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Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

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sailit2001's picture
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I recently purchased a 86 300 that had no keys. No apparent damage was present to the ignition switch. I ordered the key by vin from MB. The key opens the doors and trunk, however will not go in all the way to the ignition. With a bright light it is possible to look completely down to the "bottom" of the switch, I have removed several tumblers that were blocking the keyway. However I cannot get the complete center assy to turn. Without turning the key to the "I" position (or first click) I cannot remove the center of the switch or the complete assy. Has anyone else had this problem and what solutions have been found, short of drilling out the complete center of the assy?. The outer 1/3 of the switch will rotate freely 360 degrees but the lower 2/3 will not. Of course the steering wheel is locked tight. Any suggestion would be great thanks.

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AnthroProfessor's picture
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1992 190E
1985 300DT
1984 190D
1981 300D
Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

STOP! Do not do something drastic like drilling and use lots of force in turning the key. It may be possible that the ignition switch has been replaced since they can go bad due to several reasons which I will not go into right now.

You see Mercedes can make an original ignition switch so your old key can fit in, but that takes about a week to get done. So, Mercedes also has an ignition switch with its own set of keys that will not fit anywhere else on your car but is readily available and cuts down on the wait time. Therefore, that car you bought has other keys that will fit the ignition, but not the doors, trunk or glove box.

The other possibility is that your ignition is simply getting gunked up from using brass duplicate keys. Metal filings get clogged in the ignition from that soft metal. This is why it is advised only to use the original Mercedes steel keys. You might make progress by spraying your key with WD40 and getting it into the ignition. Hopefully that can lubricate things up a bit. I have had locks seize on me, so I am only using original keys from now on, but the WD40 really did help my locks work again. I think I stopped myself at the right time.

My ignition switch from my 1981 was replaced with a generic one, but now I am sick and tired of using two keys for my car and have ordered an original ignition switch from Germany through my local dealer who took down my vin number. It takes a week, but who cares, I am still using the current ignition switch in the mean time. I just discovered all these things fairly recently and I feel very good about taking care of my Benz the right way. I paid $28 for a new key and $85 for the ingition switch. I can't wait to be able to use one key again. Don't ask me how I got that generic switch in the first place. I was very young and my father helped me with most things and he was just learning too. Had he known the dealer could get an original ignition switch for that cheap, he certainly would have opted for that. It turned out he was scared of dealer prices being too high and went to a regular Auto store that sold him a generic switch (its still built by Mercedes, but there is no point in getting it if one can do without the car for one week or get the switch before it fails totally). He should have checked with Mercedes first instead of fearing that they are always going to be more expensive. While Mercedes has plenty of expensive parts, so do other cars, but you be surprised how reasonable some prices are on original vintage Mercedes parts.

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Maxbumpo's picture
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Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

If you cannot get a key to work, there is one other option short of drilling the tumbler: replace entire steering column with used that has working key, and then replace THAT tumbler with factor VIN-matched tumbler so one key will open/turn all locks.

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Charleston SC
'87 300TD, 334k miles (head is off, getting ready to install a different used head...)
'95 E300 Diesel, 348k miles (daily driving duty)
'73 Balboa 20

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Benzitis's picture
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Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

My wagon came to me with two keys. Does that mean I have one of these parts store tumblers? I need to get a new key from MBZ; may as well get a new cylinder and have just one key for everything.

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shadetree's picture
Fountain, CO
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1984 230E
Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

Benzitis;114674 wrote:
My wagon came to me with two keys. Does that mean I have one of these parts store tumblers? I need to get a new key from MBZ; may as well get a new cylinder and have just one key for everything.

Here is the key legend from my owners manual for my 84 W123 300Dturbo.
There is about a 2 page explanation for use of both keys and other locking
means. If interested e-mail me at and I will
send a copy of both pages.
Regards,
Chas Mattix
PS: The legend and explanation is the same for my 84 W-123 230E
Euro model. However the glove compartment on it does not have a
lock.

key1.jpg
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Charles E Mattix

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AnthroProfessor's picture
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Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

The car comes with two keys originally--one square and the other round.

The square opens all locks

The round is only for door and ignition. It is meant as valet key. Mercedes assumes people who buy their cars are so rich they give them to valets to park it, like when going to Nordstrom.:rolleyes:
You do not want the valet going through your trunk or glove box, so Mercedes did some good thinking on this.

So, test your keys out and see what you have. If you find the ignition is indeed a separate key, then buy a new ignition switch and key like Vince said.

I ordered 2 square keys and one round key and a new ignition switch so I can get back to the way the car was originally. I don't know if I will ever use the valet (round key) but it has an aesthetic quality to it which should be kept in the glove box in case it is ever needed. Its not that I run into valet parking often, its about being a purist.

I would like to thank Vince for his commandments on maintaining the W123--he made me realize once and for all to stop using those brass copy keys. I am glad I listened!!:D

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Highway Star's picture
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Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

AnthroProfessor;114537 wrote:

but now I am sick and tired of using two keys for my car and have ordered an original ignition switch from Germany through my local dealer who took down my vin number.

They can do that?:eek: Having two keys is a pain in the butt for me because both of mine look exactly the same, the first time I tried to start (what would soon be) my car up, it took me 2 minutes of rocking the wheel back and forth to try and unlock the ignition, need less to say, the guy I bought it from got some amusement from my antics before I tried the other key (I thought one was just a spare) I knew this model only used one key for every lock.

Thanks for telling me that I can go back to a one key setup.:D

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AnthroProfessor's picture
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1985 300DT
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1981 300D
Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

People are having a fun time with this thread. It goes to show how much we love these cars. I am glad Highway Star got something out of this thread; now Mercedes-Benz of North America will be wondering why the sudden influx of key orders:D

I am going to order a key for my 1985 car so that I can just stop with the brass keys.

This is one of many reasons why I like Mercedes and why I continue to drive a W123. If I ever need a part, it is available at a reasonable price too. My friends who don't own a Mercedes were amazed when I told them what I am doing regarding the keys and ignition. They never would have dreamed that ordering a new lock was possible, much less a key for a car over 20 years old.

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Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

Quote:
Here is the key legend from my owners manual for my 84 W123 300Dturbo.
There is about a 2 page explanation for use of both keys and other locking
means. If interested e-mail me at and I will
send a copy of both pages.

Thanks, Chas, I have the owner's manual. I'm pretty certain that one of my keys operates the doors and glove box, the other only operates the steering lock and ignition. Judging from the discussion on this thread, the latter must be the original key, and the former must be a replacement steering lock/ignition. I, too, will be glad to be rid of the two key method. As for the brass keys, I have been instilled with the fear of death about using them, especially after noticing a growing pile of shavings on the dash under the ignition!:eek:

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1985 300DT
1984 190D
1981 300D
Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

I got my new original ignition switch today! WOW, it really is true that they can make your old switch again.

I paid about $85 for it. What I did not know is that it comes with an original key too! I had just ordered 2 original keys a few days before the switch including a valet key. Had I known about being able to order a new switch that comes with an original key, I wouldn't have ordered all this extra stuff. Now I have 3 original square keys. Its not like I have a wife to give the duplicate too. Its just me alone that drives that 1981 car.

It is not the biggest loss as the keys can certainly come in handy. I can hide one as an emergency key somewhere. My main problem is that I have 4 cars and just wanted to be able to spread the resources more evenly.

I hope my finding helps someone out there make an informed decision that they are happy with. Now I have to figure out how to change ignition switches so that I can get back to using just one key.

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Anonymous's picture
Re: Ignition Switch Removal With out Key ?

If your lock set up is the same as mine (and make sure it is) then you'll want to see this:

http://www.mercedesshop.com/shopforum/showthread.php?p=1640662#post1640662

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