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My 96 Contour GL steering column locked up after someone tried to straighten the wheels after shutting the car off. I looked it up an this seems to be a very common problem with Fords, but there is no authoritative information on a remedy.

The steering wheel won't move, and the key won't turn. I have tried pulling the wheel over as hard as I could while turning the key, I've tried wiggling the wheel like a maniac, no success.

How do I get this thing unjammed?

  • You've done what I would have suggested. You could try to jack the front end off the ground completely to take the load off of the front steering components. Really, it's the only thing I can think of which might be causing it, unless there was a complete locking failure. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Nov 14 '16 at 12:24
  • @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 it's locked up inside the column, I can't turn it enough to even affect the wheels. – J. Musser Nov 14 '16 at 12:28
  • Sounds like it's time to tear the steering column apart my friend. The locking mechanism is jammed and racking the steering wheel back and forth has no action on it, it's about the only recourse. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Nov 14 '16 at 12:29
  • I see. Wish I knew how/what I was doing 😜 – J. Musser Nov 14 '16 at 12:31
  • @J.Musser, you could try disconnecting the battery. The ESCL is an electric thing, and might unlock when there's no power coming to it. – anonymous2 Nov 14 '16 at 12:33
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You have to force the steering wheel to the left or right to turn the key and unlock the column lock pin.

Since someone tried straightening the wheels the pressure / torsion coming from the tires against the ground is trying to force the steering wheel left or right. This jamms the column steering lock pin making it nearly impossible to turn the ignition. The steering wheel should move atleast a little in one of the 2 directions making it really easy to turn the key and start the car. You can also lift the front end of the car relieving the pressures on the front wheels and it should allow you to turn the key no problem.

Suzuki Samurai ignition and steering lock pin

Above is a pretty standard ignition with the steering lock pin extended. If there is lots of force against this pin, from locking wheels while the tires are pushing into a curb for example, it will be very difficult to turn the key and retract that pin. The only way to release the pressure is to spin the steering wheel into the direction that is generating the pressure. This will relieve the pressure on the lock pin allowing you to turn the key. If the pin is damaged, bent, nicked, etc., then you may need to disassemble the column and remove or replace the pin. These pins are typically spring loaded and that is why they will "click" into place locking the steering if the steering wheel moves to far. It is conceivable that something broke making retracting the pin difficult or impossible while still being able to start the car. In this case the pin will need to be removed replaced or repaired to properly drive the car.

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