Taking care of your car is one of the most tedious yet most rewarding aspects there is to having a car. Apart from regular cleaning of the exterior and interior parts of the car by taking it to the car wash, as well as taking it to a drive on a regular basis to prevent its internal gears from rusting away or having the oiled parts harden, you also have to take it to a special service center for its brand probably once or twice annually just so that it could be checked for anything wrong.

Speaking of something wrong, one of the usual troubles people may encounter would have to be failure of ignition tumblers, or the part of the car that gets the engines moving. Having said that, while ignition tumblers are important as they prevent the steering wheel from unlocking, which is an important safety and security feature found in cars. While inserting the key in the slot assigned for it in the ignition tumbler would work, there are instances wherein it just won’t, hence preventing you from being able to drive your car. If you’re faced with this problem, here are some ways on how to unlock a steering wheel.


Things you need

Before you attempt on unlocking your steering wheel, the following items would most definitely be important:


This is the single, most important item for you to get before you unlock a steering wheel that’s stuck. Basically, you just would not be able to move on and test any further without them. Always double check on whether or not you’re bringing the right keys for your car, and that it is in the best condition, and not it is in any way damaged, or brittle, as it could get stuck in the keyhole and lead to many more problems.

things you need

Electrical Cleaner

One of the reasons why ignition tumblers leave the steering wheel locked is that they are lodged with too much dirt and hardened oil. Unlike other parts of the car, you can’t actually clean the ignition tumbler with plain old soap and water. In order for this to actually work out, you would need an electrical cleaner or whatever brand that gets rid of all the unnecessary dirt and grime which may have already abounded in the cylinder. It makes use of gaseous compounds and high pressure, both of which are “friendly” on electronics. You could also make use of liquid graphite for this.

Things you need


Allen Wrench

Allen Wrenches are small metallic wrenches that are usually used to dislodge or remove the entire ignition cylinder or tumbler from its intended slot. If you are to replace the entire ignition all on your own, then you ought to have this handy. Allen Wrenches are also called hex keys, and are characterized by having long handles with a bend towards the end. It’s hexagonal in shape, and is used to remove screws and bolts, therefore, in the shape of a hexagon. These usually come in various circumferences, hence is usually bought in a set. Given that these are small, you need not worry about having to bring the entire set to find the perfect fit to remove the ignition cylinder.

Things you need


How to Unlock your Steering Wheel

How to Unlock your Steering Wheel

#1: Check if Cylinder Would Turn

This is the first thing to do in order for you to be able to check on whether or not the steering wheel is actually locked, or maybe it would just need a slightly harder turn of the key. Apply gentle yet firm pressure, slightly more than you normally would whenever you’re about to start your car. Before you slide it in, make sure that the keys are in optimal condition, and are hence, not bent, frail, or showing any signs of deterioration. If it gets too hard though, don’t turn it too much, but instead, go to the next step. If your steering wheel gets unlocked after this, then there is no need to proceed to any of the steps below.

#2: Turn Key and Wheel Simultaneously

This is one of the tricky steps you can do, given that it takes time and proper practice in order for you to get things done. Despite this, though this is one of the most effective means in order for you to unlock your steering wheel. Having a key in the ignition cylinder would allow you to turn it in just one direction. Having said that, you ought to discover which direction this is, and while you turn the key inside the ignition cylinder, turn the wheel to this side as well. There will eventually come a time when the steering wheel would be unlocked.

2. Turn Key and Wheel Simultaneously

#3: Spray a Little Electrical Cleaner

There are certain instances when the keyhole that leads to the interior has grease which may have hardened, or might have accumulated dust after several years of use and no maintenance. This could be understood given that this part is the one which is not given much attention to, and would only tend to raise concerns the moment the steering wheel gets unlocked. Also, you ought to keep in mind that you must only spray a little bit, and you have to spray it in no other area but the interior of the key hole.

#4: Insert the Key In and Out Alternately

Should any of the steps that were mentioned above still not work, then one of the things you could most definitely do is to insert the key in and out alternately. This process would enable you to check on whether it’s the key, and not the steering wheel or any other parts that would have to be replaced. In order for you to do this, simply insert the key in various depths, and turn as you do so. If your steering wheel would unlock when the key is not fully inserted, it simply means that you ought to change the keys.

#5: Insert Allen Wrench into Release Hole, turn Ignition Key to the Opposite Side

This would often be the last resort in order for you to get your steering wheel unlocked. The mechanism of the unlocking of the steering wheel is the one which is heavily dependent on the functionality of the ignition cylinder. This, therefore means that a defective one would result in a non-functional or locked steering wheel as well. Doing all of the steps above are prerequisites in order for the cylinder to be effectively removed, and ultimately replaced. While you can do this on your own, following certain tutorials, you could always check your car into a service center in order for them to get the job done on your behalf.


Before you start fixing things, it’s normal for people to get irritated and impatient over having a locked steering wheel. Despite this though, it’s important that we still make it a point to take good care of the car items, and not violently rock the steering wheel, or force it into a direction where it does not turn smoothly. Also, don’t risk replacing the ignition cylinder on your own, as both of these actions would most definitely result in further damage, and consequently would cause you to incur higher costs when it comes to repair and maintenance. You can check this video, if you want to know and see how unlocking a steering wheel looks and feels like.

If you have some questions about or suggestions for this article, kindly leave them in the comments section. You can also share this article with your friends and family if you liked it!

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Chief editor at Paul's Gigantic Garage. I came up with this blog to help you to sort out some basic problems your car may be facing and in turn, save lots of cash by some of my DIY tips that I hope will get your car out of its current situation. I also had in mind motor enthusiasts who for the love of cars who are constantly looking for information about cars on the latest trends, questions, fixes, driving, tricks, and accessories.


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