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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Unless they have plastic or aluminum trim, the construction of most sash-style doors will allow you to wedge them out a great deal before any damage is done. This is due to side-impact and roll-over safety standards that went into effect 10 years ago. Since then, car doors have been built with a great deal more “give” than in the past. The idea is that in a collision, the door should be able to flex so that it does not pop open. Using an inflatable wedge to insert a long-reach tool shouldn’t damage a modern vehicle as long as you use common sense.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when using an inflatable wedge on a sash-style door:
- Make sure that the center of the wedge is placed as close as possible to where you want the maximum pressure.
- If you are wedging the rear edge of the door, keep your wedge as high as possible, but still leave room to insert your tool.
- If you are wedging the top edge of the door, keep your wedge as far to the rear as possible, but leave room to insert your tool.
- Avoid putting pressure on the corner of the door.
- Open a large enough gap so that you can manipulate your tool without damaging the car.
- Use a protector for your tool to prevent scratching the paint.
- Beware of the weather stripping along the inside of the door.
- Never deflate the wedge until your tool is out of the door.
- Never open the door until you have deflated the wedge, unless it is absolutely necessary.
Most of the time, you’ll need to spread open the gap with some other tool like the levers that come with the Jiffy-Jak and similar tools. Always make sure that you spread out any force that you apply as much as possible with a base plate or something similar to protect the vehicle. At the same time, be cautious of plastic and aluminum trim. Just as when you’re wedging the base of the window, if you don’t have the wedge in far enough, it will tend to squirt out of the door as you inflate it.
The point of maximum leverage and the point where you can get the largest gap into the vehicle are at the top rear corner of the door. But that is not where you want to put your levers or your air wedge. That portion of the door is not the strongest portion and I have seen doors where the corner has simply folded over when pressure was applied. That type of damage will require a body shop for repair and it will cost you dearly. In addition, you want to insert your tool into the largest portion of the gap so that you have the maximum about of room to manipulate the tool without damaging the vehicle.
As a general rule, I position my inflatable wedge 2-4 inches below the corner of the door on the rear edge. On some occasions, I’ll place the wedge along the top edge of the door, again 2-4 inches from the corner, to leave room for inserting the tool. I prefer the rear edge of the door because it is generally the stronger area to work with.
When I’m using the Jiffy-Jak, I try to open a gap large enough for me to see clearly inside the car as I insert the tool. If I can’t get enough of a gap to see through, I’ll insert a plastic shim into the door to hold the weather stripping out of the way as I insert the tip of the tool. This is done in much the same way as I use a plastic shim to insert a wedge at the base of the window. This helps to prevent the most common type of damage associated with long-reach tools – torn weather stripping.
In my hands-on classes, a common mistakes is the user looking into the interior of the car through the window as he or she inserts the tool, rather than at the point where the tool is being inserted. Attempting to blindly shove the tool into the gap between the door and frame can result in the kind of damage shown in photo 9.
Most long-reach tools come with some kind of sleeve to protect the finish of the car from tool. A simple sleeve over your rod will prevent the rod from even touching the painted surfaces, which virtually eliminates the possibility of scratching. If you don’t have a sleeve for your tool, you can make one from a plastic pocket protector or plastic report cover from an office supply store.
Another silly sounding mistake is deflating the inflatable wedge as soon as the car is unlocked, but before removing the tool from the door. You just get in a hurry and don’t realize what you’re doing. The next thing you know, your rod is tightly pinned in the door and you may have scratched the paint or dinged the door or trim. I try to always remove the rod from the door, then deflate and remove the wedge and only then open the door. Opening the door while the wedge is inflated tends to surprise and alarm the customer. The door will usually pop open very enthusiastically, while your tool, wedge and any shims go flying in all directions.
Don’t rush this job. Remember that you are working on an $80,000 vehicle