W124 Ignition tumbler

When I purchased my 300TE, I noticed two things that slightly concerned me.   The first was that I only had one key for the car.   The second was that the ignition barrel was slightly sticky.   There are key blanks available for Mercedes of this era at locksmiths, but the only key I had for the car was a copy.  I didn’t feel like a copy of a copy was all that great an idea, so I contacted the classic centre to see if new ignition tumblers were still available.

Turns out, for this era of W124, with the transmission interlock, they still are.    They are now NLA for the earlier cars such as the, W107, W126 etc.    I got one of the last ones for my old 300SE for example.    While I still could, I ordered one plus two new keys for the 300TE, matched off the data card.    I would encourage anyone who has a W124 of this vintage to order one while they are still available.   They won’t be forever.    The club price for the tumbler plus one key was USD$92, and an addition USD$30 for the second key.  This is obviously before shipping.  These prices are very reasonable.   I bought all this at the same time as the fan clutch a few months ago.

I thought this would be a very good solution.  Swap out the tumbler before I have the same problems on the 300TE as I did on my old W116 280SE.    After that, I would have a brand new tumbler, two genuine keys to use and the copy as a spare.

At this point I assume its going to be a very simple matter to swap the W124 ignition tumbler over.   I’ve done it a few times on the W126, and since it wasn’t stuck yet, I didn’t think I’d have the same issue as the W116.   Turns out I was wrong.

W124 Ignition tumbler

The later W124 tumbler is slightly harder to remove than the W126 version, as there are two tabs that must be unlocked on the tumbler.   This means two metal rods at the same time and then the cap should pop off instead of screw off.    I tried all sorts of different rods, but could never get the cap to come off.   As I persevered, I was often able to feel the tabs push back, but I’m not sure if the cap was stuck somehow, or the tabs were not quite releasing enough.

I went back to the factory manual a few times, re-reading the text each time to make sure I was not missing anything.   I even went to Bunnings (large Australian hardware store) to buy metal wire in the exact diameter specified in the manual.    Didn’t help.

I tried on and off for the next two months, thinking maybe a fresh try would yield some different results.  It didn’t.

In the end I had to conceded defeat and send the car to the professionals.     I hope it would be a less painful result than with the W116, as that required major surgery.

In the end it took my mechanic about three hours to get it out, but unlike me, he was able to get it unstuck.   A good example of how experience counts.    I’ve now got a new W124 ignition tumbler in the car.  I also feel confident that I won’t have a problem like with the W116.

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