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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If you choose an under-window tool, using a lot of lubricant on your tool and shimming the weather stripping on the outside of the door will go a long way toward making the job easier. For a lubricant, you obviously can’t use oil or grease since that would stain the upholstery, so I use dishwashing liquid. This will rinse away easily and if it gets on something that it shouldn’t, it simply cleans it. Since I always keep a bottle of Dawn in my truck for cleaning my hands, this is not really a problem.
Using a long-reach tool requires patience and a quality tool. You simply can’t use a long-reach tool that requires you to shove a chainsaw wedge into the space between the door and frame without risking damage.
Even with the Jiffy-Jak, you must be very careful. I use the smaller of the two levers to gently open a gap large enough to insert the large lever without pinching the weather stripping. Then, I use the large lever to open a gap just large enough to insert an air wedge and let the air wedge do the work. I also use a sleeve over my rod so that it doesn’t scratch the paint of tear the weather stripping. Toilet paper tubes make great disposable shields if you don’t have a plastic one.
PRE-2004 LEXUS VEHICLES
These vehicles are equipped with an alarm that incorporates a relocking mechanism that will relock the door as quickly as you can unlock it. The mechanism inside the door is either well shielded or it is cables. And of course the locks are high-security “sidewinder” locks that have split tumblers.
If you use either an under-window tool or a long-reach tool, you must pull the outside door handle at the exact moment that you unlock the door. The relocking mechanism works very fast and the later models work even faster, so this requires a lot of patience and coordination. Unfortunately, both of these character traits are hard to exercise while the alarm is sounding and everyone within half a block is coming to see what is going on.
My solution is to simply avoid the alarm / relocker problem completely by disconnecting the battery before I try to unlock the car. The standard Toyota and Lexus hood release is a paddle located at that bottom edge of the dash near where the driver’s left knee would be. I use the Jiffy-Jak on the driver’s side of the vehicle to reach in and pop open the hood. Once the hood is released, I leave the rod inside the vehicle while I disconnect the negative terminal of the battery. After the battery has been disconnected, I return to the door and use the tool to unlock the vehicle.
The downside to this method is that disconnecting the battery will require the owner to re-set the radio stations, and if they have an anti-theft stereo system, they will have to enter the code in order to get the stereo to operate again. Both of these problems are minor annoyances as long as you inform the customer before you start. If you wait until you’re done, you’re liable to have an angry customer on your hands – especially if he or she doesn’t know the code for the high-dollar anti-theft stereo!
What about Lexus models made after 2004? Those are easy to unlock with the Jiffy-Jak. In fact, I love doing them because I can charge more for less work. The trick is that beginning in 2002, Toyota / Lexus began phasing in a new latch system. On the new system, pulling the inside handle will override the lock mechanism. The cars still have a relocker, but as long as you are holding the inside handle out far enough, it simply cannot relock the car. All you have to do is hold the handle out with one hand and reach down with the other to pull the outside door handle.
If you’re dealing with a Toyota, Lexus or Scion vehicle made between 2002 and 2004 and you’re not sure if it is equipped with the new system, just attack it from the driver’s side. Pulling the handle on the older models will do you no good, so if that doesn’t work, reach on down with the tool and unlatch the hood as I described above.
SOME ACURAS AND HONDAS
Unlike most manufacturers, Honda uses plastic trim along and around the windows. All Honda vehicles have tight fitting weather stripping to combat wind and road noise. They also have used either bicycle-style cables inside the doors or a heavily shielded vertical system since the late 1990s. Newer Honda and Acura vehicles use a high-security lock system. Once again, this leaves us with two options, an under-window tool or a long-reach tool.
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.