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1987 560SL | 1986 560SL | 1984 500SL
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328 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The passenger door handle on my '84 500 SL was replaced at some point and was not re-keyed to the rest of the car. The dealership parts folks told me keyed door handles are no longer available. Locksmiths told me they did not have the equipment to reset the tumblers on laser cut Mercedes keys. It seemed I would have to live with having mismatched keys.

But I decided to do what I have always done out of curiosity and I took it apart. To remove the handle from the door, simply remove the two larger Philips head screws near the weather stripping in the jamb. Leave the smaller screw intact. Then, nudge the handle toward the front of the car to remove. I removed the Philips screw from the end of the latch mechanism and removed the small bracket underneath. Noticing the small return spring on the shaft, I carefully removed the small retainer and the spring. Of course, I took photos of the mechanism before and at stages of removal to ensure I put it back together properly. Next, I carefully withdrew the plastic sleeve from the shaft and give it a good cleaning. At this point, I could remove the tumbler barrel from the handle. I did that carefully, as I did not have the key in the lock and I didn't want the wafers to pop out of the tumbler.

I inserted the key exclusive to that lock and all wafers hunkered down into the tumbler to allow it to be turned within the handle - thus, unlocking the door. I then inserted the main key and noted the positions of each of the wafers. Some protruded up from the tumbler barrel and some were recessed (all should be flush when keyed properly). It occurred to me that I could swap the wafers easily with needle nose pliers - just be careful not to lose the little spring that's in the round side of the wafer recess. On a pad, I noted which pair of wafers I would swap in an effort to get them flush with the cylinder using the master key. After a few iterations, all of the wafers were either flush with the cylinder or just slightly below. What matters is that no wafers stick up above the cylinder, otherwise it keeps the tumbler cylinder from rotating (thus, locked).

Now that the wafers were repositioned to accommodate the master key, I slipped the tumbler cylinder back in the handle and tested it out. Withdrawing the key allowed all the wafers to extend into the locking grooves, and inserting the master key pulled all the wafers flush with the cylinder and the lock tumbler rotated. Success!

I removed the tumbler cylinder and cleaned all the old grease off everything and refreshed with new grease. Reinstalled the tumbler cylinder, put some grease on the plastic sleeve and reinstalled that, and then reinstalled the small return spring, retainer, limiter clip, and Philips screw. DONE!

Hopefully, this will help someone reset the tumblers (or "re-key") their door handle when locksmiths tell you they can't/won't do it. It only took me about 45 minutes and that's never having done it before.
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1987 560SL | 1986 560SL | 1984 500SL
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328 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Here's a photo that clarifies the proper position of the tumbler return spring. The proper positioning and lubrication will return the key to the upright position in the lock tumbler cylinder.

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1989 W124 260E
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3,137 Posts
At one time you could buy the brass leaf incerts to make up to renew old tumblers so yopu can use new or existing keys ..I think if i am rigt there are 20 x 8 number of leaves in the box ..i will check
 

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Registered
1987 560SL | 1986 560SL | 1984 500SL
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328 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
At one time you could buy the brass leaf incerts to make up to renew old tumblers so yopu can use new or existing keys ..I think if i am rigt there are 20 x 8 number of leaves in the box ..i will check
That would be more handy than buying a couple of spare handles and pilfering the wafers. But that's still an option, provided you get the correct handles.
 

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1986 560 SEC 1987 560 SL 1967 250 S (sold)
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1,364 Posts
Nicely done and shared Kent! These are my favorite kinds of projects in which one defies the circumstances and is successful. I repair and clean up old cash registers as a hobby and many are missing the keys to the various locks on the register. I take the locks apart and usually can make keys for them. Good stuff!
 

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'88 560SL, '19 AMG E53 Cpe, '19 Audi e-tron, '53 MG TD, '35 Ford Cpe and a few more
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347 Posts
BMW offered repair tumbler sets where you could rekey the locks yourself by picking the right blanks provided in the kit, I did that on our old E28 M5 in less time than it took to get it out of the door. Unlikely to be possible now.
 

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1989 W124 260E
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3,137 Posts
ik yes done it and on one lock i just removed a problem leaf .What happens is the leaf wears and then the spring thats keeping the leaf up to compensate forthe wear,, and then the leaf is to high in the tumbler ...see pic you might get by with just light file the leaf ..
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1989 560SL
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192 Posts
BMW offered repair tumbler sets where you could rekey the locks yourself by picking the right blanks provided in the kit, I did that on our old E28 M5 in less time than it took to get it out of the door. Unlikely to be possible now.
I did dozens of these over the years on BMW E30, E28,
E24 and E23. The kits are still available from the dealer.

The wafers are very different than the MB ones, though. My shop had a wafer kit selection for MB single track keys and I repaired many locks that way. Sanding the end of a wafer was sometimes needed to compensate for wear.
The double track MB keys were more of a challenge with the ‘half wafer’ design. Removal of 1 or 2 wafers was sometimes the only cost effective solution.


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