People have been locking themselves out of homes, offices, vehicles, etc. for many years. The auto lockouts have probably been the most profitable for locksmiths, based on sheer numbers. In fact, some locksmiths only do car openings. To open locked cars, homes and businesses, manufacturers have been producing specialty bypass tools forever.
Car-opening tools were probably invented the day before the first fully enclosed vehicle came off the assembly line. Before the ?Slim Jim,? there were vent window tools, long reach tools and others. For whatever reason, the Slim Jim became the best known lockout tool. Truth be known, the Slim Jim has a disputed origin with more than one company claiming it invented the venerable lockout tool.
From the early days, car-opening tools were sold individually as one manufacturer would produce a new tool as the need was created. Then from the 1960s through the 1980s, the Slim Jim, a simple piece of notched spring steel, became the main weapon in the locksmith?s arsenal of bypass tools. Along with the vent window tool, almost any car could be quickly and carefully opened without damage. In the hands of a novice, either the Slim Jim or the Vent tool could tear up new or old rubber weather stripping. As an added advantage, the Slim Jim could disconnect a linkage rod. Still, it was something you wouldn?t be caught without. Over the 20 or so years, many different styles of Slim Jim type tools were developed.
Today, you?ll still find a Slim Jim in most locksmith service trucks. It?s still useful, but has been joined by a myriad of other auto lockout tools and equipment.
No longer will one tool fit almost all. The advent of rigid lock pawls, protected linkage rods, armored cables and side-impact airbags mounted into the door cavity have greatly changed the tools and techniques required for the ?simple car opening.?
In about 1997 we saw the introduction of remote-assist lockouts with the release of General Motors OnStar system. This has resulted in some lockouts being handled by a distant operator sending a signal via satellite to open a locked vehicle for an authorized subscriber to the system. Still, there are millions of cars on the road not so equipped.
The investment into proper lockout tools and support equipment is essential for the locksmith of the 21st century to avoid doing damage to the customer?s vehicle. Specialty tools and equipment such as high-intensity inspection lights and inflatable wedges make the job easier. Detailed technical reference material is available in book form, on videotapes and in CD format.
Here is an overview of seven popular auto lockout tool companies and how their products can help you open locked vehicles in a professional manner that can make you money. They are listed in alphabetical order.
High Tech Tools
High Tech Tools offers a complete line of lockout tools for cars and trucks. ?Trucks? means more than just pickups and SUVs. High Tech offers tools and information for medium and heavy duty trucks, including semi tractors.
They have been in business over 20 years, producing vehicle opening manuals that cover almost every car from 1979 to the present, filling over 1600 pages with instruction, photos and diagrams. The lockout information is also offered in a DVD format.
All High Tech lockout tool kits contain the same 32 basic tools, but vary in price with additional accessories. Tools in some kits offer special plating options. Specialty tools include the Glass Man system for vehicles with frameless windows, the Lightning Rod and the One Hand Jack Set for emergency openings. The Air Jack is an inflatable wedge and some kits include a car-opening video.
A great selection of inspection lights, wedges, carrying cases and information options exist with this company. In addition to offering yearly book updates, High Tech also offers a money back guarantee and a lifetime tool replacement guarantee.
For more information, contact High Tech Tools, 1628 NW 28th Street, Miami, FL 33142. Telephone: (800) 323-8324. Fax: (305) 635-1015. Web Site: www.hightechtools.com.
Since starting out in 1956 as a small locksmith shop on Chicago?s north side, HPC has become a recognized manufacturer in the locksmith industry. It is widely believed that HPC was the original inventor and producer of the Slim Jim. In fact, they hold the trademark to that product name.
In recent years, HPC has introduced a variety of specialty lockout tools and accessories. They were the first tool company to offer the Air Wedge. This unique inflatable wedge revolutionized the way we open locked cars. The design allows an un-inflated rubber square to slip between the doorframe and auto body. By pumping a small bulb repeatedly, you ease the frame out and create an opening for a bypass tool to be inserted.
In addition to the standard flat and wire rod lockout tools, HPC offers a variety of multi-piece tools comprised of a hollow body with a movable mechanism inside. The design allows for the manipulation of a linkage rod, lock button or inside handle almost like you were reaching inside with your hand. The Vertical Clutch, Horizontal Clutch, Twin Hooks, Super Snare, Thru Car Clutch and Fishing Pole all utilize the tool-within-a-tool design. The end result is the ability to twist, turn, grab and hook almost any lock component like you would if you could reach it with your bare hand.
A variety of inspection lights, wedges, individual tools and kits are available. The Car Opening Authority is available in book form or on an interactive CD. For more information, contact HPC Tools, 3999 North 25th Street, Schiller Park, IL 60176. Telephone: (847) 671-6280. Fax: (847) 671-6343. Web Site: www.hpcworld.com.
Steve Young started Tech-Train Productions in 1987. Beginning with a basic set of lockout tools and single videotape on opening the 1988 models, the company grew quickly. In 2002, Lockmasters Inc acquired Tech-Train.
Steve has long been recognized in the industry as a wealth of information on automotive locks and locking systems. He has been all over the country for the better part of the last two decades presenting training seminars for thousands of locksmiths. He is still actively developing new lockout techniques and teaching his lockout and other automotive skills through the Lockmasters Pure Auto automotive educational seminars.
In the last 18 years, the Tech-Train tool set has grown from seven to 20 tools. Tech-Train strives to keep the number of tools to a minimum by using double-ended and multi-purpose tools. A Video Manual is available, showing the proper operation of each tool, including the use of the lockout manuals. An impressive selection of other lockout information is available in multiple formats.
Tech-Train offers a wide variety of lockout tools and automotive accessories including the Jiffy Jack tool, high-intensity inspection lights and unique doorframe wedges.
For more information, contact Tech-Train tools at Lockmasters Inc., 5085 Danville Road, Nicholasville, KY 40356. Telephone: (800) 654-0637. Fax: (859) 885-7093. Web Site: www.lockmasters.com.
Originating on a folding table in the back room of a small Southern California lock shop in 1988, PRO-LOK was the inspiration of Adam and Lori Weinraub. In 1991, Adam sold the lock shop and devoted full time to PRO-LOK.
In addition to a range of locksmith products, PRO-LOK offers a wide variety of auto lockout tools and equipment. An ample selection of lockout tool kits is supplemented by the availability of individual tools, inflatable wedges, solid wedges, high-intensity inspection lights and carrying and tool storage cases. Detailed lockout information is available in The Best Damn Car Opening Manual Period. The manual is updated with an annual review of new and redesigned models. All photos are in full color, a unique feature in the lockout tool industry.
Another unique offering from PRO-LOK is over 26 wire rod tools with the Xacto-Grip tip design. This design uses a larger diameter, high-grade heat-treated wire that is flattened on two sides. The tip is then knurled with a cross-hatch pattern to provide added grip on linkage rods and other lock mechanism components.
For more information, contact PRO-LOK, 655 North Hariton Street, Orange, CA 92868. Telephone: (714) 633-0681. Fax: (714) 633-0470. Web Site: www.pro-lok.com.
The Grand Master Z-Tool System from Slide Lock Tool Company?s Z-Tool Division offers its popular line of tools and accessories to the locksmith industry. The Grand Master Z-Tool System includes 11 tools, four wedges and other related products in a hard shell case. The System Manual is now in its 17th edition and includes a commercial truck section.
Individual tools include the original stainless steel Z-Tool with depth guides, the inverted Z-Tool with depth guides, and the Vertical Z-Tool that was added in 2003. Other tools in the kit include the Japanese Tool, Frameless Window Kit with two extension tips and the Serpent Tool. The Mercedes Strip, Flush Mount Tool, Wing Window Tool and AutoBuster III complete the selection. The AutoBuster III features the extra long 9.5-inch reach. The optional Porsche tool is specifically designed to open the Porsche 928 model.
The Grand Master Z-Tool System also includes a free Air Wedge, three Flex-a-Wedges, and a Slim Wedge Shield which was added in 2005. All of this equipment is packed in the hard shell organizer case with a booklet of Hold Harmless Release forms.
For more information, contact Slide Lock/Z-Tool, 1166 Topside Road, Louisville, TN 37777. Telephone: (800) 336-8812. Fax: (865) 577-5936. Web Site: www.Z-Tool.com.
Steck Manufacturing Company was started as Steck?s Paint & Body Shop by George Steck in 1946. He began manufacturing tools for the body shop industry in the late 1940s when he and a partner developed a fastener used to install rear auto fenders. Steck has continuously manufactured tools and equipment in the same location in Dayton, Ohio, for over 50 years. The company is currently managed by George?s two sons, Raymond and Larry Steck.
Although a large segment of the product line is aimed at the auto body collision and repair industry, Steck has manufactured a popular set of lockout tools for a number of years.
While standard flat and wire rod lockout tools are also available, Steck?s biggest hit in the lockout tool category is the ?Big Easy.? This simple yet effective tool eliminates a lot of problems lockout technicians face with newer cars. Because of the design and application of the tool, there is no danger of airbag activation or disconnected door linkages. The 56-inch-long Big Easy tool enables you to actuate the door handle, manual lock button or electric lock button on most early or late model cars and trucks. With tool tip movement in full view of the lockout technician, unlocking cars is quick and easy.
Another shorter tool, the Little Easy is also offered, while the Lock Knob Lifter raises traditional and late model Japanese lock knobs located at the top of the door panel.
Use either the smooth inflatable wedge or the solid plastic wedge to insert for tool clearance. Either is safe to use with no risk of damage to the door or weather stripping. A bright LED inspection light and a sturdy carrying case are available. Steck Tools come individually or in kits. The Big Easy has one-year warranty.
For more information, contact Steck Manufacturing Inc., 1115 South Broadway, Dayton, OH 45408. Phone: (800) 227-8325. Fax: (937) 222-6666. Web site: www.steckmfg.com.
Pat Sullivan started Sully Tools more than 20 years ago. These popular tools use a high-quality wire to produce an extremely strong tool shaft. Each tool is plated to eliminate rust and corrosion. Strong screwdriver-style handles perform a dual function. They provide a strong gripping surface to control movement of the tool tip and also provide an excellent background to view each tool part number. Even the window wedge utilizes the same handle design. Easy tool identification results in a quick opening at the job site.
The Sully Convincer Kit includes nine popular tool designs, two wedges and a vinyl storage case. The Convincer Kit is available by itself or with a detailed car-opening manual. The Sully Deluxe Tool Kit includes 21 car-opening tools, four wedges, probe light, detailed car-opening manual and vinyl storage case. The photo illustrated Sully Car Entry Manual is available in a printed version or on CD.
For more information, contact Sully Tools, 3515 Nodding Pines Court, Fairfax, VA 22033. Telephone: (703) 689-3416. Fax: (703) 787-0869. Web Site: www.sullytools.com.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of lockout tools and equipment on the market. By having as much information as possible at your fingertips, you can perform the opening quickly, professionally and profitably. There is no reason a professional locksmith should cause damage opening a vehicle. Accidents can happen but they shouldn?t be the result of using improper tools. A screwdriver is not a car-opening tool!