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Replacing the Ignition Tumbler - Mercedes Benz
 
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Pelican Technical Article:

Replacing the Ignition Tumbler - Mercedes Benz

Steve Vernon

Time:

15 minutes to 4 hours

Tab:

$15 to $115

Talent:

*

Tools:

A small piece of firm wire

Applicable Models:

 
Mercedes-Benz W124 (1986-95)
Mercedes-Benz W126 (1981-91)
Mercedes-Benz W201 (1984-93)

Hot Tip:

File the wire down to 60 degrees

Performance Gain:

Car starts

Complementary Modification:

Lubricate your other locks

Mercedes-Benz W201 models are known to have sudden and catastrophic ignition tumbler failure that can leave you stranded at the side of the road and looking at a lengthy and costly repair. The tumbler itself can be changed out with relative ease when working, but is a complete pain to replace when it will not turn. If your ignition tumbler is starting to act balky, do yourself a huge favor and change it out right away. Once the key will no longer turn in the lock you have just made a simple job a very difficult and costly job, and will be forever kicking yourself for not doing it sooner. You can buy a new key and tumbler for around $15, that will fit and work, but the key will only fit the ignition, and you will need to carry the original keys for the doors and trunk, or, you can order an originally-keyed new tumbler along with a new key that will fit the original locks directly from a Mercedes-Benz dealer.

If your key does not turn, before you start cutting things out of the car, try placing a palm sander or other small vibrating tool against the lock while turning the key. This will sometimes help free up the tumbler and get the key to move.

Before you begin any work, make sure the transmission is securely in Park. I know it sounds simple, but the ignition mechanism is directly attached to the transmission linkage and if the car in not in Park, you can have problems with the key and tumbler.

If your key works in the ignition it is relatively easy to change it out. Begin by removing the trim piece on the dash, it just pops right off.

With the trim piece off, insert the key and turn it to position one. There are two small bore holes that you can see on the outer face plate of the tumbler. These should line up with the corresponding bore holes in the tumbler, but you may have to move the key around a little to get them to line up in the number one position.

Next you will need to make a tool to slide down into the hole. I went to the local hardware store and picked up a couple of Hitch Pin Clips, but basically you can use anything that is around 2mm thick and a few inches long. The single most import part of this job is to file the ends of the wires at around a 60 degree angle. The wires need to slide over the detent pin and by placing the filed side in towards the tumble you will greatly improve your chances of this happening. You are going to slide the wire into the bore holes and press them in. You should be able to feel and or hear the detent pin release while doing this. This is where patience comes in handy, as you may get the detent pin to release on the first try or it may take quite a few tries. It took me over an hour to get our project car's tumbler out.

While there is a lot of different opinion on the Mercedes-Benz 190e tumblers on the internet, our project car only had one detent pin that needed to be released to release the tumbler and it was in the bore hole on the top of the tumbler. If you have any doubts insert pins into both holes as the bore hole in the bottom has the detent for the cover piece.

With the detent pin released, the tumbler will just slide right off, along with the metal ignition cover.

To install, insert the tumbler into the steering lock, making sure the raised section goes into its groove, it is next to impossible to get it to go in any other way.

Place the metal steering lock cover on so that the cut out for the steering lock lines up with the steering lock itself.

Place the key in the ignition and turn the key to position 1 (this should line up the bore holes). Push lock and cover in until they lock. Check the function of the switch to make sure and then install the trim piece.

Use a trim removal tool or a small screw driver and remove the rosette or trim piece surrounding the lock (red arrow).
Figure 1

Use a trim removal tool or a small screw driver and remove the rosette or trim piece surrounding the lock (red arrow).

Move the key to the number 1 position.
Figure 2

Move the key to the number 1 position. In this position both bore holes should line up with the channels behind them (red arrows).

Here is a picture of what you are trying to do.
Figure 3

Here is a picture of what you are trying to do. I have the tumbler out of the housing so you can see better what needs to happen. The yellow arrow shows the filed point of the metal wire. The red arrow shows the detent clip. When you push the wire into the bore hole you are trying to get the wire to go over the detent clip and squeeze it into the tumbler. This will release the tumbler from the housing.

Here is the tumbler and cover coming off the ignition housing.
Figure 4

Here is the tumbler and cover coming off the ignition housing. Once get the metal wires to release the detent pin you can just pull it straight back and out. Note: you can see two metal wires here (red arrows) the top pin releases the tumbler while the bottom releases the cover retaining clip.

With the tumbler out you can see where the tumbler sits in the electrical portion of the switch (red arrow) the groove the tumbler needs to sit in, in the housing (green arrow) and the notch the metal cover needs to be aligned to (yellow arrow).
Figure 5

With the tumbler out you can see where the tumbler sits in the electrical portion of the switch (red arrow) the groove the tumbler needs to sit in, in the housing (green arrow) and the notch the metal cover needs to be aligned to (yellow arrow). The blue arrow shows the detent pin that holds the metal cover in place.

Here is the bottom bore line on the tumbler; you can see there is no detent clip.
Figure 6

Here is the bottom bore line on the tumbler; you can see there is no detent clip.

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Comments and Suggestions:
My59 Comments: The write up is great. I had no luck with hours of trying to catch the detent and ended up removing entire assembly and cutting off black steel surround with a grinder and ripping out the tumbler in chunks.
Turned out in my 89 190e 2.6 there was the detent for the tumbler holder as well as two detent for the black cover, not one as is suggested here. The 2mm rod I was using needed to be tilted sideways to lift the detent sufficient to release the cover, something that could not be done with tumbler and tumbler holder in place. Very frustrating experience
November 19, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it. I will have the article updated. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
gg Comments: i have 1997 c280 got ignition to turn to no 1 position changed key cylinder and key. truned ignition ok worked fine. changed battery. now key wont turn. what now
October 25, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is the steering wheel locked? If not check if a fuse blew during battery replacement. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Andrew Comments: I wonder where I could source a new tumbler and key for my 1965 250SL. Both are worn and the key can jam
September 28, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Mercedes-Benz. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
my59 Comments: Well put together and the photos are invaluable.
I broke key in ignition of my 89 190E 2.6 Drilled out broken key, lock pins, chunks of tumbler... now with extra key can turn to position 1, dash lights come on. Wire goes into top hole, and I can feel detent move. Wire goes into bottom hole and I get nothing. Been at it for several days. Black cover not budging. Question is on both wires they penetrate to same depth and stop solid. How far in is the detent for the lock cover?
September 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Fig 6 shows the slot, you want to bottom out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bassel26 Comments: if they key was stuck then after many tries i could turn it then it was broken in position Turing on and it didn't turn to off position or ACC position .. can i remove the tumbler in this situation .. please i need help
September 4, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It has to be removed as shown. If stuck, you will have to drill it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bob Comments: I have just ordered a Mercedes lock assembly which seems to have two outlets for a diesel version . How do I deal with it? It seems to be removable but I do not have a plate to cover the space. Can I cap off both outlets one must be an inlet ? Help!
August 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What year and model are you working on? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
lw Comments: I have a 1971 280 sl Mercedes that has developed this problem.When the doors are shut, the car runs and cuts off fine using the ignition switch. If you open the drivers door while the car is running, you can turn the switch to the off position and it will not cut the car off. If you then shut the door, ignition switch works fine and will cut car off.
August 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like a short in the wiring harness. Inspect the harness where it runs through the door jamb. You may find your issue there. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bubba Comments: I have a 1991 190e 2.6 and the key will not turn what do you mean just drill it I don't want to screw anything up
July 16, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Then take it to a shop if you are worried about damaging anything. You will have to drill the lock cylinder out, until it can be removed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Joey from the Bronx Comments: I have a 1990 300e the key won't turn to position 1 I don't know how to change out the ignition. And the steering lock won't free up what do I do?
March 29, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: if it won't turn, you will have to drill it out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
steve Comments: Thanks for the absolutely great instructions, but what happens when you are not able to turn the key to position 1, I have a 91 W126, they key basically stays in position 0, meaning it does not turn, any help would be appreciated
January 6, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Drill the lock cylinder out. There is another destructive method I use, insert key, attempt to turn while tapping key with hammer. You will need pliers on the key when turning to avoid injuring yourself. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Redstar Comments: Dear Pelican Parts,
I was wondering which position should the ignition SWITCH be in when I put in the new tumbler. I was a little confused about this. Should I leave it in position 1, insert the tumbler, and then turn the key to position 1? Or should I turn it back to position 0 and the tumbler will just click into place? Thank you! I have a 92 by the way, if that helps
January 4, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Place it in the same position as when removed. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
92 190E Comments: Wondering if there's any advice out there... I managed to turn the tumbler with a screwdriver far enough to line up the holes on the face. Inserted 2mm drill bits into the holes and both detents seem to release. Tumbler does not pull out. Should it come by pulling on the cover? see pic

Or is it possible that the tumbler sheared and only the front half turned? If so would that prevent it from coming out? Seems unlikely but I'm at my wit's end here
April 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If it won't release, it probably isn't lined up correctly. I have had some lock cylinders I had to jiggle or shock to get free. But usually they don't require much force. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Simon Comments: Hi, I have a mercedes 190e 1984, I've tried everything step by step but it still doesn't work. I took a wire same size as recommended, cut the end in a 60 degree angle and I achieved to slide the wire over the detent pin I heared the click but it still didn't come out, I've even tried with both holes but it didn't work. What can I do?
February 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Try a different key. The one you are using may be too worn out to pull all the lock tumblers in. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bros Comments: My key doesn't want to turn but that one with the holes is turning on the correct position the steering wheel is locked. Is there any chance to take out the cylindar without unlocking the steering wheel just to turn this with the holes and put something sharop so i can move the detant clip ?
December 29, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, the cover has holes and may rotate. You need to unlock the lock cylinder, it allows a locking pin to retract. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
JN Comments: I thought I'd add this since this is the best write up I've seen. Mine is a W124

The ignition cover catch vs the tumbler catch is what made this process unnecessarily difficult for me and I found no write up that discusses it thoroughly. When I finally succeeded, my cover catch fell off the internal ignition assembly so I was forced to examine it. The catch is a steel, roughly 1/8in x 1/8in x 1in long crescent that hangs to the outside of the internal ignition assembly. The cylinder cover has a mating groove on its inside - that is, the cover goes over the outside of the catch. The catch crescent has a little hook on its inside edge that protrudes into the housing for the tumbler along with a tiny spring pushing outward to keep the catch engaged in the cover groove. On mine, the hook was pointed clockwise. With the lower wire in its hole, the objective is to engage the little hook and wedge the catch crescent inward to release it from the groove in the cover. Inserting the wire with the point to the outside and probing with a bit of a counterclockwise twist of the wire will enhance the chances of engaging the hook. The wire insertion depth needs to be greater than the depth of the tumbler by an 1/8 to a 1/4 inch. Working at full contrast to my nature - force has zero effect, when both catches are properly engaged, the tumbler and cover almost fall off.
December 6, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Aiman Comments: Hello...i have merc 190e..can i get fullset key switch here? My key and ignition already broken?
August 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, you will have to go to Mercedes-Benz. They need to see proof of ownership. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
ADE Comments: I NEED COMPLETE ENGINEW201 & GEAR BOX FOR 190E.WHAT IS THE PRICE?
June 26, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Sandy Comments: Great instructions. Once I'd made the wires as recommended they went in a treat and the black cover and ignition barrel came out no problem. Thanks guys...
May 10, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
pgd Comments: Thanks for the great instructions, the new tumbler went in great but I have one problem. NOW WHEN I TURN THE KEY OFF AND OPEN THE DOOR, THE KEY IN IGNITION BUZZER STILL SOUNDS EVEN THOUGH THE KEY IS OUT.
April 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Is it returning and locking? If the end of the tumbler stays engaged this can happen. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
acejunior Comments: My only issue was getting the metal sleeve back in place, but I figured that out. I used both holes and squeezed the wire tool together, feeling the tumbler release all together. My old tumbler fell apart soon after removal.
March 22, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Hamp Comments: My 82 380sec only has one hole to insert the wire. I have been at it for hours and the wire will not go in over .25 inches and no release. My locking shield is flat on the end with key position notches on the face.

Any tips
January 26, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Wiggle the key while you attempt to insert the wire. It should drop into place. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
M.Arch Comments: According to the Mercedes shop manual, there are two types of the tumblers locks: one is for W126 till August,'89 another from September,'89. What you have shown here on the pictures, I believe, are the later model from September, '89.
I have been struggling to extract the non-working tumbler for '87-W126 model. I drove several different drill bits many times so that I could finally turn to the position 1, however the wire tool I made works easily on the new part from Pelican Parts, however the old one in the existing cylinder cover will not give in after trying several hours.
Do you have a wonderful suggestion or instruction for this case. I truly appreciate your kindness, Blessings

December 7, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It can be tough to align the cylinder. Jiggle the key while you insert the wire. Once it drops in, pull the lock cylinder out. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
bernd Comments: Excellent instructions.
The pictures are so important.
I was so frustrated before I saw your write-up.
Thanks a lot,
Bernd
October 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
vmckague Comments: Thanks for the nice write up guys. So for no luck. Been trying for over an hour. I can get the 2MM wire to go past the detent clip but the tumbler will not come out. I wonder if it is possible for the wire to go under the clip and lift it up instead of over it pushing it down?
October 15, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't think there is room for the wire to move the clip the opposite direction. When I have trouble getting the wire in, I wiggle it and the key. Sometimes wiggling the wire or the key allows the wire to reach and unlock the clip. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
khaled Comments: realy thanks man
July 18, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You are most welcome.
Glad you found the diy helpful.
-whunter-
 

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