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Old 07-18-2022, 07:53 AM   #1
SailinAway
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Default How to avoid locking steering wheel on hill

In the summer I park my car in my driveway under a tree. The driveway is somewhat steep. Yesterday I turned the steering wheel all the way to the left so if the parking brake fails the car will head across the lawn rather than down the driveway. The steering wheel locked so hard that I had a very hard time getting it unlocked. I believe there's a danger of breaking some pin if you turn the steering wheel too hard. My understanding is that this problem is caused by stress on the steering wheel from the combination of turning the wheels and the weight of the car on a hill?

Is there any way to avoid locking the steering wheel so tight?

Apparently people also tend to unintentionally lock the steering wheel by gripping it to help them get out of the car.
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Old 07-18-2022, 08:04 AM   #2
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In the summer I park my car in my driveway under a tree. The driveway is somewhat steep. Yesterday I turned the steering wheel all the way to the left so if the parking brake fails the car will head across the lawn rather than down the driveway. The steering wheel locked so hard that I had a very hard time getting it unlocked. I believe there's a danger of breaking some pin if you turn the steering wheel too hard. My understanding is that this problem is caused by stress on the steering wheel from the combination of turning the wheels and the weight of the car on a hill?

Is there any way to avoid locking the steering wheel so tight?

Apparently people also tend to unintentionally lock the steering wheel by gripping it to help them get out of the car.
Before putting your car in park, keep your foot on the brake, engage the emergency brake, then put your car in park. This will remove any tension you have on the steering wheel column and drive train.

Dan
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Old 07-18-2022, 08:57 AM   #3
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Before putting your car in park, keep your foot on the brake, engage the emergency brake, then put your car in park. This will remove any tension you have on the steering wheel column and drive train
Thanks, Dan! I think I habitually put the car in park and then set the emergency brake. I can see how that could increase the tension on the drive train.
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Old 07-18-2022, 05:50 PM   #4
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Before putting your car in park, keep your foot on the brake, engage the emergency brake, then put your car in park. This will remove any tension you have on the steering wheel column and drive train.

Dan
Yes. I also have a steep driveway and set the brake with foot on. Then, shift to neutral, check that it's holding and then to park.
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Old 07-18-2022, 07:20 PM   #5
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Before putting your car in park, keep your foot on the brake, engage the emergency brake, then put your car in park. This will remove any tension you have on the steering wheel column and drive train.

Dan
BTW, this also useful when hooking up to a trailer on a grade. So you back up looking at the camera display until the hitch ball is just below to coupler. Tap the brakes and hit park and take your foot off the brake. Crap, the truck moved 2" as park was engaged.

OK next try, when the truck position is just right, foot on the brake and engage the parking brake. Then go for park. Wow, the truck does not move.

Alan
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Old 07-18-2022, 07:49 PM   #6
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Crap, the truck moved 2" as park was engaged.
So that 2" of movement transfers the weight of the vehicle to what, exactly? And why is the problem of the locked steering wheel worse when the wheels are turned hard to one side?

Also, what is exactly this "pin" that can break if you turn the steering wheel too hard? I had to put a frightening amount of pressure on the steering wheel to unlock the ignition.

One thing that may have helped (not sure) is that I started the car remotely to see what would happen. That seemed to make a tiny improvement that worked, no idea why.
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Old 07-18-2022, 09:54 PM   #7
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If you turn the wheel hard one way or the other to avoid a roll-away incident (I do this too), just make sure you didn't turn it 100% all the way, turn it back slightly. Then, if you do find it bound up when you try to turn the key, just turn the wheel slightly as you turn the key, that relieves the tension so the key will turn easily. Don't ever force the key, use the wheel to relieve the tension. Nothing will be damaged doing this.

Your comment about some people unlocking the wheel by accident when getting out of the car ... that can't happen if the key has been removed.
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Old 07-18-2022, 10:47 PM   #8
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If you turn the wheel hard one way or the other to avoid a roll-away incident (I do this too), just make sure you didn't turn it 100% all the way, turn it back slightly. Then, if you do find it bound up when you try to turn the key, just turn the wheel slightly as you turn the key, that relieves the tension so the key will turn easily. Don't ever force the key, use the wheel to relieve the tension. Nothing will be damaged doing this.

Your comment about some people unlocking the wheel by accident when getting out of the car ... that can't happen if the key has been removed.
Seriously, there was zero play in the steering wheel, and then only minute play after I started the car from outside, like 1/32". I meant that people LOCK the steering wheel unintentionally by grabbing it when getting out of the car.
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Old 07-18-2022, 11:05 PM   #9
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Seriously, there was zero play in the steering wheel, and then only minute play after I started the car from outside, like 1/32". I meant that people LOCK the steering wheel unintentionally by grabbing it when getting out of the car.
I know what you mean, I've experienced that too, seems like the wheel will barely turn. I guess if you can't turn it enough to relieve the pressure, use the e-brake suggestions above.
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Old 07-19-2022, 11:43 AM   #10
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So that 2" of movement transfers the weight of the vehicle to what, exactly?
The parking pawl in your transmission. A little bit of metal designed for that function.
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And why is the problem of the locked steering wheel worse when the wheels are turned hard to one side?

Also, what is exactly this "pin" that can break if you turn the steering wheel too hard? I had to put a frightening amount of pressure on the steering wheel to unlock the ignition.
It's an anti-theft device intended to keep the steering wheel locked if the car is "hotwired" and started by some method other than turning the key switch. In the grand scheme of things, it's a weak mechanism. I've had to (legally) hotwire a car before when a friend lost their keys. A little bit of force ont he steering wheel breaks the pins, then a few back-and-forth turns of the wheel freed up any remaining bits of the interlock and the wheel moved freely.

The force is worse when your wheels are turned because the pin drops into position once the ignition is turned off. If that pin drops and then there is force on the steering wheel from the car coasting a bit you cause it to bind up. When the wheels are straight if the car moves that movement is not also trying to turn the steering wheel, so there is no binding.
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One thing that may have helped (not sure) is that I started the car remotely to see what would happen. That seemed to make a tiny improvement that worked, no idea why.
Your power steering pump was being driven by the engine, giving you assistive force in turning the wheel.
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Old 07-19-2022, 12:25 PM   #11
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I've had to (legally) hotwire a car before when a friend lost their keys. A little bit of force ont he steering wheel breaks the pins, then a few back-and-forth turns of the wheel freed up any remaining bits of the interlock and the wheel moved freely.
Dangerous to drive a car more than 10 ft. after doing that.

AAA or any other road service can get into a car in 90 seconds. I can't imagine intentionally breaking a wheel lock pin. JMO
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Old 07-19-2022, 09:33 PM   #12
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Are there cases where it's impossible to unlock the steering wheel? What happens then?
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Old 07-19-2022, 09:45 PM   #13
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brk-Int, thanks for educating me about the parking pawl, which I had never heard of. I found this:

"Most vehicle manufacturers and auto mechanics do not recommend using the transmission's parking pawl as the sole means of securing a parked vehicle, instead recommending it should only be engaged after first applying the vehicle's parking brake. Constant use of only the parking pawl, especially when parking on a steep incline, means that driveline components, and transmission internals, are kept constantly under stress, and can cause wear and eventual failure of the parking pawl or transmission linkage. The pawl might also fail or break if the vehicle is pushed with sufficient force if the parking brake is not firmly engaged."

I was once awakened by a call from the police at 6:00 a.m. telling me I'd better get outside pronto. My car had rolled down the driveway. It would have crossed the road and gone over the embankment on the other side were it not for the whiskey barrel planter I had just placed at the bottom of the driveway the day before! The car went up over the barrel which stopped it. No damage to the car. This is why I take the steep driveway seriously.
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Old 07-20-2022, 12:47 PM   #14
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Dangerous to drive a car more than 10 ft. after doing that.

AAA or any other road service can get into a car in 90 seconds. I can't imagine intentionally breaking a wheel lock pin. JMO
Imagine being a broke college student at 4PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and wanting to get on the road for the 3 hour drive home.

The car was a beater Escort whose value at any given time was primarily derived from the fill level of the fuel tank (and then at 1991 gas prices).

The car was not more dangerous to drive after this than it was at any other random point.
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Old 07-20-2022, 04:45 PM   #15
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Imagine being a broke college student at 4PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and wanting to get on the road for the 3 hour drive home.

The car was a beater Escort whose value at any given time was primarily derived from the fill level of the fuel tank (and then at 1991 gas prices).

The car was not more dangerous to drive after this than it was at any other random point.
I get that, and can picture being in the same situation. I was driving a beater in my college years and had some epic side of the road situations, so totally understand.

I guess mostly I didn't want anyone to think it was ok to break the wheel lock pin and drive away, definitely the potential for bad things to happen.
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Old 07-29-2022, 09:07 PM   #16
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Update: I followed the suggestions here for the last 10 days and the problem has not happened again. Thanks to all!
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