Things to Know if Your Car's Steering Locks Up - Subaru Service Questions in Olympia, WA

It's hard to overstate just how important the steering wheel is in your drive. Since its importance goes without saying, it should also be clear that any problem with the steering wheel deserves immediate attention. On this service information page from Hanson Subaru, you'll find four common complaints about the steering wheel.

Person turning key in ignition

4. Steering Wheel Is Locked & Key Won't Turn in Ignition

If the steering wheel is locked up when you try to start your car, it's almost certainly due to a safety feature designed to prevent your car from being stolen by means of hotwiring. If a thief attempts to hotwire your car and turns the wheel when the key is not in the ignition, the wheel will lock up. As useful as this is, the safety feature can be inadvertently armed if you bump the wheel while getting in or out of the vehicle.

This is an incredibly easy fix. First, insert your key into the ignition. Then, gently turn the steering wheel as you attempt to turn the key. This should get the steering wheel unlocked quickly. If not, it's a good idea to call the dealership.

Electronic power steering system

3. The Steering Wheel Is Hard To Turn

We've talked about steering wheels that are locked up when your car is parked, but what happens when the steering wheel suddenly becomes incredibly difficult to turn while you're driving? This is probably due to the power steering system. Power steering is standard on modern vehicles, and it helps you turn the wheel smoothly and without feeling like you're lifting weights on every curve. The power steering system has several components that could fail, including the power steering pump. In addition, the power steering fluid could be leaking, causing the system not to function as it should. If you notice this problem while you're traveling at speed, we recommend doing your best to pull to the side of the road as soon as you can to call for a tow truck. If you're going fast enough, the momentum will help you steer.

Now that we've talked about steering wheels that won't move when they should, we'll move to steering wheels that move when they shouldn't!

2. The Steering Wheel Pulls to the Right or Left While Driving

A steering wheel that pulls to one side or the other can be irritating, to be sure--but it can also be dangerous. If your attention is temporarily away from correcting the wheel's course, you may begin to drift into another lane or a ditch on the side of the road. There are several possible causes of this problem. Your tires may be overinflated or underinflated, or your brakes may have a stuck caliper that creates a pull to one side. But perhaps the most common reason is that your wheels are out of alignment. In addition to the danger of a steering wheel that pulls to the side, misalignment can cause uneven wear on the tires if left untreated long enough.

Person turning steering wheel

1. Steering Wheel Vibration

While the Beach Boys assured us that you can pick up good vibrations, there are also bad vibrations--like those that you can feel in your steering wheel. Noticing when the steering wheel vibrates can help you figure out the potential cause. If your steering wheel vibrates when you brake, it's possible that the brake rotors have become uneven and warped. Vibration that only manifests itself when you turn the car could be caused by trouble with the power steering pump, or it could be a loose wheel bearing. And if the steering wheel vibrates all the time, the wheels may be misaligned, the tires could be improperly balanced, or the suspension could have trouble. The common thread among these three types of vibration? All three need to be addressed immediately.