Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls
  1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. How Long Does a Steering Column Actuator Last?

How Long Does a Steering Column Actuator Last?

Steering Column Actuator

Modern cars use electronic systems to ensure that the steering wheel locks in place when the key is out of the ignition, and to prevent the key from coming out of the ignition in any gear but park. However, older cars used a mechanical solution called a steering column lock actuator. This was actually a collection of levers and a rod.

If you drive a car manufactured prior to the 1990s, then chances are good that it has a steering column actuator. Essentially, this is a series of levers that is engaged when the ignition key was turned. The levers would move a rod, which would lock the key into position. The key could not be removed, which provided important safety benefits.

Obviously, mechanical steering column actuators are subject to a lot of wear and tear. They’re used every time you turn the ignition key. Because they’re mechanical, there’s the potential for wear to eventually damage the levers or the rod. Rod damage is probably the most common problem. This is particularly true if the actuator system’s lubricant wears off (which is very common, particularly with work trucks and heavily-driven vehicles). When the end of the actuator rod sustains damage, the car might not start, or the key might come out of the ignition in any gear.

While mechanical steering column actuators are rarer than they once were, they’re still in use by some vehicles. Given the importance of this component, you should know a few symptoms to watch for that indicate the actuator is about to fail (or has already failed). These include the following:

  • There is no resistance when you turn the ignition key
  • The engine doesn’t crank when you turn the key (many other problems also have this as a symptom)
  • The key can be removed from the ignition in a gear other than park

If you’re experiencing any of these problems, or you find that your car won’t crank for any reason, you should have the car checked. Have a certified mechanic replace the steering column actuator if necessary, as well as repair any other problem.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
How to Avoid Back Pain in a Car
If you have back problems, sitting in a car for an extended period of time can be excruciating. Even without back problems, you could experience discomfort and soreness from...
Auto Safety Tips
Driving is more than a way to get from point A to point B. Owning and driving a car can also be a highly enjoyable experience. Whether a person is driving...

Related questions

Q: My steering wheel locks up and the car turns off whenever I slow down.

Hi and thanks for contacting YourMechanic. The steering wheel lock solenoid is shorting out when driving the vehicle. To fix this, you will need to disconnect the battery and remove the steering wheel and airbag assembly. Then remove the turn...

Q: Car turns over but shuts off after I release key

Hey there. This type of problem may need a little deeper and up close diagnostic to find the solution. If you saw smoke, there was something burning so there may be components along that circuit that may have failed. If...

Q: Car would not respond when I turned the key...Tried 2 or 3 times same...came back 1/2 hour it is fine.

Hello! An intermittent failure of a start response can be many things - a bad ignition switch, starter solenoid, or in your case - the keys use a "raised-chip" design for security. With years of wear, the key/ignition switch become...