How Steering Wheel Locks Actually Work? – Expert Guide 2021

With the cases of carjackers on the rise, it is important to keep your car safe at all times.

There are various methods to ensure the safety of your vehicle when either parked in public establishments or shared home parking spaces.

In this post, we’ll confine ourselves to the Steering Wheel Locks…

What is Steering Wheel Lock and how does it work?

A steering wheel lock is a mechanism that is put in place to lock your steering wheel in case anyone tries to move the car without putting the key into the ignition.

This mechanism was invented by a Korean War Veteran, James E. Winner Jr.

His military days had inspired him to secure the steering wheels their soldier company’s’ cars with metal chains. This ideally immobilized the vehicle in case anyone tried to make away with it.

It comes in two types: the manual steering wheel lock and the In-built steering wheel lock.

Let’s get to know about each of them better:

Manual Steering Wheel Lock

This device is fixed onto the car's steering wheel. There were varied manufactured designs that resulted from James Winners concept. The first design involved a steel bar being placed over the wheel and brakes making it impossible to steer or brake the car, respectively. This model was known as The Club.

Following designs involved two interlocked pieces laid over the steering wheel with a larger part protruding out and also making it impossible to steer the car.

As of every device, there are critics who don’t believe in the safety that the manual steering wheel locks provide. They claim that professional carjackers have a work around.

 However, not most carjackers are professionals in the least, with most being druggies and joy riders, and this should be put into consideration.

Pros

This device was designed to prevent your car from turning for more than a few degrees in any direction. No one can get far in that.

This device not only acts physically but also visually. Any thief who sees this bar device on the steering wheel would be dissuaded from trying to steal the car but would rather target cars without the instrument.

When these devices started being replaced by inbuilt locks in the UK, there was an influx in car thefts that caused most police to encourage citizens to go back to using the manual steering wheel locks.

Cons

The pitfall that arose from these devices was that they could easily be out maneuvered by use tools such as a hacksaw to cut through the instrument.

This prompted innovations that led to the creation of inbuilt steering wheel locks.


In-built Steering Wheel Lock

Newer car models have an inbuilt steering wheel lock. If you hear a clicking noise when exiting the car and try to move it, but it won’t budge, then your vehicle has it internally installed.

A spring loaded lever is released, and this engages a slot that locks the steering mechanism as soon as any steering action is initiated after the key has been removed.

This lock system not only locks the steering but your key system too. To unlock it you will have to turn the key in the 'on' position while simultaneously slightly moving the wheel in the direction it allows you.

By doing this, the pin that engaged the slot is retracted by the spring back to its tumbler, and this releases the steering mechanism. The key turning should be done gently to avoid breaking it while in the slot.

Pros

You will not have to keep carrying around a piece of metal and continuously locking and unlocking it from your steering wheel and brakes.

It is also designed to prevent your car from turning in more than a few degrees in any direction.

Cons

This inbuilt system just like most features in electric cars can be easily hacked and disengaged.

There is the danger of turning your steering wheel or key too forcefully that may lead to steering damage and key breaks respectively.


NOTE: You don’t have to move the steering wheel after you have removed the key to initiate the lock mechanism. It automatically sets in motion when any steering mechanism is initiated.

This makes it harder to release the lock each time, and if this is a habit, then it may lead to wearing off of the entire mechanism.

Also, in the case of inbuilt steering wheel lock systems that refuse to unlock, you should seek professional help to avoid damaging your car.

Final Thoughts

Both these steering wheel locks have their advantages and disadvantages, but in the long run, steering wheel locks are an excellent addition to your overall car safety system.

It may not be an ideal stand-alone safety feature, but when conjoined with other physical security features, including alarms or even locking your car doors, it should provide the needed protection for your vehicle.

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