When it comes to vehicle entry, the word “wedging” seems to mean different things to different people. To some, it’s just a part of the job, and to others, it’s something to be avoided at all costs. I suspect that those who avoid wedging have either broken a car window or fear that they...
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When it comes to vehicle entry, the word “wedging” seems to mean different things to different people. To some, it’s just a part of the job, and to others, it’s something to be avoided at all costs. I suspect that those who avoid wedging have either broken a car window or fear that they will. Those who have too casual an attitude toward wedging will all too often have a sudden change of heart as they pay for that first broken window.
My career as a locksmith has spanned over 30 years, 20 of which were spent figuring out how to unlock brand new cars and teaching hands-on vehicle entry classes. During those years, I’ve probably wedged more car windows per year than most locksmiths will in their entire career. So far, I have managed to break just one car window, and I didn’t break that window with a wedge. (I did it using only two fingers while removing a prototype tool from the door of a brand new car at the dealership. That window cost me $213.20 in 1993.) I’m going to try to pass along a little of my experience in this article in the hopes of saving you from ever experiencing that sickening feeling that comes with watching a car window shatter in front of your eyes.
There are basically two types of wedging that goes along with vehicle entry: wedging open a gap at the base of the window so that you can insert a tool, and wedging the door itself so that you can insert a long reach tool such as the Jiffy-Jak. I’ll begin by discussing the typical kind of wedging that is required to insert a tool into the door.
The first type of wedging that I ever saw wasn’t what you would truly call “wedging,” and it still gives me the willies just thinking about it. It was the use of a flat-steel “corner brace” (photo 1) inserted between the glass and the weather stripping, and then rotated to open the gap. This is a recipe for disaster in my opinion, and I strongly urge you to avoid this practice. The square edges of the steel brace, coupled with the large amount of leverage that you can get with this technique, make it just too easy to break or scratch a window.
The most common form of wedging uses a wedge-shaped object that is pushed, with varying degrees of force, down into the door between the glass and the weather stripping to open the gap.
There are many different types of wedges out there, and just as many opinions on how to use them. To my way of thinking, there are basically three different types of wedges: hard plastic wedges, soft plastic (rubber) wedges, and wooden wedges (photo 2). My preference is for the wooden wedges, because they will deform if they hit something in the door such as a window track or fasteners. A wooden wedge will also break or crack easier than most windows, and if anything is going to break, I would prefer that it be my wedge rather than the window glass.
I will occasionally use a hard plastic wedge, but I am much more observant when I do. The biggest advantage to using a hard plastic wedge is that they maintain a sharp edge much longer than wooden wedges. This gives them the ability to slip behind the weather stripping more easily, with less chance of the weather stripping rolling under the wedge. The only problem is that if you are not careful with that sharp edge, you can also cut the weather stripping. Hard plastic wedges are also rather slippery and have a way of working their way out of the door as you work, which reduces your room to work.
Hard rubber wedges are pretty nice, but somewhat hard to come by these days. Most of the ones that I have used were made from old-fashioned chainsaw wedges that had been cut with a bandsaw. The problem is that modern chainsaw wedges are made from hard plastic instead of the dense rubber that they were made from 10 to 15 years ago.
Don’t rush this job. Remember that you are working on an $80,000 vehicle