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Someone else was in the driver seat and they were trying to drive. At one point I took out the key and when he put it back in the car wouldn't start. This was yesterday and it still won't start. The brake pedal is stiff and won't move and I can't get the gear down from park. The steering wheel won't move either. If I insert the key it clicks and if I turn it it clicks as well. The display does turn on and so does the radio.

It's a Mercedes Benz E-200 from 2010.

Here is the result from the multimeter test:

enter image description here

I also bought this kit to jump-start the car: http://www.halfords.com/workshop-tools/garage-equipment/jump-leads/phaze-4-in-1-jump-starter

It did not work.

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    Sounds like an immobilizer problem. Do you have another key? – I have no idea what I'm doing May 6 '16 at 8:48
  • No, I don't. What should I do? – Questioner May 6 '16 at 9:01
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    Well I don't know if the battery is fully charged or not but the radio turns on and the dash display works. As for anything being done, I don't know. Probably some feet resting on pedals. He couldn't remember to pull the gear down to drive and his test was supposed to be tomorrow so I let him try and figure it out and was probably fidgeting. I don't remember exactly. It was only a matter of less than a minute between pulling it out and putting it back in. – Questioner May 6 '16 at 9:14
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    A blown fuse is another possibility. That'd explain why some things get power fine, and others behave as if they're not getting power at all – user56reinstatemonica8 May 6 '16 at 9:16
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    Did you actually remove the key while the other person was driving? – a CVn May 6 '16 at 13:48
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There's a lot of good answers and discussion about electrical issues and other complicated things, but to me it sounds like the steering lock is under tension and not allowing the key to turn all the way and start.

You can sit in almost any car, turn it off, remove the key, and then turn the steering wheel until it clicks into the locked state. The rubber tires and steering system will provide a spring-like force that holds the steering wheel tight against the steering lock. The tension is very strong, and turning a tiny key is going to be impossible with the forces involved.

Grab the steering wheel and turn it away from the lock (just a little is ok) to relieve the pressure and try to turn the key.

This is the only thing I can think of that would stop a car from starting by just playing with the key and steering wheel.

  • The steering wheel is completely stiff. It doesn't move either way. – Questioner May 7 '16 at 11:43
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A mechanic looked at it and determined the steering lock was the problem. He replaced it and it works now. I don't know what exactly was wrong and how a bad steering lock caused all that. I don't know what caused it. I remember the driver was fidgeting trying to get it started. Could trying to turn the key in a certain way do it? I remember this happened before but it didn't stay like that (started it up after waiting a while) and both times the same person was in the driver seat.

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    Thanks for coming back with this answer. The next person to have this problem will now have a chance of puzzling it out on their own. – Bob Cross May 26 '16 at 13:45
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I suspect the problem relates to a low battery. Actually turning the start motor is the most intensive process that the battery does. If it's low on change you can get the situation where other things will work but the starter won't turn.

Your best course of action is to use a set of jump leads or use a charger to top up the battery and see what happens.

If this doesn't work, it could be that the exciter cable that "switches on" your starter has become dislodged or snapped. The problem could also be in your ignition switch or with the cars immobilizer but I'd rule out a low battery first.

  • Thank you for your help. I will try and do this. How would the battery have gone low though? The engine was running only a minute before the problem started. – Questioner May 6 '16 at 10:05
  • If it turns out that the fault is low charge in the battery it could be a number of things. It could simply be that the battery is ready for replacement. It could be that the charging system isn't providing charge or it could be that the battery was drained by something like leaving a light on overnight. If jump starting works, have the cars charging system checked at a garage before spending any money on a battery or charging system, otherwise you might buy the wrong thing. – Steve Matthews May 6 '16 at 10:38
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I don't think this is a battery problem, given the circumstances and the fact the radio and everything else still work - but it's possible repeated failed attempts to start the car while diagnosing the real problem might flatten the battery, giving you a battery problem on top of the original problem...

I'd suggest getting a couple of things as a precaution, which are both useful things to have anyway:

  • A multimeter that can measure DC volts up to at least one, preferably two decimal places (a "20" option in the DC volts area of the dial is a good sign), example
  • Some way to charge the battery. Jump leads might not help if you can't start the engine... Lithium ion battery packs designed for car batteries aka "pocket jumpstarters" seem to be gaining in popularity, example, but I'm not sure which brands you can use them without being able to start the engine. Here's one that advertises itself as a "charger" as well as jump starter and describes being able to connect it and let it run without starting the engine. If the car's at home and there's an electric outlet nearby, a plug-in charger will be the cheapest and simplest option.

On to the actual problem. Cheapest and easiest thing to rule out is a problem with the fuses and connections leading to the starter motor, which can also result in the same combination of clicking noises while failing to start with power working for the rest of the car.

Check your fuses. Fuse box locations and descriptions should be in the owner's manual. There might be a fuse removal tool, or if not, you should be able to pull all except 50a+ monsters out by simply pulling with pliers.

If there are any specific fuses where you're not sure whether the filament is blown from looking, if you got that multimeter recommended above, you can test them by setting the multimeter to measure resistance (ohms) and touching one connector to one end of the fuse and looking for a change in reading when you connect the other. If the meter reading doesn't change when there's contact on both sides, the fuse is dead.

If they're all fine, look for loose cables or connections leading to the starter motor.


[edit - after realising I misread the question slightly, I think this is less likely than a fuse problem] Given that you mention the steering wheel being locked, and the key having been pulled out in an unusual way, it sounds like some kind of anti-theft system has kicked in.

Mercedes Mechanic say:

If the key does not turn in the ignition, try moving the steering wheel as you try to turn the key. The steering wheel will feel completely solid if you try to move it in one direction and may move slightly in the opposite direction. Push the steering wheel in the direction that allows a little movement and then insert the key and try to turn the key again. You can put pressure on the steering wheel and also try shaking the steering wheel. As you do this insert the key into the ignition and try to turn the key. DO NOT TRY TO FORCE THE KEY IN THE IGNITION. The steering column lock is a security feature which all car manufacturers incorporate in the cars.

If you don't have and can't get a spare key, it seems that official roadside assistance companies (your local equivalent of the AA or RAC in the UK) can bypass such locks in manufacturer approved ways. You might also be able to buy an additional key from your dealer.

Aside from that, there are a number of claimed fixes and locksmith companies who claim to be able to bypass such systems. I can't vouch for any, but do some research on your specific model and area.

Before committing to anything, find out what you can about what steering wheel lock related security figures your model has. Hopefully the owner's manual will tell you something useful!

  • I don't think the key was pulled out in an unusual way. The key does turn by the way, it just doesn't start. The steering wheel doesn't move in either direction. I guess I'll have to try a new key along with the jump start. They cost a few hundred AFAIK :( – Questioner May 6 '16 at 12:37
  • Oh, maybe I misread the question, the way I read it, I thought you yanked the key out while the other person was driving! I was wondering what they were doing that made you take such drastic action... :-) Don't buy a new key until you've ruled out other possibilities and confirmed a) that it really is a steering column security lock and b) that there's no other way! – user56reinstatemonica8 May 6 '16 at 12:39
  • I wonder if that is a possibility though. I don't remember exactly. If I do get a new key, will that solve the problem if it was to do with the immobilizer? – Questioner May 6 '16 at 12:46
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    I've had a similar problem with a Honda CRV. The key would turn, the radio would turn on, but I could not move the stick out of PARK and the car would not start. Turned out to be a blown fuse (rear breaklight fuse). Opened the cover for the fuse panel, switched out the dodgy fuse with one of the spares clipped to the cover and it all worked fine after that. Much cheaper to replace a fuse than an immobiliser key! – mccdyl001 May 6 '16 at 13:30
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    Many multimeters have a buzzer (or diode test) mode as well. Works great for fuses: set the multimeter to the correct mode, touch both fuse terminals, and if the meter buzzes, the fuse is good. Test by simply letting the probes touch each other. Just make sure to not do this with an energized circuit! It's basically the same as a resistance measurement, but you don't have to look to the meter display. – a CVn May 6 '16 at 13:47

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