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Old 10-22-2004, 04:36 PM
SL Owner
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: East Coast U.S.
Posts: 131
My DIY Notes from Ignition Tumbler Cylinder Changing on 380SL

The instructions for this process from other folks here/the Internet are excellent and exceptionally helpful. However, in doing this today (took me about 1 hour of fooling around with it) I had a few heart-stopping moments that probably didn't need to be but might worry other folks. So I'd like to add a few details on this process that I hope are helpful. I did this on my 84 380SL; however, I believe that many of the older Mercedes cars are the same for this procedure.

First, before reading here if you are doing this job for the first time you should read the following two resources. After that you might read what I've noted below because in at least 2 spots I was panicked and needed to improvise.

Small detail before the larger ones...
First, I bought a new tumbler/key from the Internet (I think FastLane sells the same thing I bought), which is a new Mercedes tumbler and key. I didn't want to bother with the dealer. So you will have a separate key for the ignition. the new cylinder comes with only ONE KEY. So you know you need more than one. I know the OLD keys for the Mercedes are very expensive to make-- like $40 each if you can find a locksmith who can do it and I think that or more from Mercedes. But the GOOD NEWS is that if you buy a new cylinder, Mercedes makes the keys differently than your old key. They are a new style that can be duplicated for only $5 each by a local locksmith. That alone was a nice surprise for me, the idea that I can duplicate a key easily now for only $5.

Anyway, now onto the job itself. The problem with doing this job is that, if you get into the middle of it and your key is stuck in there and you can't move anything, you are going to have a near heart attack like I did. But you probably don't have a problem, there's just a trick you have to do at this point. So here are the details.

1) you pop-off that stainless steel ring around the tumbler
2) You are told to use a paper clip to push into that notch once you get the key into position 1 (see the links I provided above and your owners manual for position 1). I found the best approach was to find the smallest plastic binder clip I could find (you know those black binder clip things) and to remove one of the little handles and straighten it out with pliers. A standard thin paperclip will not have enough rigidity to press in the notch to release the cylinder from the external black guard that you will spin-off. So if you are going to use a paperclip, get a nice thicker one.
3) OK, once you figure step 2 out and you get it in there right (with the KEY on position one, the little notch just to the left) you will start to spin off the black cylinder guard counter-clockwise. Ahh you think as you spin-away, such an easy job! I'll be there in no time.
4) Here's what happened to me next followed by suggestions on how to avoid it. I kept spinning and spinning UNTIL THE BLACK CYLINDER GUARD PRESSED UP AGAINST THE KEY, that black rubber part at the top of your Mercedes key. This is had me hyperventilating at one point (maybe unnecessarily but I'll explain) and I'll explain how to deal with that in a moment but first the drama. Once this happened I kept spinning trying to get it out of there and I noticed the top plastic part of the Mercedes key was blocking the black cylinder holder. Eventually the paper clip thing fell-out of the notch, the cylinder locked into place and I took the key from the ignition. Then guess what? I put the key back in and COULD NOT TURN THE IGNITION. Pure panic set-in. Did I create the very virtual car-repair-disastor that I was trying to avoid? No as it turns-out. I thought for a moment and remembered how sensitive these locks are to depth of the key. The black tumbler holder was stuck-out so far that the key could not get into the lock properly to turn. So what you need to do is REMOVE THE BLACK RUBBER STUFF FROM THE TOP OF YOUR KEY. You can buy replacements for those by the way, new ones that clip on there. I think FastLane here sells them, I know others do also, all pretty cheap. Anyway, you need to strip that black plastic part off your key and put the key in. This time you can turn it back to position 1, put the paper clip in, and keep spinning and spinning and shaking a bit until you get that cylinder housing off of there, this time without the black plastic part of the key blocking it. It fits just about over the key without the black part on it. So here is CONCLUSION to all of this. If it were me doing this again, I'd take that plastic thing off my key right away and just buy a new one and install it afterwards to avoid all of this. THe plastic thing on the end of the key can prevent the balck tumbler holder from spinning off of there. The black thing on the key is too big and thick and stops it, at least on my 380SL it did.
5) Now when installing the new tumbler back in there, you should follow the directions in the posts I provided but note the following. You should look at the alignment of the old tumbler as it would be in your dash (the position 1, the little notch and inside the tumbler that little spring thing that you are effectively pushing back with the paperclip). Align it exactly that way as you place the cylinder into the dash with the cylinder tumbler around the outside of it. The reason for doing this is that, as my memory serves me, you really need to keep that cylinder stationary and in the right position as you turn the tumbler holder. I guess this is common sense but not something that immediately occured to me or perhaps I missed it in various instructions on the Internet. You need to keep that cylinder in the correct position. If you do not then what will happen is that you will tighten down that black cylinder holder and note you can't get it down all the way and the cylinder itself is not in alignment in there and not working. It's scary doing this, you have this fear you'll align something in some screwy way and never get it back out. So anyway, it's not that bad in the end. You just need to hold it in position (you can use the key on the tumbler) and with the other hand spin around that black tumbler holder. Keep spinning it until you it feels tight but not so tight that you cannot align with position 1 on on the cylinder holder. At that point back it off so it's aligned with position 1 (the dot with position 1) then remove the paper clip. Everything should work well.
6) Note that the stainless steel thing that goes around the cylinder for decoration and the rubber seal behind it can be bought new for about $3 total I put a new one in there because it wasn't as scratched but the old one is fine to reuse. In either case, you may need to bend back out the flanges so you can get a tight hold. Bend all of them out with a little bend right in the middle of the flange so it flares out a bit and gets underneath the dash. Put two of them in and use a little thin screwdriver or something to poke in the third flange.

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