, cars didn’t include power steering for which wheel locking up never used to occur. Instead of power steering, arm muscles were used to turn corners.
Though you can drive your car with more comfort and ease through power steering, there is a chance to lock up if the steering pump jams unexpectedly. There are several signs that your car’s power steering pump has some errors or defects. Those signs are:
- Slow response of the steering wheel.
- Incoming whining noises from the hood of the car.
- Lock Assembly Problem
A question might often arise in your mind “Why my car steering wheels locked up while driving?” But another question is whether the car locked up without prior notice and without making any squeaky noise or not. In case that the answer is ‘yes’, there might be a problem with lock assembly.
When the key assembly fails, it locks up the steering wheel suddenly without any notice. It can cause a great danger when the car is running at top speed. Moreover, changing the direction of the key may cause the key cylinder not to follow the commands properly.
- Steering Lock Bar
When the engine of a car is turned off, there is a component that locks the car which is called steering lock bar.
Keep in mind that, a crack begins to form in case of the presence of a factory defect like the improper casting of the steering lock bar. The expansion of this crack can be a cause of your car’s steering wheel problem.
- Making Sharp Turns
Another cause behind the steering wheel locking up is the driver’s tendency to make sharp turns frequently. If you try to do multiple sharp turns within a short period of time, steering wheels will be likely to lock up.
Making excessive sharp turns has a negative impact on the transmission of your car as it hurts the engine and eventually may cause the steering wheels lock up.
- Faulty Steering Column
The steering column is the device that links the steering wheel to the steering system of the car. It is located at the top of the steering system and attached to the steering wheel directly. Leading the motor vehicle in the intended direction is the major operation of the steering column.
If there are faults in the steering column, the car will be hard to operate as it would cause some minor lock-up complexities. Furthermore, it will also be very difficult to drive the car to the intended directions if there are defects in the steering column.
- Engine Control Unit (ECU) Problems
The Engine Control Unit (ECU) is the embedded system in automotive electronics that takes care of the basic activities of a car’s engine.
It manages and conducts the steering lock mechanism as well. Due to various malfunctions of the ECU such as sensory problems, the steering wheel may lock up when you drive the car.
- Other Causes
Engine stalling is one of the root causes of power steering failure. The failure of power steering makes the steering locked up.
Some of the factors that induce engine stalling are mass airflow sensor, faulty crankshaft or camshaft position sensors, defective engine coolant temperature sensor or switch, damaged spark plugs, defective ignition coil(s) or wires, insufficient fuel pressure or delivery, etc.
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How to Fix Steering Wheel Locked Up While Driving
Where there is a problem, there is definitely a solution. The same holds true for locked steering wheels. When you find that, your car steering wheels locked up you should immediately take measures to solve it for uninterrupted driving. Here are some of the ways which you should follow to get rid of this issue.
1. Changing the Power Steering Pump: As mentioned earlier, one of the symptoms of a faulty power steering pump is incoming whining noises from the hood. When you hear this, consider replacing or repairing the power steering pump.
If you have good skills in mechanics, you can do the entire task by yourself. For the purpose of repairing the steering pump, the particular tool you will need is a special pulley puller, but not the regular one.
2. Fixing or Replacing the Ignition Switch Cylinder: There is a direct connection between the steering wheel lock and the ignition cylinder. If you think that, the steering wheel locked up due to an error in the cylinder; use your left hand applying enough force to agitate the cylinder left and right in order to disengage the lock.
At the same time, use your right hand too for turning the ignition key from lock position to the start position. If there is debris in the cylinder, try to remove them by using a canned air with a small nozzle.
This is the simplest and easiest method to check the ignition cylinder. If the steering wheel still does not unlock, you should think of changing the ignition cylinder or consult with a car expert.
3. Eliminating Debris from the Steering Column: Unwanted particles such as dirt, dust, debris, etc can obstruct the inside of the steering column. If you suspect that, you should remove them before further issues occur.
4. Checking whether ECU malfunctions: If the ECU of your car does not function properly, you should not try to drive the car. In this case, you should immediately call a car mechanic and check for any circuitry problems.
5. Some Other Tips: Apart from the steps mentioned above, some other ways should be followed to protect your car’s steering wheel from locking up suddenly while driving.
- Get your car checked up thoroughly by an expert mechanic on a regular basis.
- Change or replace faulty parts (e.g. lock assembly, steering lock bar, steering column) without hesitation.
- Don’t make fast turns frequently at the time of driving.
- Apply lubricants on the parts if necessary.
If you hit the road with your car and find that your car steering wheel locked up while driving, it would really be so terrible and scary. However, if you know what to do in such a case, you won’t have to worry.
All you need to do is just to be patient and check your car’s steering system. You can also take assistance from a proficient car mechanic if you don’t have enough knowledge about a car’s working mechanism.