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Old 03-03-2003, 06:50 PM
jbaj007's Avatar
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Posts: 2,053
126 frozen steering lock/tumbler removal (fairly easy, but long)

After reading of the dreaded stuck tumbler/steering lock over the years, and the need for a particle beam blaster or $700 to fix it, I went to start my car and moved the steering wheel ever so slightly as I sidled into the seat. I was treated to the Fort Knox-like sound of the steering lock bolt finding it's mate in the column, ka-lunk!! Having had no tumbler problems, ever, I figured it had just slammed home a little firmer than usual. Two hours later with Lock-Ease, vibrators, prayer and really sore index finger and thumb, I realized the tumbler was NOT going to turn to position #2.

..Remove knee panel(s), steering wheel and instrument cluster with normal methods.
..Loosen (a lot, but don't remove)and slide upwards pinch clamp holding steering lock/tumbler to collar on steering column thru inst. opening. 10 mm. bolt.
..Remove turn signal/multi switch and cruise control stalk from steering column and unplug connectors (3 screws)
..Loosen steering column, two 13 mm. bolts staring at you on bottom of inst. cluster opening.
..Drop steering column a little (~1.5 inches?) and remove steering column plastic fascia (pulls out in one piece towards you)
..Locate the release button on the steering column collar. It will look a lot like the release buttons on vacuum cleaner hoses/attachments. It will be on the wider part of the collar, ~ halfway up, visible from where you removed the column fascia. Of course it won't release since you can't get the key in position #2 (or you wouldn't be doing this!)
.. Try the key once more after praying.
..Use a DIAMOND bit in your Dremel. I used a bit from eBay (30 for $10) and despite the fact everyone swore that this was "space age steel" I drilled the pin out in less than 5 minutes. Use a routering motion. A 30 cent bit! and it was still good when I was done.
..Disconnect the vacuum lines (diesel), warning buzzer lines from bottom of switch, lock out cable (if '89 or newer) from switch. You cannot remove the electrical plug from the back of the tumbler/lsteering lock because you still can't get key to #2.
..Slide the steering lock/tumbler out of the column collar (since you've obliterated the retaining pin with your diamond bit) and fish it thru the bottom, still attached to the electrical cable that you can't remove (yet).
..As per Steve Brotherton, cut the scews for the electrical part of the switch with a carbide disc (3 screws) at the junction of the steering lock/tumbler assy. and the electrical switch portion(aluminum)in the back. It will still be functional, just with slices in the retaining "humps".
.. What I did was push the locking bolt into the assy. with a few choice hammer blows and Viola!...the key worked. The offending pawl in the lock assy. had been released.
..Either way release electrical plug, using screwdriver to get position #2 on the electrical switch if you had to cut, or your key, if the "innards" freed up with the hammer.
..Remove the tumbler at this point if you can rotate key.
..Take the assy. away and put it in a vise and beat on the bolt area some for kicks. There is a aluminum window, peened in four places, opposite the bolt. Remove peens and pry (lustily) the window up only ~1/2". Try key , which should surely turn,remove tumbler.
..If by now the tumbler is still not turning, throw the whole thing away and put in new lock/tumbler assy. You've still saved a ton of money. Assembly is the reverse of before.
..If tumbler is now out, rotate the area behind where the tumbler was until parts start to fall out. This takes alot of tinkering and many will just want to get a new steering lock assy. at this point.
..If you want to continue, remove all of the "innards"(springs, pawls, cams) you can, and pry the window all the way out now.
..The locking bolt will fall thru the window and you'll never have to worry about it again.
..Reassemble assy with the part inside that turns the electrical switch, but leave out the bolt, springs, pawl and cam, and replace the "window" and repeen. Replace tumbler. THIS TAKES A REAL TINKERER TO GET RIGHT, but it is NOT difficult.
..Test the key in the tumbler and you'll see how easy it is to turn. No wonder so many go bad; they are turning a pound of steel in the steering lock with each key turn!
..Take the assy out to the car and spend some time aligning the electrical switch part (key position #2),screw it onto the assy. (with new screws if needed) then put pinch clamp over assy,reconnect electrical plug and fish it upwards and insert into steering column collar. The pinch clamp will hold it in position when tight, even with the retention button being blown away.
..The electrical switch portion will provide rebound for the key from the start position and all will work the same with the exception of no steering lock and no warning buzzer for key left in car. Only now, the tumbler will turn like "buttah".

I took the time to write this up since so many had asked how to disable the steering lock. Most "key won't turn" problems are solved with a new tumbler, but I'm convinced half of these are because the tumbler is so stressed by the locking bolt.

Believe it on not, 3+ hrs. start to finish. You should be an above average DIY and love to "tinker" to do this.

Hope it helps someone.

The Golden Rule

1984 300SD (bought new, sold it in 1988, bought it back 13 yrs. later)

Last edited by jbaj007; 03-03-2003 at 09:59 PM.
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Old 03-04-2003, 08:02 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Dallas
Posts: 795
Cool. Give that man a beer!
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Old 03-04-2003, 09:21 PM
Benz Crazy
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: NJ
Posts: 67
Similar problem

I just had my tumbler mechanism replaced today. My mechanic did the job on by 420SEL for the $80 part ( tumbler assembly and new key ) and $45 labor. Works fine now.

My difficulty was inserting and removing the key from the ignition. Once it was in, I was still able to move it to the various positions. It had gotten to the point though where I hadn't even tried to remove the key the last couple days as I was pretty sure it would never go back in. I first noticed the symptoms about a week ago and it got progressively worse in a matter of days.

As you can see, this is not something to put off.
1990 420 SEL / 151K mi.
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Old 08-04-2007, 02:41 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 2
What is a 126 with no ignition switch worth?

I am done. Diesel didn't turn out to be cheap, and I am too busy to work on my own car. I have loved these cars since 1990, but I'm done.
1984 300SD with good engine. Trans failing (driven daily this way for past three years with no issues. It just slips sometimes), ignition switch faulty and removed from car. Tires good. I am not willing to spend the $300 in parts for an old car to get it on the road. I can get $500 off taxes by donating it.

What is the most prudent direction?
Is it worth parting out? Anyone want a car that was running until the key wore out for $500?

Raymond in Oxford, NC
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Old 09-21-2019, 04:19 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 5
A little help

Hello, I need some help with this process. I currently have the ignition lock assembly removed from the steering column (I ground out the locking pin) and I have cut off the black cap around the tumbler, but I still can't get the key to turn. I am a little confused as to what exactly you did after detaching teh assembly from the steering column. Where exactly are the screws you need to cut with a disc, and what exactly did you do with the hammer? And if i get the rear plug removed, will it have some metal housing stuck on it, or will that fall off, will I be able to plug it into the new assembly? This is the most frustrating thing I have ever come across with this vehicle

1984 300SD

1984 300SD
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