How does a steering column lock work?

Updated February 21, 2017

A steering column lock is an antitheft device that prevents a vehicle from being driven after it's been started. While there are many models on the market, most column locks are installed in the same general manner. When engaged, the lock keeps the column in place and blocks movement of the steering wheel, column gear lever and ignition module.

Types of Locks

Some locks are hinged and fit around the top of a steering column like a collar. When locked, the mechanism also fits around the shifter, preventing it from being shifted into gear. Other types of locks fit over the steering column and cover the ignition assembly and block the steering wheel from being turned.

Some late model cars are equipped with factory-made column locks in some option packages.


Installing a steering column lock involves finding a model that will fit a particular vehicle. The unit is opened and placed around the steering column, encasing the gear shifter and ignition mechanism. Most locks fit flush with the back of the steering wheel and tightly against the steering column. Special keys are used to engage the lock and remove the unit.

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About the Author

Jim Hagerty is a writer and journalist who began writing professionally in 1996. He has had articles published in the "Rock River Times," "Builder's Journal" and various websites. He earned a Bachelor of Science in public relations and journalism from Northern Michigan University in Marquette.