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Bad Ignition Tumbler


Active member
(moved from engine section)

I have a friend in the Bay Area with a 93 500E and he can't get his key to turn at all. He replaced the neutral safety switch and the problem remains. He can't turn the steering wheel or move the gear selector out of park. The battery is fully charged.

I checked peachparts and got some good ideas. It appears that the back side of the tumbler is accessible by pulling the instrument cluster. Maybe a chisel hammer or some sort of air vibration tool on the back of the tumbler while trying to turn the key will work.

Anyone had luck with this or any particular technique for a stuck key?




.036 Hoonigan™, E500E Boffin
Staff member
A vibrating tool (i.e., palm sander, minus the abrasive) on the key is one last-ditch effort, otherwise you try jiggling the key until the cows come home. Also, if the key being used is not an original steel key in good condition, try a different key, ideally a fresh dealer-cut key. Since he has to order a new VIN-coded tumbler anyway, this will come with a new key, use that to try and get it turning. He should spend a couple of hours wiggling before giving up. It's not fun to extract otherwise. There is a special cutting tool, I've seen a video on this nifty website...
to download (7MB WMV file). I don't have info on cost or availability, sorry.

You must remove the hardened black front collar, so messing with the rear won't help. Also, what is shown with the red arrow is the electrical switch, not part of the lock assembly. I assume he knows that if he gets the key to turn, DO NOT turn it back!!



Mercedes Flopper
I've done this job on a W126, it's the biggest pain in the rear that i've ever experienced. The quickest way is to grind the ignition lock pin at the bottom of the steering column and then use a sawzal to cut the lock in two pieces and remove it all.
Then replace the lock, tumbler and swap over the switch.

I messed around with it for hours before I figured it out. If I was to do it again, this will only take 2-3 hours and probably save me more money in potential damage to the wood, dash and other items that would more then make up the costs of parts.


I did a write-up on a different forum, I'll see if I can find it.

In short, forget trying to grind or heat the pin. Smash the area around it. It falls apart pretty easy with a forged hammer.

:) neil


Found it here: http://www.peachparts.com/shopforum/961527-post1.html

W124 ignition lock removal


So I had the unfortunate experience of having two tumblers fail in under a year.

The first one, I caught it soon enough and was able to remove it gracefully by having it in key position "1", and it was replaced under warranty.

The replacement unit, now with only 1-month of pro-rated warranty left, failed in 9-months, and we run at most 3-keys on the ring, so no undue weight here.

Unfortunately, the failed tumbler would not turn into position "1", so this meant drastic measures had to be taken.

I was able to "break" the tumbler and turn it into position "1", but couldn't get it to release.

There was no way I was going to try and cut though the black protective ring.

So what to do:

1) remove lower dash trim on steering wheel side to reveal the ignition lock.;
2) remove the steering wheel and airbag, if any (remember to disconnect both the battery and the "red" airbag connector under the passenger carpet;
3) remove the four allen bolts that hold the steering column to the dash;
4) loosen the single allen bolt that clamps the ignition lock assembly to the steering column;
5) disconnect the anti-shifting cable (if any);
6) disconnect rear switch connector;
7) rotate the ignition lock assembly so you can see the hardened pin;

Now you have TWO options:
1 ) if you have a pin-point torch, heat ONLY the pin until it is "red-hot" and let it cool (do not quench it cool, you want to remove the "hardening");
now hit the pin hard with a hammer and punch and remove the ignition lock assembly.


2) with a forged punch and hammer hit the area AROUND the pin until the pin is free to depress/move, and you'll be able to remove the ignition lock (similar to smashing the door and door-frame instead of the deadbolt).

I tried option #1, but with a butane torch I couldn't get the pin hot-enough;

Option #2 worked like a charm!

BTW: the new ignition locks do NOT have their threads tapped for the switch assembly, so you MUST tap them yourself (the dealer said to use self-tapping screws, but not for me!). Stuff a rag into the underside of the ignition lock assembly when tapping and use a little cutting oil to keep the debris from falling into the assembly.

Good luck,

:) neil
1988 E36T AMG
1993 500E

PS: order a spare tumbler (they need your VIN#, license, and registration) and KEEP it in a safe & accessible place (they usually take 2-3 business days to get).