Stuck W116 ignition barrel – part 1

I was quite keen to start using the 280SE more now I have sorted out the steering, exhaust and drivers seat.    I don’t have a modern car, so I rotate the various historic registered cars I own to keep them inside their 60 day logbook.   The 280SE obviously has a lot of entries available.  I was also looking forward to driving it more now the main issues were sorted out.   I brought the car home on Saturday night after finishing the seat.  That meant I would have it available to use over the next couple of days.

Sunday was a very nice day,  so after a week of rain,  it seemed like a nice idea to take my kids to a playground in the 280SE.  After getting their booster seats in the car, we planned to set off, only to find that I could not turn the key.    After trying for 15 to 20 minutes, we gave up and went in my wife’s modern car.   We couldn’t take the 560SEL which was also at home, because it was blocked in by the 280SE.

I had encountered a sticky ignition key once or twice before when using the car.   It didn’t seem too bad that I had to change it right away.  I had it on my list of things to do at some point.   In retrospect, that was a bit silly as the previous owner may have been experiencing problems for ages.    Once the key gets sticky, you really want to change out the barrel – I did this to both my 300SE and 280CE and avoided all the problems I was about to have with a stuck w116 ignition barrel on the 280SE.

Stuck W116 ignition barrel

On the way back from the playground I stopped and bought some graphite powder, and picked up a few tools.   In the afternoon, I tried for about two hours using all the tips in the various Kent Bergsma videos – like this one.   I used both keys I have for the car, I used pliers, I used the graphite powder, I used the base of my electric toothbrush, all to no avail.   I should note, that I only used the base and not my actual toothbrush. The video suggests the vibration from something like a back massager can help free the lock.   Turning the key is vital, as the barrel or even steering lock can’t be removed without the ability to turn the key.

As I needed to duck out and do an errand Monday lunchtime, I needed access to a working car.   Thus, later that evening, I went to my workshop and grabbed my vehicle positioning jacks, plus the floor jack so I could move the car.   I would need to first push the car sideways, drive the 560SEL out of the way and then push the car back into the corner.

Before I put a jack on each wheel, I thought I would try one more thing.  I used my floor jack to raise the front of the car, so both wheels were off the ground.  I figured that would ease some of the pressure on the steering lock.  Once I did that, I was able to feel like it almost releasing.  After about 30 minutes of trying, it eventually moved, and I heard the radio spring to life.   What a great sound!

Stuck W116 ignition barrel

With the key in position 1, I was able to insert a tiny allen key into the hole.    This should unlock the collar, that then screws off.   As my 280SE is a 79 model, it has the 3rd design of ignition lock.  It appears very similar to the W123.   Due to the design of the W116 dashboard, I was unable to grip the collar properly.   I tried for a while, but I was just scratching it.   As I was able to get the key in, I could start the car and move it out of the way under its own power.   Instead of turning it off properly though, I left the key in position 1 and disconnected the battery.

The car is no longer blocking anything, so I have more time to sort this out.   I was able to cheap version of a special took to unscrew the barrel from AliExpress.   For $16 including shipping, it was worth a try.   It should be here by the 7th of August.

2022-07-24 22.21.34

I have a spare ignition barrel on hand.  It has a W123 part number and is very similar to the picture in the workshop manual.   It came in my 1986 300SE.  At the time, the ignition barrels coded to the original key for your car were still available.   I wanted to have a single key for both the doors and ignition on the 300SE, so I swapped it out.   There was nothing wrong the barrel.    Even if on inspection its the wrong one, once I get the old barrel out I can safely move it around without fear of getting the key stuck again.

So far, despite the wasted time, I feel I have been quite lucky.   A stuck W116 ignition barrel can cause people to have to start drilling things out.    So far, I have not had to do anything that drastic.

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