Last Updated: 06.04.2022

We all have experienced different vehicle issues before, but perhaps one of the most challenging to address is when the steering wheel locks accidentally. Things can get worse if the steering wheel locks and you can’t turn the key. The steering is one of the most important parts of the vehicle, and when it malfunctions or locks, you may not be able to drive the car.

Let’s talk about how to unlock the steering wheel without a key. But before that, we need to understand the cause of the problem first. 

Why Does a Steering Lock Itself?

locked stirring wheel of a car

Basically, there are two main reasons why the steering would lock when the vehicle is not in motion. The first one is for safety reasons. When you switch off your car and remove the key, the steering locks automatically. Manufacturers introduced this feature to prevent vehicles from moving after you have switched them off.

The other reason is to protect your car from thieves. These days thieves can quickly get into your vehicle and hotwire it. So, manufacturers added this feature to minimize cases of vehicle theft.

Why Would the Steering Lock When Driving?

mechanic opening the power steering fluid cap

The bad thing is that the steering can also lock while you are driving, and this is rather scary and dangerous if it happens on the highway. One reason this can occur is if the power steering fluid is dirty or if your car ran out of this fluid. It tends to happen when you are driving at a very slow speed. So you might feel the steering becoming heavier as you maneuver. 

The best way you can prevent this is by strictly doing regular maintenance.

Another reason the steering could lock while the car is in motion is if some components of the steering get damaged while driving. It’s rare, but it still can happen. When this happens, don’t panic. Just slow down, turn on the hazard lights, and stop the truck in a safe place.

What Tools Do You Need?

wd 40 spray to be use in the ignition key

Unlocking the steering wheel even without a key is pretty straightforward. You’ll need the following:

  • WD40
  • A socket set
  • Screwdrivers

How to Unlock Steering Wheel Without Key?

Method 1: Unlock the Steering Using an Ignition Set Replacement

Despite being a bit easy, this method will require some technical knowledge. So you can go online and learn more about your vehicle or get the owner’s booklet. To unlock your vehicle’s steering wheel using an ignition set replacement, you’ll need to:

Step 1: Remove the Column Panel

Start by removing all the panels covering the steering. You can do this by loosening the screws holding the steering wheel in place. Look for the steering cover tab and press it. This will ensure that the downwards column comes off easily. Don’t forget to unscrew the upper column of the steering.

Step 2: Free the Steering’s Locking Cylinder

Locate the steering wheels’ lock cylinder and free it. To release the tab in its ignition-lock system, press it downwards while turning the car keys until it pulls backward. Repeat this procedure a couple of times until you free the locking steering of your truck.

Step 3: Install a New Ignition-Lock System

Install a new ignition locking system and unlock the steering using your old key. Fix the cylinder lock as it was in the column. Reinstall the lock tab in the ignition cylinder lock and confirm that the key can turn fully. Make sure the key can turn before you re-attach the columns.

Step 4: Reinstall the Columns

Install the downward column before working on the upper column. Fix the columns using screws and make sure you tighten all the screws.

Method 2: Simple Steps You Should Try First

There are a few simple methods that you can try first to unlock the steering wheel. 

Insert the Key in the Ignition

Start by inserting your key in the ignition, and then, turn it. You can also turn the steering wheel towards the direction where it was when it locked. If you don’t remember which side it had turned, then you can turn the steering to both sides. 

This method works perfectly when the steering locks after an accident. But make sure you don’t apply too much pressure on the steering wheel when turning it. It would be best if you use moderate force to prevent further damage to your steering wheel’s locking mechanism.

Try Using a Different Key

The issue may sometimes be the key, so you can try starting the truck using another key. If you have just purchased a second-hand vehicle, the problem could be that the previous owner mishandled the keys. 

So, if the first step doesn’t work, you should try the spare key, which may work. But if it doesn’t, then you should retry the truck’s primary key. 

Spray It With WD40

If the above steps fail, then you should proceed and spray WD40 into the truck’s ignition port. There’s a possibility that the key port is locked because there’s debris or dirt inside its ignition port. Spraying the WD40 can help dislodge the dirt.

After spraying with WD40, you can insert your key and try turning it. If this works, then you can replace the truck’s lock cylinder.

Tap the Key With a Hammer After Inserting It in the Ignition Port

This technique may sound strange, but it does work at times. Before tapping it with a hammer, insert and remove the key several times. 

Next, insert the primary key halfway into the ignition port and tap it lightly. Hit it straight into the ignition port to avoid breaking or bending it.

Method 3: Loosening the Sticky Lock

Another reliable method for unlocking the steering wheel is by loosening the sticky locks. Dirt can get lodged in the ignition port and end up locking the steering wheels. So, to unlock the steering, you could do the following:

Pour Some Electrical Cleaner in the Keyhole

If your vehicle has a large lock cylinder, then you can spray an electrical cleaner into the ignition hole. Next, insert and remove the key several times to help lubricate the keyhole and finally open the steering wheel.

Spray Some Canned Air Into the Truck’s Ignition

At times, the steering wheel may lock because of debris and dirt that have accumulated inside the ignition. If this is why the steering got locked, you can insert the nozzle of a canned air spray in the ignition hole. Next, spray some air into the ignition port. The canned air will help dislodge the trapped dirt and debris.

Slide the Car Keys in and Out of the Keyhole a Couple of Times

There is a high likelihood that you may have trapped some dirt and debris in the pins of the ignition cylinder. Therefore, you can remove the trapped debris by simply inserting and removing the key a couple of times.

Check If the Key Is Bent or Damaged

Sometimes, the key isn’t working because it may be damaged or bent. If the key is bent or damaged, then the chipped teeth may not be able to engage the pins of the ignition cylinder and turn. So, you can either contact the dealership to service the truck or replace the key.

But most importantly, you should ensure that the power steering fluid level is high. Remember, little to zero steering wheel fluid can result in other serious problems.


Can I unlock my steering without a key?

Yes, but first, you must find out the cause of the problem. If the ignition port is clogged by dirt and debris, then you can unclog it using an electrical cleaner, WD40, or canned air. You can also slide the key in and out of the keyhole a couple of times to unclog the keyhole. If the key is damaged or bent, then you can use the spare key or get a replacement.

How do you unlock the steering with a key?

Simply insert the key in the ignition port and turn the key while applying some pressure. Wiggle the steering up and down or left and right while turning the key. Jiggle the key until it unlocks the steering wheel and starts the car.

Why did my car’s steering wheel lock while it was in motion?

If it locks while in motion, then chances are that the power steering wheel fluid is either dirty or the vehicle ran out of power steering wheel fluid. If you’ve been in an accident, then the power steering wheel fluid compartment may be damaged and leaking. This can be quite dangerous, so you may have to replace the power steering fluid tank or repair it.

Does every vehicle come with an ignition lock feature?

No, most modern vehicles come equipped with the feature as a security measure. To activate it, all you have to do is turn the steering wheel after removing the key from the ignition. 

Also, learn how to program a transponder key without the original


The steering wheel can lock anytime, and this can prevent you from controlling the car or even starting it at times. Therefore, it’s crucial that you find out the cause of the problem before you try to resolve the issue. Follow the steps we’ve outlined on how to unlock steering wheel without key, starting with the easy solutions. If none of those work, you may need to use an ignition set replacement.