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Vehicle Entry isn’t what it used to be. I’ve been making a living from selling vehicle entry tools and information for more than 20 years now, and I’m beginning to wish I had picked a field that was easier to keep up with. When I started, it was all slim-jims and bent-wire tools. Today, it’s long-reach tools and high-security picks as well as bent-wire tools. But the real problem is knowing what tool to use on which car and under what circumstances. Let’s take a quick look at the basics of vehicle entry, before we go into the new products.
When you approach a vehicle lockout, you’ll have to choose between four basic techniques to do the job. All four techniques can theoretically be used on any car, but in reality there is usually one best method for any given vehicle. In fact, some methods that work fine on one vehicle can damage another.
Use a Long-Reach Tool
I hate to hear people tell me that they “use the Jiffy-Jak for everything.” I introduced the whole concept of the long-reach tools back in 1999, but there are a lot of cars out there that I would never consider attacking with the Jiffy-Jak or any other long-reach tool.
As a general rule, I avoid using long-reach tools on any vehicle that has “sashless windows.” That’s any vehicle where there is no frame around the window, and your tool has to contact the glass directly. In this day and age of laminated glass windows, that is just more risk than I’m willing to take. In addition, it’s often unnecessary as well as being dangerous.
A perfect example of this is the new Camaro. It has sashless windows and a vertical lock control button that is almost impossible to grip with a long-reach tool. Pulling the inside handle does not override the door lock and even if it did, it’s located too low on the door to reach with an under-window tool. The Tech-Train 1035 tool can unlock the Camaro in a matter of seconds by lifting the vertical linkage rod from inside the door, yet I hear about locksmiths breaking windows on the Camaro with long reach tools all the time.
In order to save weight, many manufacturers are now using plastic or aluminum trim around the doors. Even if the trim around the door is steel, it’s probably thinner than on older cars, so you need to take steps to prevent damage. Leaving a dent on a customer’s car will make sure that they remember your name, but it’s probably not in the way you’d like. That’s why I avoid using the so-called one-hand tools and always use a base-plate to spread out the pressure. The base-plate reduces the pressure in pounds per square inch by a minimum factor of 25. That one simple step greatly reduces the likelihood of damage.
Use an Under-Window Tool
Under-window tools have their limitations and inherent problems as well. I suspect we’ve all had an under-window tool get stuck in a door at one time or another. In addition, under-window tools are famous for scratching aftermarket window tint as well as door panels. Some cars even seem to be designed to grab and hold under-window tools. Kia vehicles, such as the Amanti, Sportage, and Entourage are particularly bad about trapping under-window tools. The real trick to using an under-window tool is to know which vehicles will eat your tool, which is where a good car-opening manual comes in handy.
Manipulate the Linkage
I grew up unlocking cars by manipulating the linkage inside the door, but today that simply isn’t an option on many vehicles. Side-impact safety standards have pretty much eliminated horizontal linkage rods, and as a general rule, any late-model vehicle that does not have a vertical lock button will have bicycle-style cables inside the door.
The silver lining to that black cloud is that a lot of vehicles have gone back to vertical linkages because they work better in side-impact crash tests. A large number of GM and Chrysler vehicles such as the Camaro as well as the Charger and the Challenger now have vertical linkage rods that are very easy to attack.
Even with all the tools, some jobs are harder than others.