What is a steering lock?

When talking about steering wheel locks, we're specifically talking about the factory units, not the aftermarket accessory. For traditional keyed vehicles, these are located near the ignition lock, cars with smart keys usually have the unit located near the base of the steering column. They come as both mechanical and electronic versions depending on the exact vehicle model and are a known point of failure on a lot of vehicles. Once the factory units have failed, they can stop you from starting your vehicle, or even from stopping your vehicle.

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What is the difference between a mechanical and electronic Steering Lock?

Here we give an example of each.

The most regularly replaced mechanical steering lock we do is the Volkswagen 1K and 6R steering lock used across most models which aren't push-button start from about 2003 to the present day. Some small parts break off inside the sealed area of the lock assembly preventing the main spindle from turning freely which can make the vehicle extremely difficult to start or even turn off. We replace these with brand new units, retaining the original ignition key.

Electronic units are a bit more varied, but all have the same faults of electric motors burning out. However, the most egregious example is the Mercedes Benz 204/207/212 steering wheel lock which has a severely undersized electric motor to move the bolt and an internal failure counter inside the microcontroller that runs the unit, if the unit detects too many failures or the electric motor inside burns out entirely the vehicle will not start, or even turn the dash lights on despite the key turning in the ignition lock.

These two examples cover the two most common faulty steering locks we see, however, we service to repair or replace these systems on other makes and models as well.

Replacement of the Mercedes Benz Electronic Steering Lock

We replace these with a customer choice of either a refurbished unit (new electric motor and microcontroller with its failure count reset to the factory settings of zero) or with what is called an emulator (a piece of electronics that mimics the function of the original part but does not have the mechanical lock). The issue with emulators is the car cannot be sold again in Victoria as for a roadworthy certificate the steering lock must function as was originally designed. We replace the units in line with Mercedes-Benz procedures which is more time consuming but Lightning Locksmiths have a policy of when possible doing things as close to the original manufacturer specification.

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