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Discussion Starter #1
Help. I beseech you. Someone. Anyone. My 1980 300D has the dreaded ignition-key-won't-turn syndrome. Steering wheel can be rocked back and forth, key only turns but a bit. Been told I should have fixed this before, have had no problems with key until now. AAA won't send anyone out to pick the lock - say it is a dealer only situation. Local dealership has spotty record of repair regarding our classic W123's. Local mechanic quotes $650-750 to get tumber out. Local 'Mercedes Key Expert' via telephone - without examining car - tells me it's not the tumbler, it's the steering wheel lock. What's up with that? Tried jiggling key for some time, hear clacking/clicking sounds from cylinder/tumbler, no turning. Will inserting large screwdriver into slot and turning to position 1 enable removal of cylinder/tumber destroy cylinder/tumbler but allow for replacement, or ruin entire assembly? Will drilling cylinder/tumber produce results to replace cylinder/tumbler without ruining housing? Would like to avoid removing instruments, dropping steering wheel, etc. Wheels of car straight ahead, no pressure on steering, car on level ground in friend's underground condo, need to get out of space.
 

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I don't know if you have access to shop air and an air hammer... I've used this technique many times, saving myself and the vehicle owner much time and headache. You basically use the air hammer on the key very gently (it takes practice) while holding a pair of pliers on the key and trying to turn it with the other hand. If done correctly, the high frequency vibration will allow the tumbler to turn one last time so you can remove the ignition cylinder normally.
 

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If it's the steering lock, that issue has been covered here, IIRC, recently... If not here, try searching the w126 forum, as the mechanism is similar...
 

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Douglas, this happened with benzoid's old car requiring key jingling and steering wheel rocking for literally 20 minutes. The key was NOT to let the steering lock otherwise it would strand you wherever you were.
 

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Sounds more like the steering wheel lock. I have the same problem, I replaced the tumblers and have a new key and still have the same problem. Here's the fix. Apparently rocking the steering wheel hasn't worked, try jacking up one of the front wheels and having someone rock the tire back and forth while you are jiggling the key - the front wheels have more leverage against the steering wheel lock than the steering wheel. When you've freed it and the key turns, cut the front wheels fully left or right and leave them fully turned, that way the steering lock won't engage. I have yet to fix the steering wheel lock and I've been cutting the wheels full left or right before I shut off the car for about six months.
If you are unable to unlock the ignition, you will have to drill out the ignition.
 

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I don't know if you have access to shop air and an air hammer... I've used this technique many times, saving myself and the vehicle owner much time and headache. You basically use the air hammer on the key very gently (it takes practice) while holding a pair of pliers on the key and trying to turn it with the other hand. If done correctly, the high frequency vibration will allow the tumbler to turn one last time so you can remove the ignition cylinder normally.
FYI: What you are describing is essentially the mechanics of one of those automatic lockpick guns you have probably seen online or in magazines. I don't know for certain but using one of those "sonic" toothbrushes might do the same as the air hammer since they vibrate at a pretty high frequency but with lesser force.
 

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This sometimes happens to me if I happen to be pushing in on the key at the same time I'm trying to turn it (like if I'm wearing gloves and don't have good tactile sense). I've found that if I back the key out just a little (or, just make absolutely sure I'm not pushing in), the key will turn just fine. Worth a try.
 

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Do you have the time or patience to have your local dealership cut you a new key from factory numbers... sometimes when keys wear down, they don't hit the tumblers properly. If you were using a copied key to begin with, that could have led to this problem...
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks for your replies. What a disaster. Could be worse, could be a lesser car...
The key is factory unused from new. Steering wheel has play so lock isn't jamming wheel, just stuck enough while doing its job to stop key from turning. Will try jacking up car, rocking wheel, jiggling key, tapping on housing, etc. If and when car is drivable again, any way to lubricate locking mechanism or remove completely so this won't happen again?
 

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Thanks for your replies. What a disaster. Could be worse, could be a lesser car...
The key is factory unused from new. Steering wheel has play so lock isn't jamming wheel, just stuck enough while doing its job to stop key from turning. Will try jacking up car, rocking wheel, jiggling key, tapping on housing, etc. If and when car is drivable again, any way to lubricate locking mechanism or remove completely so this won't happen again?
The fact that the steering wheel has some play isn't a symptom - it always has a little play when the steering lock is engaged. It's still very likely that your steering lock is bad. When you get it unlocked and with your wheels cut hard to one side so the lock doesn't re-engage, if your key works fine in the ignition - your problem is the lock.
If the key still works hard, it's the tumbers that are shot and lubing them won't help - get a new tumbler set from your local MB dealer - they will have to order it and it will be around $100 and will include a new key - ask for your MBCA discount and most dealers will discount by 20%
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Back from jacking car up, moving wheels, jiggling key, etc, no go. I noticed (felt) a plate on the right side of the ignition housing, toward car center, that moves slightly and clicks when key is turned and jiggled. Does this indicate lock is not jammed, cylinder/tumbler is not working, or vice-versa? Any safe crackers out there?
 

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Try pulling the key out out of the tumbler about 1MM and turning.
 

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I had the same problem. Went to Diesel Giants web site and bought a new tumbler. The web site has great instructions on how to remove the tumbler/steering wheel lock.
Alas after installing the new tumbler it did not solve the problem with the steering wheel lock.
Here is my cheap fix: I pushed the shaft that engages the steering wheel so it was flush with its housing. I than drilled a .125 hole so I could cotter pin the shaft to keep it in place. The car ( 83 300 td) is a daily driver and this particular problem has been solved. Yes I should buy a new wheel lock mechanism but I am a penny pincher.
 

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I had the same problem. Went to Diesel Giants web site and bought a new tumbler. The web site has great instructions on how to remove the tumbler/steering wheel lock.
Alas after installing the new tumbler it did not solve the problem with the steering wheel lock.
Here is my cheap fix: I pushed the shaft that engages the steering wheel so it was flush with its housing. I than drilled a .125 hole so I could cotter pin the shaft to keep it in place. The car ( 83 300 td) is a daily driver and this particular problem has been solved. Yes I should buy a new wheel lock mechanism but I am a penny pincher.
When you got your tumbler set from Diesel, did you get one that contiues to let you use your original key to work the tumblers and everything on the car? If not, the tumbler set that comes from the MB dealer is made to your VIN number so that everything is still on a single key. What they do is make a key to your VIN number, then make the tumblers from the new key - that way you get a correct tumbler and an extra master key.
Your cheap fix for the steering lock is worth trying - I've just been cutting my wheels hard to one side when I park, so the steering lock doesn't engage.
 

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When you got your tumbler set from Diesel, did you get one that contiues to let you use your original key to work the tumblers and everything on the car? If not, the tumbler set that comes from the MB dealer is made to your VIN number so that everything is still on a single key. What they do is make a key to your VIN number, then make the tumblers from the new key - that way you get a correct tumbler and an extra master key.
Your cheap fix for the steering lock is worth trying - I've just been cutting my wheels hard to one side when I park, so the steering lock doesn't engage.
Diesel Giants tumbler does not use the origanal key. Remember the tumbler was not my problem. It was the steering wheel lock. What I am saying is if I would have taken the time to explore how the steering wheel lock worked, I would still have the original tumbler and saved sixty bucks.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'm going to have the cylinder/tumbler drilled out, replaced, will somehow disable steering lock while cylinder/tumbler is out. Want to do this with housing still in car. I can reach the pin with a dremel tool with dash intact. Maybe cut down through locking pin and insert something to keep lock bolt in place...
 
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