Steering Wheel Locking Up While Driving [Causes & How to Fix]

A steering wheel is a component in a vehicle that controls the direction of the car. Therefore, having a problem, such as a locked steering wheel while driving, can be very dangerous.

Your car’s steering wheel locking up while driving is a rare situation that can happen suddenly without warning and it is not an issue you should neglect. 

In this post, we will be discussing the several reasons why your steering wheel can lock up and how you can fix it. 

Steering Wheel Locking Up While Driving

What Does a Locked-Up Steering Wheel Mean?

When a steering wheel locks up, it means that the mechanism that allows the wheels to turn in response to the movement of the steering wheel is no longer functioning properly. 

This situation can be a major issue. However, you need to understand that steering wheels are also designed to lock up under specific circumstances and this is a fundamental aspect of the safety features of your car. 

The wheel locks up to prevent your automobile from driving if there isn’t a key to start it as a safety precaution. Therefore, unless someone has your car key, they won’t be able to start it, and in some cases, even if they use illegal means to light it, the wheel will remain locked.

Why Does My Steering Wheel Lock Up While Driving?

1. Malfunctioning Steering Pump

Power steering systems use a pump and fluid to assist in turning the wheel, and if the pump or fluid is not working properly, the steering wheel can become difficult to turn or lock up completely.

This pump in your automobile could be broken, which could cause the steering wheel to lock up while you’re driving or parking. A broken power steering pump could have a number of different causes. Low power steering fluid levels are one common cause. 

Lack of maintenance could also cause the pump to overheat and stop working. Another frequent reason is a blocked filter, which prevents the pump from adequately circulating fluid. The pump may malfunction as a result of a system leak.

It is crucial to have the pump evaluated and fixed as soon as possible if you suffer any of these symptoms. Inaction could result in you losing control of the steering wheel.

2. Jammed Column

The steering column helps in steering wheel control. It acts as a physical barrier between the driver and the steering. Therefore, when it gets jammed, it can be a serious safety risk which might result in the steering locking up.

When you have a jammed column, you may be unable to spin the wheel, which might lead to the car veering off the road or colliding with something.

You should take your automobile to repair as soon as possible to get the steering column fixed if it becomes jammed. Driving less safely might be the outcome of failing to do this.

3. Faulty Brakes

A problem with your brakes can also cause a locked steering wheel. If the brake callipers are sticking or the brake pads are worn out, it can cause the steering wheel to become difficult to turn or lock up completely. This is because the brake system and steering system are connected and a problem with one can affect the other.

4. Frozen Steering Linkage

The steering linkage connects your steering to the wheels. So, when this linkage is frozen, it could lock up your steering wheels when you’re driving. Also, you may not be able to turn the steering wheel and lock the cylinder. Various additional steering system components may also sustain damage.

For the steering linkage to operate again, a replacement will be needed. One or more symptoms, such as a hard or stiff steering wheel, difficulty turning the wheel, or a complete loss of steering, may be present. If this problem is not treated, it could result in a collision.

5. Activated Steering Wheel Lock

While driving, your steering wheel can become stuck if the lock is activated. If this happens, your car will not be able to respond when you move the wheel and you might not be able to steer. 

There are a few techniques to determine whether the steering lock is activated. One sign is if the steering wheel is difficult to turn. Another approach is if you step on the gas when the automobile isn’t moving. Additionally, you may look at the dashboard to determine whether the steering lock light is on. If it is, the steering lock is activated.

6. Issues with the Engine Control Unit (ECU)

Numerous issues can arise if the ECU in your car isn’t functioning properly. One frequent issue is that the steering wheel may lock up, making it difficult or impossible to control the vehicle. 

The ECU is in charge of managing your car’s power steering system. The power steering system may not get the proper instructions from the ECU if there is an issue, which might result in the wheel locking up. It’s crucial to have your ECU inspected by a mechanic as soon as you suspect a problem.

7. Ignition Lock Assembly Failure

Your steering wheel could lock up if the ignition lock assembly fails. Failure to start your car can be dangerous because you won’t be able to manage it. 

In some situations, shutting off the engine is the only option to restore control of the vehicle. You can be involved in a serious accident if this occurs while you are driving.

How to Unlock a Steering Wheel While Driving?

1. Hold on Tightly to the Wheel

Turn the steering wheel back and forth as soon as possible. This could help to release the lock-up and give you back control of the vehicle.

2. Utilize the Power Steering Pump

One method is to push fluid into the system and loosen the lock using the power steering pump.

3. Try Steering the Vehicle

You can shake the steering column or swiftly turn the steering wheel in either direction. You’ll probably need to drive your automobile to a professional to have it fixed if these solutions don’t work.

4. Pull over and a Mechanic 

It can be quite dangerous driving when the steering becomes locked. Pull over to the side of the road, turn off the engine and make an assistance call if you’re having trouble steering your car.

Read: Resonator Delete vs Muffler Delete


Steering wheel locking up while driving can be a very scary experience and it is caused by a variety of issues, such as a problem with the steering column, a malfunctioning power steering system, or a frozen steering linkage.

If your steering wheel locks up, carefully follow our instructions on how to fix it. However, if you are unable to fix it yourself, it’s important to have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic as soon as possible to determine the cause and make any necessary repairs.