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How to Unlock Steering Wheel without Key – 5 DIY Fixes!

How to Unlock Steering Wheel without Key
Last Updated on Aug 16, 2023 By Paul Lucas

It’s great to have a push-to-start ignition but it can sometimes be tricky to unlock the steering wheel.

Although your engine may not be working, you may have to unlock the steering wheel in some circumstances. For instance, if you need your car towed.

Here we’ll help you with several ways to unlock your steering wheel without a key.

Why Does the Steering Wheel Lock?

Mechanical failure

A bad steering rack can cause this problem, either due to mechanical failure or dirt clogging it.

No power steering fluid

A low-power steering fluid could also cause the issue, but it’s unlikely if the steering wheel still functions.

Anti-theft feature

Cars with anti-theft features prevent the steering wheel from moving or being tuned. This means the car cannot be stolen.

Taking sharp turns

In addition, drivers who frequently make sharp turns can cause their steering wheel to lock up.  Steering wheels can end up locking up if you make multiple sharp turns all at once.

How To Unlock Steering Wheel Without Key

Unlock Steering Wheel Without Key

Things you need

  • WD40
  • Screwdrivers
  • Chisel
  • Canned air
  • Spare key
  • Channel-lock pliers

Method 1: Unlocking it on your own

Try WD40

Occasionally, foreign objects or dirt can cause your wheels to lock. WD40 can help you remove the dirt stuck in the lock, so spray it on, and it will work. It must be turned back and forth after spraying then the lock should open.

Try a spare key

Switching to another key is an option if your primary key fails. A faulty master key can occur for many reasons: a faulty battery, a long essential use period, etc. In most cases, backup keys are not provided by manufacturers. Therefore, it is a good idea to get one duplicated yourself.

Retrofit shower heads

There is only one thing you need: a showerhead retrofit plate. Slip it under the lockplate, screw in both ends, then drive it off.

Method 2: Use channel lock pliers and flathead screwdriver

Channel-lock pliers, flat-blade screwdriver, and a pick are needed.

Step1: You need to tap your screwdriver into the key port using the channel locks.

Step 2: With a firm but smooth motion, you need to twist the screwdriver using your channel locks.

Step 3: The aluminum inside will break. Pull out the cylinder and screwdriver by pushing the detent on the bottom with a pick. It should only take a few seconds. Generally, the cylinders snap first, then the column.

Method 3: Unlock by loosening sticky locks

The liquid level of the power steering pump must be checked carefully while performing this method.

Step 1:

Spray the lock with cleaner.

Step 2:

Using canned air, spray the lock with it. The debris and dirt will be removed.

Step 3:

Turn it over several times with the key until your steering wheel lock opens up.

Some keys may be damaged that will make connecting a key to a steering wheel impossible. Change the key or contact a service agent.

Method 4: Replace the ignition set

Take out the columns

Get rid of the steering wheel panels. Loosen off the screws that hold the lower portion of the wheel. The lower part of the cover will easily pop out when you press its tabs.

Do the same for the upper part.

 Release the lock cylinder

Identify the lock release tab in the ignition lock system and release the lock cylinder. Simply press the key and move the cylinder mover backward by turning the key.

You need to try this several times before the cylinder frees up.

Replace the ignition lock with the new one

You can retry the old key after installing the new ignition-lock system.

Plug the lock cylinder in the same way as before. Make sure the lock tab is securely attached to the lock cylinder to move forward.

See if the key turns fully before you set the columns back.

Install the new columns

Replace the columns; start with the upper part, then move to the lower.

Check the clips to make sure they are locked well. Tighten everything tightly.

This is all about unlocking a steering wheel without a key using the second method.

How To Unlock a Keyless Ignition Steering Wheel With a Dead Battery

Don’t step on the brakes

It won’t hurt the car if you do this. However, it will not help if you press the brake until you jump the car first.

Activate the Ignition Button

You should be able to have accessories mode on and be able to unlock the steering wheel.

This is because the steering wheel lock is a mechanical mechanism instead of an electronic one.

Turn Your Steering Wheel

The lock can be disengaged by turning it centered or back and forth to one side. It may help to simultaneously press the ignition button while doing this in some cases.

Don’t damage anything by being too harsh and forceful.

Quick Tips on How To Unlock the Steering Wheel

Read over the manual first

Before carrying out any work on your car, ensure you read the manual first. It can contain vital information that can be essential to know.

Always do maintenance checks

Sometimes a locked steering wheel can be a problem with something.

Check over everything first so you can eliminate everything before getting started on unlocking the steering wheel.

Call for help if you’re in a tight spot on the road

If you’re stranded somewhere with a locked steering wheel, you may not have the tools or equipment needed to complete a DIY job.

This is where professional mechanics can come to your location and solve the problem.

Never unlock other’s steering wheel

Never use any of these tips and DIY methods to unlock someone else’s car.

It is illegal to attempt to open another car that isn’t yours. You can also risk causing damage if you do something wrong.

Don’t try to fix if the problem is something else

If it seems the problem is caused by something else, it is best to leave the job to the pros if you don’t have the skills and experience to carry out the job yourself.


Q. What can I do if my wheel locks up when I’m driving?

Usually, it’s caused by either a suspension issue or a steering rack issue. Try to gently and safely brake while keeping the wheel turning. Make sure that you put your hazard lights on and do your best to move away from traffic.

Q. Why are modern car keys more expensive to replace?

The cost of auto keys increases as technology advances. Simple keys and fobs aren’t complicated mechanically and can be replicated easily with relatively simple tools and machines.

But these days, keys can be programmed with codes and transmitters. Since the actual hardware is more expensive, it takes longer to duplicate them.

About the author

Paul Lucas

I grew up in a classic car-oriented family, and was taught how to differentiate between a Ford and a Chevy by my dad when I was just five years old! With special feelings for anything Italian, I enjoy driving and restoring old cars.

Over the years, I became tired of those cookie-cutter auto blogs that copy content from each other and decided to take matters into my own hands! So, I am here to bring you the latest auto industry news, tech innovations, the hottest cars and their specs, reviews, test drives, tuning, and more.

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