Sometimes I wonder if other trades have as many specialty tools as automotive locksmiths. It seems like every time that you turn around there are a dozen new tools out there that you either can’t live without, or would make my life a lot easier. Since the automotive industry is changing so rapidly, I guess new specialty tools are just the price of admission to work in such a lucrative field. I probably should consider myself lucky; a friend of mine specializes in automotive electronics and he spends thousands of dollars each year staying up to date!
Let’s take a quick look at just a few of the new tools that are now on the market for automotive locksmiths.
GM Flip-Key Tools
The new side-milled GM lock system, known as the “Flip-Key” system, made its debut on the 2010 Camaro, but it has rapidly spread to most of the new GM vehicles. So far, it is also in use on the Chevrolet Equinox, Cruze, and Volt, Buick Lacrosse, Allure and Regal, GMC Terrain and the Cadillac SRX. In a few years this may well be the “standard” GM lock system. The system is manufactured by Strattec and they have already introduced two new specialty tools for servicing these new locks.
Most of the new flip-key door locks incorporate a clutch that will allow the lock to “free-wheel” if too much force is applied. The clutch consists of a rubber buffer and a pin that locks the cylinder into place. The end of the pin is also attached to the lock pawl. If someone attempts to “force rotate” the door lock, the pin is compressed into the rubber pad, which releases the cylinder to turn. At the same time, the pin disengages the lock pawl so that the lock can rotate without unlocking the door.
Assembling the door lock can be tricky because you have to hold several parts in place as you drive in the roll-pin that secures the lock pawl to the lock plug. In addition, the lock pawl can be installed in two different ways, only one of which is correct.
The Free-Wheeling Door Lock Fixture, Strattec Part # 7017698, makes the job easy. All you have to do is to slide the various components into place in the fixture and then clamp the whole thing in a vise. Then you can drive the roll-pin into place easily in the correct position without having to hold all of the parts together. The tool is made in such a way that if you have assembled the lock incorrectly, the hole for the roll-pin will not be accessible.
The new “Flip-Keys” from GM are very similar to other “switchblade” keys that have been in use for quite some time. When the button on the fob is depressed, the key blade snaps out and into position. After using the key, the button can be pressed again and the key can be folded back into the fob. The key blade itself can be replaced without having to buy a new fob. This is important because the blades are designed to break off if too much pressure is applied to the key. This is a safety feature to help prevent injuries in a collision. It is also a nuisance if the owner tries to use the key to pry on something like a can of paint. Replacement blades are available from Strattec in a package of five blades and five roll-pins (P/N 5915037).
To help in changing out the blade, Strattec also provides the “Flip-Key Fixture.” part number 7017699. This tool will safely hold the key fob and blade in the correct position for you to drive the roll-pin into or out of position. This pretty much eliminates the possibility of damaging the key fob while changing the blade. This fixture will work on any of the current crop of GM Flip-Key fobs as well as the fob that was used on the Saturn Astra.