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Discussion Starter #1
I read all of the treads dealing with keys but found nothing that would have answered my question. When I bought my 1989 300CE a year ago, it came with one key for the ignition and one that locks/unlocks the doors, trunk, and glove box but did not work in the ignition. So the second key could not be a master key, and neither could the first one be a master key since it only worked in the ignition. Incidentally, the shape of the ignition key was different, skinnier than the door key. Both keys had the square heads; thus neither one could be a valet key.

A few months ago I had to change the ignition tumbler and received 2 keys with the new tumbler. Not wanting to have just one door key, I contacted the Classic Center's parts department, which has ordered a new key for me. I am wondering, though, if the new master key when I get it will work since the key I already have obviously isn't a master key inasmuch as it never fit the ignition tumbler. On the other hand, maybe it is a master key, which would mean that the ignition tumbler that was in the car when I bought it might have been replaced prior to my replacing it. While the door and trunk locks could have been changed at some point, does it seem likely that the glove-box lock was changed as well? Anything is possible though, I guess.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue?
 

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tumbler went bad

I'm going to guess the tumbler went bad, and someone swapped one from a parts car. You'd need to order a tumbler and key from the dealer to fit based on your vin #.

That's my guess, you have two keys from two different cars.
 

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Either the ignition lock broke or the car was stolen, the lock destroyed by the crook, and the owner just threw something else in there.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks, guys, for sharing your opinions. The vehicle history reports for my car give no indication that it was ever stolen (unless the previous owner never reported it stolen). Therefore, it seems more likely that the ignition tumbler had been replaced at some point. Do you have any idea why the key slot in the original tumbler is smaller (shorter in length) than the replacement I installed? That smaller slot accounts for why the door key did not even go into the slot. I would have thought that the key slot in all W124 ignition tumblers would be equal in size.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Why not say where and how you got this?
I didn't think that made any difference or that anybody would care where I got the tumbler with the keys. Anyway, since you asked, I bought the set on eBay. It is manufactured by a German company called Meyle Products. This item has a standard-size key slot, whereas the tumbler that came with the car, as I mentioned before, had a shorter slot, and the door, trunk, and glove-box key (which has the MB logo on it) was too wide for that slot. If that key is an original master key, then the old ignition tumbler couldn't be the one that came in the car from the factory. When I took the car to Pep Boys for the state inspection, someone there told me that the W124 comes with different keys, one for the ignition and another for the locks. That statement, however, contradicts the owners manual, which states that there are supposed to 2 master keys with square heads that operate everything, 1 valet key with a round head, and 1 flat key. I never received the valet and flat keys. In hindsight, which unfortunately is always 20/20, I should have ordered a new ignition tumbler from Mercedes based on the VIN, but at the time I wasn't even aware that I could do so.
 

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I didn't think that made any difference or that anybody would care where I got the tumbler with the keys. Anyway, since you asked, I bought the set on eBay. It is manufactured by a German company called Meyle Products. This item has a standard-size key slot, whereas the tumbler that came with the car, as I mentioned before, had a shorter slot, and the door, trunk, and glove-box key (which has the MB logo on it) was too wide for that slot. If that key is an original master key, then the old ignition tumbler couldn't be the one that came in the car from the factory. When I took the car to Pep Boys for the state inspection, someone there told me that the W124 comes with different keys, one for the ignition and another for the locks. That statement, however, contradicts the owners manual, which states that there are supposed to 2 master keys with square heads that operate everything, 1 valet key with a round head, and 1 flat key. I never received the valet and flat keys. In hindsight, which unfortunately is always 20/20, I should have ordered a new ignition tumbler from Mercedes based on the VIN, but at the time I wasn't even aware that I could do so.


As you've surmised, your car did not have the original ignition tumbler when you bought it. The PO had it replaced and it sounds like it was a bargain basement part. Sadly, I'm not sure that you'll do much better with the Meyle part based on forum members' experiences with their stuff. A lot of it is now made in China.

I wouldn't take *anything* a Pep Boys tech tells me very seriously, factoring in that he probably wasn't alive when your car was built.

The owners manual is correct about the keys. The car originally came with two square head "master" keys, an oval head "valet" key, and a headless "reserve" key (for emergency use). I think the locksets were made by Huf and their name appears on genuine MB keys.

You may *not* know the difference between so-called "master" keys and "valet" keys. It is not the key profile -- that is the same for all the keys to one car. The difference is that master keys and the reserve key have a groove machined along the length of the key shank. This allows them to be inserted into the glove box and trunk lock cylinders. The valet key, lacking the groove, cannot even be inserted into those cylinders.

Here's a pic showing each style of key (they're not all for the same car). The red bump on a key indicates that the car is fitted with a factory anti-theft system. Note the missing groove on the oval head key and the Huf logo on that same key.
 

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... So the second key could not be a master key, ...
I bet it is since key one and the key with new tumbler is not from Mercedes and now you have another one on the way. Key 2 should match the one the Classic Center is sending.

If you want all to match then see post #2.
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thank you so much for the detailed explanation of the keys. I now have a much better understanding of what I have and also what I do not have. The door-lock, trunk, and glove-box key I has the Huf logo on it, as well as the groove you mentioned. On the other hand, both the ignition key and tumbler that came with the car, although containing the MB star logo on both components, are made by a company named YMOS, if that means anything to anyone.
 

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if you get a 'real' benz ignition cylinder, and bring your keys and it to a proper locksmith, he should be able to fix the ignition lock so it takes the same keys as the doors/etc, and then make a fresh set of master + valet keys. The key (groan) is, finding the right locksmith... around here, its The Brass Key in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz, California).
 

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Discussion Starter #11
if you get a 'real' benz ignition cylinder, and bring your keys and it to a proper locksmith, he should be able to fix the ignition lock so it takes the same keys as the doors/etc, and then make a fresh set of master + valet keys. The key (groan) is, finding the right locksmith... around here, its The Brass Key in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz, California).

Thanks for your input. As it turned out for me, it was cheaper ($15 plus $6 for shipping) to order a key from the Classic Center. The local locksmiths I called quoted anywhere from $50 to $90 just to cut the blank I have. Thus, I hate to think how much these locksmiths might want to charge me to fix the ignition tumbler so it will accept the same key that I have for the doors, trunk, and glove box. For me, the real "key" (groan, groan) is the cost. A locksmith's prices seem to skyrocket when you mention it's for a Mercedes-Benz. I have discovered this is also true for other parts. I have actually purchased some parts from Mercedes for less than I could have gotten them elsewhere. While I appreciate your suggestion, I think I would rather not mess with the tumbler, unless it breaks. Should that happen, I will try to order a new one from Mercedes based on the VIN. All I will have to add to the order then will be a valet key.
 

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Just my two cents worth not adding to solutions but rather adding to original post.

My 1988 300CE had two keys, which for the sake of my kids I called FAT and SKINNY (indicating the size of plastic cover on the key head) !

SKINNY opens all doors etc but does not start the car.

IMG_0920.jpg IMG_0921.jpg IMG_0922.jpg

FAT on the other hand only starts the ignition.

IMG_0923.jpg IMG_0924.jpg IMG_0925.jpg

From what I read in the original post that is exactly the same scenario.
These are Mercedes (Huf) keys and there is a difference between the two in terms of the cut so it could be the ignition tumbler has been changed.

I can't see this difference between the keys though !
"...The valet key, lacking the groove, cannot even be inserted into those cylinders..."
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Just my two cents worth not adding to solutions but rather adding to original post.

My 1988 300CE had two keys, which for the sake of my kids I called FAT and SKINNY (indicating the size of plastic cover on the key head) !

SKINNY opens all doors etc but does not start the car.

View attachment 414011 View attachment 414012 View attachment 414013

FAT on the other hand only starts the ignition.

View attachment 414014 View attachment 414015 View attachment 414016

From what I read in the original post that is exactly the same scenario.
These are Mercedes (Huf) keys and there is a difference between the two in terms of the cut so it could be the ignition tumbler has been changed.

I can't see this difference between the keys though !
"...The valet key, lacking the groove, cannot even be inserted into those cylinders..."

Thanks for your 2 cents. In my scenario, the 2 keys both have the same head, but the keys themselves are completely different. The ignition key was skinny (before I replaced the tumbler) while the door key was of standard width, like the ones in your photos. The scenario I described completely contradicts the information in my owner's manual, which states that there should be 2 master keys with square heads, which operate everything; 1 valet key, which operates the ignition and unlocks/locks the doors but not the trunk and glove box; and a flat (headless) key that operates everything, just as the master keys do. The last key is meant to be for emergency use.
 

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another scenario I've run into is, keys and locks wear out, and some keys are sticky in some locks... flipping the key over can change this too, if the sides are worn unevenly.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
another scenario I've run into is, keys and locks wear out, and some keys are sticky in some locks... flipping the key over can change this too, if the sides are worn unevenly.

I firmly believe that anything is possible. Probably there are more scenarios than any of us can imagine.
 

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Thanks for your input. As it turned out for me, it was cheaper ($15 plus $6 for shipping) to order a key from the Classic Center. The local locksmiths I called quoted anywhere from $50 to $90 just to cut the blank I have. Thus, I hate to think how much these locksmiths might want to charge me to fix the ignition tumbler so it will accept the same key that I have for the doors, trunk, and glove box. For me, the real "key" (groan, groan) is the cost. A locksmith's prices seem to skyrocket when you mention it's for a Mercedes-Benz. I have discovered this is also true for other parts. I have actually purchased some parts from Mercedes for less than I could have gotten them elsewhere. While I appreciate your suggestion, I think I would rather not mess with the tumbler, unless it breaks. Should that happen, I will try to order a new one from Mercedes based on the VIN. All I will have to add to the order then will be a valet key.
some of our Volvos have had the same sort of keys/locks, with the milling on the sides, and stainless steel blanks instead of brass. those cost more to cut, as they take signficantly more time and care.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
As you've surmised, your car did not have the original ignition tumbler when you bought it. The PO had it replaced and it sounds like it was a bargain basement part. Sadly, I'm not sure that you'll do much better with the Meyle part based on forum members' experiences with their stuff. A lot of it is now made in China.

I wouldn't take *anything* a Pep Boys tech tells me very seriously, factoring in that he probably wasn't alive when your car was built.

The owners manual is correct about the keys. The car originally came with two square head "master" keys, an oval head "valet" key, and a headless "reserve" key (for emergency use). I think the locksets were made by Huf and their name appears on genuine MB keys.

You may *not* know the difference between so-called "master" keys and "valet" keys. It is not the key profile -- that is the same for all the keys to one car. The difference is that master keys and the reserve key have a groove machined along the length of the key shank. This allows them to be inserted into the glove box and trunk lock cylinders. The valet key, lacking the groove, cannot even be inserted into those cylinders.

Here's a pic showing each style of key (they're not all for the same car). The red bump on a key indicates that the car is fitted with a factory anti-theft system. Note the missing groove on the oval head key and the Huf logo on that same key.

After looking at the keys in the photo you attached and re-reading the information in my owner's manual, I have reason to believe that all the locks, in addition to the ignition, may have been changed at some point. I base this belief on the fact that the red dots or bumps are supposed to appear on the keys if the car came with a factory-installed theft-warning system. The vehicle data card for my car that I obtained from the Classic Center shows that my car has or at least had such a system, although, when I purchased it, it had an after-market alarm, which I had removed because it was driving me crazy. The factory alarm may have been disconnected when the after-market unit was installed. Unless all of the locks had been replaced, shouldn't the existing key still have the red bump on it even if the alarm was disconnected or not functioning for some other reason? To confirm that the vehicle data card is correct, I looked under the hood and saw the horn for the alarm, as well as the hood switch. However, I wasn't able to determine if the alarm was disconnected, or at least I didn't know where to look.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
the original keys for my 300E 2.6, some have the red dot, others don't, they all work. I dunno. there's no alarm in the car, afaik, never was.
I guess the only thing I can do is to wait until the Classic Center sends me the new key I ordered and then test it. Hopefully it will work. Since you said all of your keys work, regardless of whether or not they have the red dot, that may not be an issue after all, that is unless all of the cylinders, including the one for the glove box, had been changed.

Thanks again for the information and for sharing your thoughts with me.
 

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another scenario I've run into is, keys and locks wear out, and some keys are sticky in some locks... flipping the key over can change this too, if the sides are worn unevenly.
I spray a little graphite lube into the tumblers from time to time to keep the keys from sticking or the tumblers binding. Works great, keys turn with almost no effort. Helps a bit with worn keys too and I imagine it probably helps slow such wear.
 
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