View Full Version : 2003 Won't Start, Couldn't Shift, Key Stuck in Ignition- Help!

10-19-2016, 03:07 PM
Hey! I am looking for advice as my van has been very problematic this morning. It's a 2003 Freightliner.

Here's what happened: I went to start it, it started but wouldn't shift out of park (sounds like this could be a brake switch/fuse issue). Then I tried restarting it a couple times, and it still wouldn't shift. The tire rotation light was on the whole time, and had been on when I drove it a couple days ago. I turned it off and tried to take the key out and it wouldn't come out. Then I went back 15 minutes later, the key was still stuck but it would turn on, and not shift. Then turned it off and when I tried to turn it back on again it wouldn't turn on. So now it won't turn on and the key is stuck in the ignition.

Any ideas on what might be wrong? I couldn't find much on the forums.

Other potentially relevant details:
I have been insulating it this week so there is a lot of spray foam and polysio board in new places. Took the brake lights out to get foam board in there, but it looks like they're back in correctly.
It had some issues this summer with the wiring harness shorting out when turning tightly, and it seems like the harness isn't wired exactly right.

Thanks for an suggestions or ideas! I am very novice to vans and mechanics, so the more details and pictures the better.

Aqua Puttana
10-19-2016, 03:18 PM
Is the steering wheel bound against the steering wheel locking mechanism? (Wheels against a curb or wheels blocked can affect that.) Try moving the steering wheel back and forth slightly while extracting the key.

The Traction Light might explain the lack of shifter movement, but usually that is accompanied by the ABS and ESP lamps... except that ESP was an option in NAS aka NAFTA 2003, so Traction Light only may be it for you. There is a small door at the end of the shift letters which can be pushed with a pencil to release the shifter.

If the key isn't locked by the steering wheel you can try some gentle taps on the end of the key. There is a possibility that a hung latch could be trapping the key. Tapping may get the latch(es) to release.


10-19-2016, 03:34 PM
I tried moving the steering wheel with no success, wheels are straight and not near anything. The abs and esp lights have gone one before (all three of those at once turn on when going over bumps sometimes), but they weren't on today. Where is the door with the release? I've seen that mentioned a couple places but couldn't find a good description. Thanks for the ideas!!

10-19-2016, 03:37 PM
More details about the key situation: it has a little bit of in and out movement (.5cm?) but no turning movement. I tried tapping it, nothing seemed to change.

10-19-2016, 04:42 PM
I think the key is held in by mechanical means, but possibly there is some electric servo or sensor making the steering column think the key is still in ACC position? Check all the fuses and see if that helps.

10-19-2016, 05:48 PM
There is a pull-cable link between the shift handle and the ignition lock.
If the shifter isn't seen as being in Park, it won't release the key

You could try the "pen trick" (as shown in the owner's manual) to release the shift handle and move it up and down its range, then back to Park and see if that helps.

p.s. "pen trick": insert probe (pen, screwdriver blade) through little flap-door that's beneath the D position of the indicator scale

10-20-2016, 03:23 AM
Wooohooo the pen trick worked!! Thanks so much! But the brake lights don't work at all and one of the rear running lights is out. Any idea what might be going on with the lights or how to figure out what happened to the brake lights? Seems like something about the insulation might be the problem? Thanks again!

10-20-2016, 03:35 AM
Update: the fuse is blown! Should be all good now, thanks for the help!

10-20-2016, 03:41 AM
The brake lights share a fuse with a lot of other stuff (if i recall correctly).

Frequently the brake light problems can be traced to damage to one of the two side rear taillights.
(such as the metal bars breaking free, solder points cracking open, water damage.)

If you use the Advanced Search for "brake lights" in the T1N sub-forums, you'll probably find a number of hits.
The brake pedal switch can also be the problem... the pedal switch is actually two switches, one to talk to the ECU and ABS system, the other to turn on the lights.

Full service manuals for the 2003 and 2006 can be downloaded from http://aie-services-2.net/Sprinter/
Section 8W is the full schematics for the vehicle (the brake circuits are pretty much the same across the T1N years)


10-21-2016, 07:54 PM
Okay so replacing the brake fuse helped the van run normally, but the rear brake lights and turn signals still aren't working. Any ideas on how to fix them?

Aqua Puttana
10-21-2016, 09:44 PM
... Any ideas on how to fix them?
Some good old fashioned troubleshooting maybe?

Some information is contained here with references to other threads.