Dealing With Pin Retainers

Most locksmiths would rather deal with ten active retainers than one pin retainer. You generally have to fight, curse, and dig the pin retainers out their sockets with drills, ice-picks, Dremel® and tools.


Most modern ignition locks fall into two broad categories: pin-retained locks and locks that are held in place by an “active retainer.” Active retainer locks have a retainer that is usually spring-loaded, and can generally be released only after the lock has been turned from the Locked position...


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Dental burrs have a special heat-sensitive coating that changes color when the burr gets too hot. Once the burr changes color, the dentist will throw it away because they cannot afford to generate too much heat while drilling a tooth. Too much heat can kill the nerve in the tooth. Locks don’t generally care if they get a little hot, and cast zinc is a lot softer than teeth. A dental burr that is too dull for dental work will still cut through a spring steel roll pin like butter. My dentist saves his old burrs for me and every time I go for a check-up, I get a small bag of them for free. In order to avoid possible contamination from things like AIDS, he “autoclaves” the burrs, which sterilizes them. This is not an extra step for him because current regulations require that medical tools such as dental burrs be sterilized before they are discarded anyway.

Once you have your dental burrs, you will need a way to hold them and to spin them at very high speeds. Your Dremel tool will work great for this with the addition of a “finger chuck” as shown in photo 10. Finger chucks are available wherever Dremel accessories are sold. The last finger chuck I bought cost $3, so it’s not a huge investment. The finger chuck replaces the standard collet and allows you to hold various sized bits. Dental burrs are tiny in comparison to normal Dremel bits, so I always tighten the chuck with the wrench, using the flats on the base of the chuck. Dental burrs are also designed to spin at speeds up to 100,000 rpm, so you will want to run your Dremel tool as fast as possible as you use them.

Another advantage of the finger chuck is that once you have one, you can also hold some very tiny drill bits and spin them at very high speeds. Dremel even offers an inexpensive set of bits that are designed for high speed work as an option that is shown in photo 11.

Armed with my dental burrs and a rechargeable Dremel tool, it’s easy to cut an angled slot next to the pin as shown in photo 12. I begin by using the dental burr as a drill to grind a hole at an angle down to the roll pin and then continue cutting until I have either cut a notch in the side of the pin if it is a solid pin, or a hole in the side of the pin if it is a roll pin. Then, I cut away the metal above the hole so that I have a clear path to pry the pin out through. Next I use an ice pick, or a Shrum tool, as I’m using in photo 13, to pry the pin out of the socket. I like the Shrum tool because it is shorter than an ice pick and I can generally get it into tighter places.

DEALING WITH TOYOTA / LEXUS IGNITIONS

Toyota and Lexus use a combination of a splined solid pin and two mushroomed pins to hold the face cap onto most of their ignitions. Removing the face cap is therefore a two-step operation. First, remove the solid pin and then disengage the two mushroomed pins before the face cap can be removed and the lock serviced.

You could remove the solid pin with a dental burr and an ice pick but there is an easier way. The solid pin goes through a tab in the underside of the face cap that fits into a rectangular casting on the bottom of the lock. The pin is in a blind hole, but it is easy to drill a small hole from the side, at the base of the pin, and then push the pin up with an ice pick or Shrum tool. In fact, if you’re lucky, you can often hit the base of the pin with your drill bit as you drill the hole and the drill bit will push the pin up far enough for you to grab it.

In photo 14, you see how I’m using the Dremel tool to drill the hole at the base of the pin. I wasn’t lucky enough on this one to have the pin pop up, but I do have a hole into the pin chamber that I can easily work through.

Photo 15 shows how I was able to push the pin up partially with the end of a Shrum tool. This is far enough up for me to grab with a small pair of side-cutters as shown in photo sixteen. Once I have a grip on the pin, I can rock the side-cutters to pull the pin up more. After repositioning the side-cutters, you can usually pull the pin out the rest of the way.

With the solid pin removed, we next need to deal with the two mushroomed pins. These pins are cast into the face cap and can easily be broken off if you are not careful. When the face cap is installed on the lock, the ends of the pins that protrude through the face of the lock are mashed flat to hold the face cap in place as shown in photo six. If we grind off all of the mushroomed part of the pins there will be nothing left to hold the face cap in place securely. This will cause the face to be loose unless we use something like J-B Weld to reattach the face cap.

I prefer to grind off a portion of each pin and then carefully pry the face cap off a little at a time. If you are careful, the remaining parts of the mushroomed pins will fold up and allow the face cap to slide free of lock. If this works correctly, there will still be enough metal left for you to restake the pins to hold the face cap securely.

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