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Old 08-26-2002, 04:35 PM
The Warden's Avatar
Certified diesel nut
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Pacifica (SF Bay Area), CA
Posts: 2,946
Question Steering wheel lock-out on ignition switch...

I keep meaning to ask this, and keep forgetting. So, here it is.

If I don't turn the steering wheel on my '85 300D so that it locks in place (with the ignition switch off and key out), the key and switch work normally. However, if I (usually accidentally) turn the steering wheel so that it does lock, it becomes difficult to turn the key. I've tried moving the steering wheel to either extreme with it locked out, and everywhere in between (only a few inches of play, as expected), and, so far, I've eventually gotten the key to turn every time, although there have been a few instances where it was having so much trouble moving that I was worried that I was going to break the key in the cylinder.

I've tried spraying WD-40 into the keyway, and didn't seem to make a difference. Any ideas? I'm worried that I'll eventually be stuck in a place, unable to turn the key at all. Thanks!
2001 VW Jetta TDI, 5 speed, daily driver
1991 Ford F-350, work in progress
1984 Ford F-250 4x4, 6.9l turbo diesel, 5 speed manual
Previous oilburners: 1980 IH Scout, 1984 E-350, 1985 M-B 300D, 1979 M-B 300SD, 1983 M-B 300D
Spark-free since 1999
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Old 08-26-2002, 07:44 PM
engatwork's Avatar
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Soperton, Ga. USA
Posts: 11,998
Do a search on "tumbler" - sounds like you may need the locking mechanism and a new tumbler. I would recommend going ahead and getting one coming and change it out one weekend. You do not want the key to quit turning.
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Old 08-29-2002, 12:28 AM
Posts: n/a
I just ran into this same problem with my 83 300Dt, 296K on the clock. After reading and searching this forum for information, I replaced the tumbler (from local MB dealer $109.00, keyed to the VIN). This solved my problem for three days, then back to being unable to turn the key to start the car.

After re-searching the posts I knew that I was in the .5% group that needed to replace my steering cloum lock, so I removed the tumbler while I could and called Phil to order the VACLO lock and overnight the shipment.

Total time to remove and install was around two hours, I did have to push out the inst. cluster, remove he speedo cable, and remove/drop the steering colum (two 13mm nuts) to access the colum lock.

Now the WIFE and I have no worries that MY car will start and I can take her to the hospital when our daughter arrives in Oct/Nov.

IMHO, If you think your tumbler is going south, replace BOTH the tumbler and colum lock You will be time saved and hassle free, with great peace of mind that the old girl will start, everytime!
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Old 08-29-2002, 12:44 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Niceville, FL
Posts: 471
I would highly recommend replacing both the tumbler and the steering lock. I am speaking from experience here and I cantell you I was an unhappy soul one very hot afternoon in Phoenix in the summer time when the key to my 300D would not turn. After playing with in for about 2 hours, I called the dealership and my local garage and asked the question, "What do you do when your key won't turn in the ignition?" Their reply was "If you try and try and it won't turn, we will take a sawsall and cut it out." I just about had a stroke when they told me all of this plus how much they would charge me for it.

They told me, play with it until you can get it to turn, then do not leave the steering wheel in the position with the wheels straight. If the wheels are straight, the steering wheel will lock. If they are turned either way, the wheel will not lock. Once I finally got it to turn, I went to the local junk yard and bought a used lock. I bought it for about a hundred if I remember correctly and it hasn't given me trouble since.

It is not a hard part to replace. The description in the Haynes manual is pretty accurate if I remember correctly.

Good luck,
'85 500SL (Euro) - 186,000 w/a complete restoration and engine rebuild at 154,000
'95 C280 - 174,000
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Old 08-29-2002, 08:54 AM
j shepardson
Posts: n/a
Mine does the same thing but I'm so used to this common occurance on many cars not just MB's
Alot of times its mostly pressure of the steering column pressing against the tumbler, sometimes it happens all the time sometimes it dont happen depends on the surface your cars on Best thing I found that worked other than replacing a tumbler which may or may not solve the problem is to just relieve some pressure from the wheel before turning the key
meaning turn the steering wheel to the right till it stops which is just a little more than a hair then turn the key you should have no problems.

If it still dont unlock dont force it just wiggle the wheel a little more my locks been like that for years and I have no problems getting it unlocked that way

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