We one of the experimentalists* from the physics department fixed our car!
It's almost a pity, because I had just got to the point of feeling smugly superior about "not" having a car anymore. (The "not" is not in unnecessary quotation marks, but rather refers to the sort of not-having that involves owning something that doesn't work.)
There were three separate points in the fixing process where I was totally ready to give up and call the wreckers, but the physicists proved unstoppable:
(1) When we went to get the car out of the garage, and found that as well as the steering lock problem, the battery was flat. I was going to give up then and there, since even if we jump-started it, I wasn't about to drive it for 45 minutes to recharge the battery when the steering could fail at any moment. Geekman convinced me we should do it anyway, though. ("What's the worst that can happen? We die in a horrible accident. Oh well.")
(2) Then after we pried the casing and horn and various electrics off the steering wheel, removing the wheel itself required (yes, I do mean required) beating it hard with a mallet. (Actual warning in the user's manual: "Do not hit the steering wheel with a mallet." That made us feel better about doing so, since we figured they wouldn't have anticipated it if it weren't a reasonable solution.)
(3) When we finally got down to the ignition shaft, it turned out that was done up with screws designed only to be tightened, not loosened. (There was only a ridge for the screwdriver to lock into for turning to the right.) At that point I gave up completely and said, "Well, we tried."
This is apparently an attitude unknown in the physics community. The screw is the wrong shape? We will mutilate it with an electric drill until it is the RIGHT shape!
And they did.
And it was. Eventually. Kind of.
At least, it came off.
And then we removed the thing that we figured must be the steering lock, which was the cause of all the trouble. (Um, anyone know what a steering lock looks like? Is it a small metal block with a couple of springs connecting it to the ignition? I hope so, because that's the bit we took out and threw away.)
And then we put everything back together, hopefully in the right order. We didn't even have any pieces left over! And the car still goes. (Now with no sudden steering failures.)
We rock! Experimentalist guy rocks!
* You can't get theoreticians like Geekman to fix a car, since the first thing they want to do is model it as a sphere, or solve the problem for two dimensions, or for conditions of absolute zero with no gravity.