Roadside service providers have done a lot of good things for locksmiths. For years they have been supplying many of us with a steady stream of business and a quick and easy source for automotive key codes. Unfortunately, a few people abused the key code service and now it has become much more...
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The EEZ Reader was the first decoder of its kind on the market, but has only been sold through six regional distributors, so not all locksmiths are familiar with this tool. There are 14 EEZ Readers for selected applications. All of the EEZ Readers work on the same basic principal and are similar in construction to the one shown in Photo 4. Each reader consists of two parts, a specially milled key tool — "A," and a calibrated slide — "B." There is a slot milled into the key blank — "C," that runs down the length of the key that the slide fits into. Near the tip of the key blank, there is a slot — "D," that is just slightly wider than the thickness of one tumbler. There is also a series of index marks — "E," near the head of the key blank that work in conjunction with the index mark on the slide — "F." Spacing marks "G" are also placed along the blade of the key tool to help you determine which tumbler is being decoded.
Photo 5 shows the EEZ Reader assembled, as it would be inserted into the lock. Notice that the slide covers the slot at the end of the tool; this prevents any of the tumblers from falling into the slot as the tool is inserted. After the tool is inserted fully into the lock, the slide is withdrawn, allowing a tumbler to fall into the slot. Then the tool is pulled out of the lock slowly until a tumbler becomes trapped in the slot. The spacing marks on the shaft of the tool help the user determine which tumbler has become trapped for the decoding process.
After a tumbler has been trapped, it is decoded by pushing the slide back into the tool until it touches the trapped tumbler. The index marks on the slide "F" and the key tool "G" indicate the depth of the tumbler. A light touch and a little practice are required, but when used properly, this tool can quickly decode the tumbler and give the user the exact depth. After an individual tumbler has been decoded, the slide is pushed in far enough to release the tumbler and the tool is withdrawn to the next position where the process is repeated. After all of the tumblers in the lock have been decoded, a key can then be generated.
EEZ Readers are available only through the six distributors in the PLS Network:
E.L Reinhardt, St. Paul MN, 800-328-1311
H.E. Mitchell Co., Portland, OR, 800-626-5625
Locks Co., Miami, FL, 800-288-0801
Maziuk Wholesale Distributor, Syracuse, NY, 800-777-5945
McDonald Dash, Memphis, TN, 800-238-7541
R&H Wholesale, San Francisco, CA, 800-367-5625
Using the Kobra Reader
The Kobra Reader (Photo 6) works on essentially the same principal as the EEZ Reader, but with a few major differences. Photo 6 is actually a pre-production drawing of the tool to be introduced at the ALOA show in Chicago this July. Initially the Kobra Reader will be available for five of the most common lock systems, but more will be available at a later date.
The Kobra reader features a high-intensity LED illuminator "A" and a high-contrast scale "B" to make decoding at night much easier. In addition, the spacing guides "C" are larger. The precision slide is also held captive in its slot so that it cannot be lost. Because the slide is held in the proper alignment regardless of its position, it yields a more accurate measurement of the tumbler depth than would not be possible if the slide were free to "float."
The Kobra Reader is manufactured and sold exclusively through Lockmasters, Inc., Nicholasville, KY, telephone 800-654-0637.
Whenever you use either of these tools, here are a few techniques that you need to understand:
Make sure that the tumbler has dropped all the way to the rest position by rocking the tool slightly after the tumbler is trapped to fully seat the tumbler in the slot.
Push in on the tool to bind the tumbler as you take the reading in order to bind the tumbler so that the slide stops against the tumbler instead of lifting it.
When in doubt, make the cuts on your key high — you can always cut them deeper, but it's impossible to go the other way.
Expect the tumblers near the face of the lock to be more worn that the ones at the tip of the keyway.
Using the Determinator
Unlike the first two tools, the Determinator is not designed to read the exact depth of the tumblers. Instead it uses a system of half depths that in most cases will produce a key that is close enough to turn the lock on the first try. Once the key has turned, it can be refined by simple impression and / or progression to produce the finished key. Due to variations in the tolerances in different lock systems, the Determinator can be used on a wider variety of locks than the other tools. More than 40 Determinator tools are available for different lock systems.
Photo 7 shows the components of a typical Determinator. Each tool consists of one or more specially machined keys "A" and a matching tumbler release tool "B." The release tool fits into the milled slot "C" on the key in order to release the tumblers after the notch "D" near the tip of the key has trapped them. Each Determinator also has a spacing guide stamped onto the shaft of the tool (Photo 8). The spacing guide allows the user to determine which tumblers are trapped and which are not trapped.
I've been an automotive locksmith for almost 35 years now, and I've used just about every technique and tool there is to make keys to vehicles at one time or another...
DETERMINATORS are available for most years and models of domestic vehicles.
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