I’ve always disliked the term “deadlock” when applied to a vehicle. It tends to give people the wrong impression of what is actually going on. To me, the term “Deadlock” implies that an additional lock of some type has been engaged. I prefer to think of these systems as a “disconnect...
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I’ve always disliked the term “deadlock” when applied to a vehicle. It tends to give people the wrong impression of what is actually going on. To me, the term “Deadlock” implies that an additional lock of some type has been engaged. I prefer to think of these systems as a “disconnect,” because when a vehicle “deadlock” is engaged, all of the normal lock control devices are disconnected and only a master key or a remote will re-engage them. Anyone who has accidentally been locked inside a “deadlocked” vehicle will tell you that they could operate all the inside lock controls, but the controls just didn’t do anything. Unfortunately, everyone else calls these systems “deadlocks,” so I will too in this article.
In North America you’ll only find BMW and Land Rover vehicles equipped with deadlock systems, but they are very common in Europe where stringent anti-theft laws that have been enacted for new vehicles over the past decade. I suspect that another reason deadlocks are not common in North America is that we in the United States have become infamous for our legal system.
Since most of the deadlocks that you will encounter in the U. S. will be on BMW vehicles, I’ll limit this article to those systems. Deadlocks on BMWs first appeared in the late 1980s on the 6 and 7 series vehicles. Since that time, the deadlocks have evolved from mechanical devices into electronic devices. BMW has also used three distinct systems, and each system needs to be handled differently. The deadlocks of today are far different from the deadlocks of 20 years ago. I have no idea what terminology BMW uses to describe these different systems, so I have come up with my own terminology, and I’ll be using that in this article. I’ll refer to these systems as Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 for convenience.
Type 1 Systems
This is the original, mechanically controlled BMW deadlock. On this type of system, the deadlock was only active if the operator of the vehicle manually turned it on. In order to activate the system, the owner had to turn the key in the door lock 90 degrees and then remove it. On the Type 1 system it is easy to tell if the car is in the deadlocked mode just by looking at the door locks. If the keyway of either door lock is horizontal, rather than vertical, then the vehicle is deadlocked. If the vehicle is not deadlocked, then the inside lock control systems are still engaged and any normal method of unlocking will work. If the vehicle is in the deadlocked mode, the inside lock controls will be inactive and the lock buttons will be rigidly held in place. This system was originally used only on the 6 and 7 series vehicles beginning in the mid-1980s, but was later expanded to the 5 series vehicles. The Type 1 system was gradually replaced by the Type 2 system, beginning in 1991.
Type 2 Systems
By the end of the 1991 model year, the Type 2 system was standard equipment on all BMW models sold in the U. S. This system was still manually activated, but would be engaged only if the car was locked with the key or with the remote. The key did not have to be removed in any special position and there was no obvious outward indication whether the system was active or not. In the deadlock mode, the inside lock buttons are rigidly locked in place and will not move even if you are inside car pulling on them with all your might.
Because this system was still manually activated, in most cases where the keys are locked inside the vehicle, the deadlock system will not be active. The lock button on the driver’s door cannot be pushed down while the door is open, but you can lock the other doors without the key. It was relatively easy to lock the keys inside the car, sometimes along with a child, while strapping a child into, or removing them from, a car seat in the rear compartment. All you had to do was put your keys or your purse down while taking care of the child and then lock the door as you closed it on your way to your own seat. In this scenario, the doors will all be locked due to the central locking system, but the car will not be deadlocked because it was not locked with the key or the remote. Traditional car opening procedures, including getting junior to pull the button up, will unlock the car.
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.
Even with all the tools, some jobs are harder than others.