Things to Know If Your Car's Steering Locks Up - information from the the pros at Shingle Springs Subaru serving Sacramento, CA

A sudden lack of steering wheel response can be a dismaying, even frightening problem. Luckily, these problems are not only rare, they often have common and affordable solutions. Just consult with the professionals at the Shingle Springs Subaru service department! We count factory-trained Subaru experts among our service team. That means nobody is more qualified to care for your vehicle than we are.

Below, we've compiled a list of the four most common reasons your steering wheel beings to lock up or bind on you. This may happen while you're driving, but it can even happen while your car is parked and the engine is off. If you need further assistance, don't hesitate to give us a call. A friendly service advisor will be happy to address any questions or concerns.

Woman Turning Steering Wheel

4. Steering Wheel Has Locked Up While Parked (Ignition Lock)

Many modern cars with turn-key ignitions are equipped with an ignition lock feature. To activate this feature, turn the wheel after the key has been removed from the ignition. This will engage a locking bolt that prevents the vehicle's steering wheel from being turned in the absence of a key. This is a handy anti-theft feature. Even if a would-be thief could get the engine started, they couldn't operate the vehicle as the steering wheel won't budge.

This can create an alarming situation if you've inadvertently activated the steering lock and you're unfamiliar with this feature. To deactivate the lock, turn the key in the ignition -- be aware that in most cases there will be a great amount of tension on the lock cylinder that can prevent the key from being turned. To release this tension, turn the steering wheel slightly. It should be able to move a little bit in at least one direction. This will release the tension on the lock, so you can turn the key and the lock cylinder will disengage.

Keep in mind, you might accidentally activate the steering lock if you use the steering wheel to help you enter or exit the vehicle.

Power Steering Rack

3. Steering Wheel Locks While Driving (Steering Linkage Failure)

While so rare it's practically unheard of, it's possible that a sudden breakage in the steering mechanics like the steering column or the steering arms could cause the vehicle's steering to suddenly lock up. If this happens, do what you can to bring the vehicle safely to a stop, and get a tow to a reputable, authorized Subaru service center.

In most cases, however, a sudden lack of steering response won't be complete. You'll still be able to turn the wheel a bit with great effort, but it'll be difficult due to a failure in the power steering system.

2. Steering Wheel Binds While Driving (Low Power Steering Fluid)

If your steering wheel locks up while the car is in motion, perhaps the most likely culprit is a lack of power steering fluid, or dirty power steering fluid.

Especially at lower speeds like parking lot maneuvers, the power steering system allows you to turn the wheels with ease. If this system malfunctions, you might not feel much of a difference when cruising, but the car could become difficult to steer at lower speeds. If damage has caused the system to spring a leak, this could lead to a lack of fluid pressure in the system. Additionally, the power steering fluid may need to be changed if it has become excessively dirty. If the fluid simply isn't circulating through the system properly, you may require a new power steering pump.

SUV Towed On Flatbed

1. Steering Wheel Binds In One Direction (Power Steering Issues)

If you find that your steering wheel locks up when attempting to turn in a particular direction, or at a particular point in the steering wheel's travel, that tells us that you have power steering problems as well. However, this time since the system seems to be working in the other direction, the power steering fluid may not be the issue. You may have a mechanical problem with the power steering system itself. It could be a bad power steering rack, or it could be that the internals of the rack are clogged up.

Of course, a mechanic may suggest a power steering fluid change before performing the more extensive work of replacing a bad power steering rack. Clean power steering fluid can often free up binding parts in the power steering system.

Shingle Springs Subaru

4045 Wild Chaparral Dr
Directions Shingle Springs, CA 95682

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