What causes steering wheel to lock up while turning?

What causes steering wheel to lock up while turning?


The steering wheel is a critical component of a vehicle’s control system, allowing the driver to maneuver and navigate the vehicle. However, there are instances when the steering wheel can lock up while turning, causing difficulty or even preventing the driver from steering the vehicle properly. This article will delve into the various causes of a locked steering wheel during turning and explore potential solutions to this issue.

Insufficient Power Steering Fluid

Causes: One common reason for a locked steering wheel is insufficient power steering fluid. Power steering systems rely on hydraulic pressure to assist with steering, and if the fluid level is low, it can lead to a loss of power assistance, making it difficult to turn the wheel smoothly.

Solutions: To resolve this issue, it is essential to check the power steering fluid level regularly and top it up if necessary. If the fluid level consistently drops, there may be a leak in the system that needs to be identified and repaired by a professional mechanic.

Steering Column Lock

Causes: Another potential cause of a locked steering wheel is a malfunctioning steering column lock. This mechanism is designed to prevent theft by locking the steering wheel when the ignition is turned off. However, if the lock becomes damaged or faulty, it can inadvertently engage while driving, resulting in a locked steering wheel.

Solutions: If the steering column lock is the culprit, it is crucial to have it inspected and repaired by a qualified mechanic. They may need to replace the faulty lock mechanism to restore proper steering functionality.

Ignition Switch Issues

Causes: Problems with the ignition switch can also lead to a locked steering wheel. When the ignition switch fails to recognize the key or experiences electrical issues, it can trigger the steering wheel lock mechanism, preventing the driver from turning the wheel.

Solutions: If the ignition switch is suspected to be the cause of the locked steering wheel, it is advisable to consult a professional mechanic. They will be able to diagnose the issue accurately and determine whether the ignition switch needs repair or replacement.

Steering Column Binding

Causes: Over time, the steering column components can wear out or become misaligned, resulting in binding. This can cause the steering wheel to lock up while turning, as the components may not move smoothly.

Solutions: To address steering column binding, a qualified mechanic should inspect the components and determine the necessary repairs. This may involve lubricating the column, replacing worn-out parts, or realigning the components to restore proper steering function.


A locked steering wheel while turning can be a frustrating and potentially dangerous situation for drivers. Insufficient power steering fluid, steering column lock issues, ignition switch problems, and steering column binding are some of the common causes of this problem. It is crucial to address these issues promptly to ensure safe and efficient vehicle operation. If you encounter a locked steering wheel, it is advisable to consult a professional mechanic to diagnose and resolve the underlying cause.


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