Date registered: Feb 2006
Vehicle: 2002 ML 320
Location: Menlo Park, CA
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RE: Can't get a duplicate key/remote? 1998 ML320
Just experienced the same sad story on a 98 ML-320 we sold to a friend ! Our friend had the car towed in after her second key (of the two we provided with the car) stopped working. Turns out it was the last (8th) key rail, so car needed to be rekeyed and have AAM replaced (to the tune of 4K$. Two discoveries.
1) Know how many keys (or in Mercedes talk, "key rails") have been exhausted on a pre-owned car befor you buy. We bought ours from "pre-owned" from dealer in 1998, where previous owner was owner of dealership. We should have suspected key weirdnees as dealer replaced two keys under warranty when we took delivery of car. We had service dept. do VMI report after the repalcement and it turns out there were two key replacements (of 2 keys each) before we even bought the car from dealer. According to service advisor, we bought the car on "starting at key rail number 6". I complained to both the dealership and Mercedes Benz USA about lack of disclosure and was informed that that dealer is under NO OBLIGATION to share this information when selling the car. So much for the quality that Benz aspires to.
2) 97-99 models have special problems - apparently these models have incompatible engine control/immobilizer electronics (AAMs) with newer key replacement sets. Somewhere on this board someone has posted the actual service bulletin from Mercedes. Suspicious or not, it appears that Mercedes USA backs this forced upgrade of AAMs when the 97-99 models are re-keyed, that runs up cost from 1.2K$ to 4K$.
I'm still fighting this one with both the dealer who sold me the car (for selling us car with known key troubles and virtually no replacement keys left) and Mercedes USA (for defective design that forces expensive upgrade). The service dealer has already agreed to drop pricing by 1K (no labor, parts at insider cost), but I'm still not satisfied.
Good Luck - glad I bought 2002 new and have had no key issues.