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I just did mine yesterday. The worst happened: the key suddenly would not turn. No advance warning, except a single instance of the key being a little sticky when turning it. Didn't seem noticeable enough to look it up.
Bad news! I took the assembly out and decided to avoid replacing the entire thing if possible.

I used a Dremel-type tool with a couple of cutoff wheels to detach the black shield over the lock cylinder as seen in photo--I had already begun cutting at the base. Once that detached, there was access to the cylinder and tumblers. It still provided no way to turn and release it, so used a drill down the center of the keyway. Moved to a larger bit until I could start to extract the tumbler wafers with needlenose pliers.

While the assembly looks damaged in the photo, it's cosmetic only.
Now I'll find a new cylinder/key and reinstall. The old black cylindrical housing that was cut off will be refitted with some double-sided foam tape. It won't be as impervious to theft, but will still be very hard to access. And no thief will know that.

Meanwhile, I reassembled everything. I use the key for its transponder, but start the car with a flat head screwdriver. My other car is broken, so I'm using this as a daily driver. It's ugly, but should only be couple of days until the new cylinder arrives.
 

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Crank the Wheel to the Right!

My wife has a 2003 SLK230. Her ignition is increasingly getting hard to turn the ignition. In fact, it will only turn if you crank the wheel all the way to the right until the steering column engages the ignition mechanism allowing the ignition to turn freely. Is this normal or is there an adjustment that can be made to free the ignition mechanism?
 

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After having had the assembly apart, I would doubt the steering lock is the problem--it is a fairly simple mechanism. Rather, it's the lock cylinder itself, which is historically weak and prone to failure. I spent hours yesterday researching this. If there is ANY resistance turning the key at all, assume it's failing.

There's a simple way to remove the cylinder itself as long as the key still turns. Once it stops turning, you are in a world of trouble, as is evidenced by what I went through yesterday.

By the way, I ordered a new cylinder with a key on Ebay for $22 shipped. I will evaluate and report in a few days. Note: the key is the coded blade only, NOT with the fob or transponder. I will continue using the existing fob/transponder but with an ignition key added. Not ideal, but considering the $ difference, I'll endure an extra key for a while.
 

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Pretty much finished.
The new key cylinder is OEM Mercedes, and came with a regular key.
I installed it in about 20 seconds--just insert and turn.
The RFID chip is a challenge. It has to be very close to the receiver to work.
I disassembled the key fob enough to remove the RFID chip, then snapped it back together.
I will make a hole or slot in the black plastic bezel by the RFID receiver and glue the chip in.
I have temporarily glued and taped the rfid chip to the new key, and it works great.
Total cost was $22, but a lot of trial and error. Now I will look for some place that will duplicate the Mercedes key. The local Ace hardware says they can do it, but need a blank.
 

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Just did this on my car ...

I had this problem for a while and kinda ignored it for a few month , but it started to get worse and when I did some research I new that my "turning key" days are numbered. I ordered the locking cylinder through the mercedes diller with the original key and it turned out to be cheeper then if I were to do it online. They delivered it next day too.
Removing the locking cylinder was easy once key was turned to position one. I was able to just turn it 90 degrees by hand without any special tool. The trick was to try to turn it while slightly jiggling the key around #1 position.
Unfortunately , after I put the brand new lock cylinder and pulled out the key it stopped to turn on me at all. This is where real trouble started... I had to replace the ignition housing without getting it to turn to #1 position.

I was following various links including this post and pdf writeup with pictures in post 189:
Sticky Ignition Key Fix!! - Page 10 - CrossfireForum.org
I used a grind stone with dremel to cut down the pin and pull out the housing as recommended here. When I took out the ignition housing I had my new lock cylinder still inside , so I needed to take it out somehow. Since I had new housing already I just used the method described here http://www.justanswer.com/mercedes/4xmwy-mercedes-benz-slk-230-unlock-steering-lock.html and cut the housing in two pieces. The key turned right away and I pulled out the cylinder and the cup. When I installed the new housing there was a bit of a scare when I tried to start the car first time. It would turn and then shut down with "start error". This was fixed with just locking and unlocking the car using remote. The engine started right away on the second time.
 

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I've been there too and I solved the issue by taking the car to the dealer and then he replaced all necessary parts. Around 200 euros for the job... I don't recall exactly as it's been a while...
 

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steering lock pin

Jeff, how did you get access to steering lock pin? It looks like it is behind the steering wheel.
 
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