I suspect it didn't lock up as it does when you remove the key, because that would be a major safety issue and lawsuit material. I suspect you simply lost power steering, especially since you said it "came back". To be clear, you will never lose steering ability when you lose power steering assist. The steering wheel just gets very hard to turn. Some people assume there is no steering control possible when power steering is lost so they just give up trying and crash. If that applies to you, practice shutting the engine off while driving through a deserted parking lot and work the steering to see what it feels like. Everyone loses power steering when an engine stalls and they have to coast to the side of the road. If the steering actually locked, as some people think, they'd all end up in the ditch or splattered on the front of a semi truck!
Intermittent loss of power steering assist used to be common in the '80s and '90s, especially with GM front-wheel-drive cars. It wasn't as common on Chrysler products but it happens to all brands and models with rack and pinion steering gear assemblies. To happen on your car being so new and with such low miles, I'd more likely suspect snow got impacted on the serpentine belt and it was slipping over the power steering pump pulley. If the belt is tight and dry, ask at the dealership if there are any related service bulletins. We had one many years ago that only pertained to diesel trucks, but it required us to change to a special cold-weather power steering fluid. That won't solve a slipping belt but that problem wasn't belt-related.
If the problem occurs again, make observations about any potential clues. Note whether the power assist comes back if you raise engine speed slightly. If it does, you may have a weak power steering pump, but that typically happens at very high mileages.
Saturday, December 29th, 2012 AT 9:33 PM