AccuReader is a new design and refinement of the auto and motorcycle keyway reader, based on existing wafer reader tool concepts. The focus here will be on the recently developed line of AccuReader auto readers.
A number of competitors are on the market, including Kobra, Determinator, EZ Reader, and BT Reader. Competitors and AccuReader alike use the core concept of inserting a modified key blank into a lock cylinder to trap wafers, and then inserting a feeler gauge down a machined slot in the blank to find out which wafer is trapped and to determine the depth of cut at that wafer position. The new AccuReader design, however, simplifies the process, has a shorter learning curve, and requires less finesse, avoiding possible errors.
Keith and Brian Capehart are the owners of LOCKTECH, a locksmith business in Biloxi, Miss. They have trademarked the AccuReader name, and have a patent pending on the tool. The Capeharts have operated as locksmiths in Biloxi for 10 years.
Keith had a friend and customer who owned the local Suzuki motorcycle dealership and needed lock services. The Capeharts developed the AccuReader as a tool for their own use in originating keys for motorcycles. They had their first public exposure on a locksmith forum, which generated sales. Encouraged, and seeing the commercial potential of the product, they began developing a line of motorcycle readers.
Customers began asking for AccuReaders for cars. The Capeharts developed tools for the GM 10-cut, the Ford 8-cut, the GM-Z keyway, and the Chrysler 8-cut. With numerous requests for Nissan and Toyota, the next tools to be introduced will likely cover these makes.
Keith says the AccuReader is sufficiently distinguishable from the prior technology to get approval of the pending patent application. The “prior art” (in patent office lingo), generally uses a single wafer lifting tool, which slides down the slot machined in the side of the key blank. The same wafer lifting tool doubles as a wafer reader. Since the working end of the slider has a pointed wedge-shaped profile, there is a danger of misreading a wafer due to the slider lifting the wafer. In addition to requiring impressioning skill, these tools can be time-consuming to use. The AccuReader avoids these problems by using a series of notched, square-end feeler gauges, with a separate, single-purpose lifter. Because the feeler gauges are square where they contact the wafer, there is no danger of lifting the wafer, and a clear indication of the depth of the cut is read.
As development of the invention progressed, a small but important additional touch was added, index marks on the outside of the gauge labeled “Yes” and “No.” On the GM ten-cut, for example, the user is provided with two key blanks, one for wafer positions 1 to 5, and the other for positions 6 to 10. The notches on the two blanks are positioned differently in order to reach the appropriate wafer positions. In addition to the release slide, there are three depth slides. The first blank is inserted to trap the deepest wafer. The three depth slides, as necessary, are run into the wafer. If the deepest wafer is a #4, the #4 depth slide will read a “Yes” on the outside end of the blank, and the cut is recorded. If it reads a “No,” the #3 depth slide is inserted, and so on. After adding the Yes-No index feature, numbering of the index holes was introduced on those keyways which have enough consistency from model to model to make this work.
Because the Capeharts were tinkerers since childhood, the family had a hobby machine shop, including a bench mill and a 20” lathe. They made the prototypes on this equipment. But when it came time to begin manufacturing, it was necessary to buy a small CNC (computer controlled) mill to handle the volume. They are producing 50 to 75 tool sets a week.
The Capeharts have provided a complete solution with each tool, including additional parts where necessary. The Chrysler 8-cut contains one machined key blank, a wafer lifter, and three depth sliders. The GM 10-cut tool includes two key blanks to accommodate the long keyway, and three depth sliders like the Chrysler. By comparison, the GM-Z tool includes six depth slides instead of the basic three, to accommodate warded as well un-warded locks. There is no additional charge for this. The Ford 8-cut contains two key blanks (with differently spaced wafer trapping notches), as well as seven depth slides (two sets), one for non-HUF and one for the HUF lock, all at the price of the basic tool.
Sales are about 50-50 direct vs. distributor generated. LOCKTECH has engaged four distributors so far, H. L. Flake, Lockmasters, H. E. Mitchell and Locksmithtools.com.au. They are seeking additional distributors.
Videos are an important element of LOCKTECH’S on-line presence. Visit www.accureader.com.
Since the product depends on the wafers dropping down (or up) completely (just as with all other readers), wafer free movement is vital. The directions enclosed with the product emphasize the importance of degreasing the wafers to permit free movement.
Some users have been concerned that since AccuReader results depend strictly on the correct position of the wafers, cars with stuck wafers will yield inaccurate results. Keith’s comment is that these users may be working on Fords going back about ten years, which were manufactured with greased locks. Any lock which has grease or accumulated dirt will need to be degreased thoroughly. Running a key in and out of the lock 20 or 30 times while degreasing is recommended. In problem cases a hook pick or similar object may need to be worked in the lock. Keith recommends CRC brand electronic cleaner as a degreaser.
The user should be familiar with progressing. Since sidebar ignition locks cannot be read, door locks will usually be the first choice for cuts. One or two cuts will be unknown, and will have to be progressed. Also, in certain locks, including “HUF” and warded locks, some positions are identified only as one of two possible depths. In those locks where AccuReader yields a choice between two cuts, Keith recommends using the “one-up” progression capabilities of a program like Instacode. The one-up feature combines two searches into one, and yields a progression chart that is simpler and usually more economical of key blanks than two separate searches. With the present AccuReader tools this issue is encountered with Ford 8-cut “HUF” locks at the #4 and #3 wafer positions (they both rest at the same height), and the GM-Z warded locks. These locks are found in about 25 percent of each of these two makes.
Phil Agius, of Framon, which sells Genericode, comments that Genericode at this time cannot accomplish the “one-up” function. However, the possibilities can be separately progressed using Genericode, and the results combined manually. Lacking a progression strategy, the user will need to resort to impressioning in this sub-set of cars.