In my youth, I owned a 1970 VW bus with all the accessories. One cold, late night, my best friend and I found ourselves with the keys locked inside the van in the middle of a college parking lot. Security said they couldn’t help. Then my friend called his brother, who owned a locksmith shop, to...
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In my youth, I owned a 1970 VW bus with all the accessories. One cold, late night, my best friend and I found ourselves with the keys locked inside the van in the middle of a college parking lot. Security said they couldn’t help. Then my friend called his brother, who owned a locksmith shop, to help us out. His brother the locksmith told us in no uncertain terms that he was not interested in unlocking a VW in the middle of the night on the coldest night of the year. During the conversation, he mentioned that those vans were very hard to unlock.
Eventually, I pried the hinge in the vent window apart with a borrowed screwdriver. The hinge consisted of two tabs with a rivet in the center, so after we pried the hinge apart, the entire vent window came out, giving us access to the inside of the van. Even better, once I put the vent window back in place, I could “snap” the two portions of the hinge back together and it was almost as good as new. From then on, it was a simple matter to get into the van when I locked my keys in it.
I learned three important things that night. One: some vehicles are harder to unlock than others. Two: a wise locksmith knows when it’s time to stay in a nice warm home. Three: If you put your mind to it, and are desperate enough, you can usually handle any job with a little thought and ingenuity.
So what exactly makes a vehicle hard to unlock? The biggest factor is having the right tool for the job, and I’ve spent most of my adult life making sure that locksmiths have those tools. But assuming that you have all the tools, there are still going to be some jobs that are harder than others.
The customer is also a big factor. If they’re looking over my shoulder and bugging me while I work, I’m going to have a harder time than if they had left me alone. Sometimes customers won’t let you use a particular tool for fear of damaging their vehicle, and you have to work around it.
The answer to all of these problems is to think carefully before you start and have a variety of options in your tool kit for different circumstances.
True locksmiths also have another advantage over the less sophisticated competition, in that when all else fails, we can either pick the lock or just make a key to the car to get in. Today, with the introduction of electronic and cable operated lock systems, making a key has become a much more important tool than in years past.
So what vehicles do I personally consider just plain hard to unlock? Let’s take a look at the cars that make me want to stay home.
VIRTUALLY ANY JAGUAR
Jaguar has a reputation for building quiet vehicles and they do everything they can to shield the passengers from wind and road noise. This means that the weather stripping is going to fit very tightly at all points. In addition, they use Tibbe locks, so picking them will require special tools that most locksmiths don’t have, and even if you have a Tibbe pick, you know that picking a Tibbe lock is hit or miss at best.
The older Jaguars also had a sheet of plastic hanging inside the door to shield the power window motor and power door lock motors from water that runs down the inside of the door. The sheet of plastic acts a lot like a shower curtain for the electronic parts inside the door. If you damage this “shower curtain,” water will get into the electronics and you open yourself up for a large liability.
The good news is that on almost all Jaguars sold in the U.S., pulling the inside handle will override the lock mechanism and allow you to open the door. On the newer vehicles, which are equipped with cables inside the door, this means that if you cannot pick the lock, you have two choices: use an under-window tool to pull the inside door handle or use a long-reach tool such as the Jiffy-Jak to pull the inside door handle. The extreme weather stripping gets in the way of both these methods.
Why has the process of unlocking cars today changed so much in the last decade? The two biggest factors are crash safety and cost reduction.