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Pick or Impression
Even back in the 1970s, I would occasionally make a key by impression, or pick a door lock to unlock a car; but it certainly wasn’t my first option. When Ford came out with the 10-cut system in 1984, that changed because 10-cut Ford door locks were so incredibly easy to pick. I soon discovered that picking the lock was a great way to impress the customer and to justify a higher charge for the job. In addition, picking the lock eliminates the possibility of disconnecting a linkage rod, scratching window tint, or breaking a window. For that reason, I’ve always been a big fan of picking locks whenever possible.
The down side of lock picking is what I call the “Hero / Zero” problem. If you pick the lock quickly, you’re a hero. If you take a long time to pick the lock, or don’t get it picked, you’re a zero. People today have seen too many TV shows where locks get picked in seconds, and they expect it to be the same in reality. We all know that isn’t the case, but if I have trouble picking a particular lock, I’ll move on to “Plan B” after a couple of minutes.
Another problem with lock picking is high-security locks. In the old days, I wouldn’t have even considered picking a high-security BMW or Mercedes lock, but today I do it routinely. The new crop of high-security lock picks is frankly amazing, and getting better all the time. Most luxury car owners will gladly pay you extra to unlock their vehicle if you tell them that you will be picking the lock to eliminate the possibility of damage.
Now let’s take a look at some of the new tools that make vehicle entry easier and more profitable.
Long Reach Tools
I introduced the original Jiffy-Jak at the ALOA show in 1999. Within a year, almost every other manufacturer came out with some kind of long-reach tool, and some are better than others. You can spend as little or as much as you like on a long-reach tool today. My father once told me, “Son, you may not always get what you pay for, but you always pay for what you get.” Through the years, I’ve seen the wisdom of that statement many times, and I try to always use quality tools, even though they may cost more.
In the world of long-reach tools, most of the new developments involve lighting the interior of the vehicle so you can see where the end of the tool is. The lighting schemes range from pie-plate sized LED arrays to tiny LEDs that will fit on the end of the tool. The two that interest me the most are the TT1200 Jiffy-Jak light and the Hands-Free flashlight adapter. Both of these tools can be used with a variety of vehicle entry tools made by various manufacturers.
The Jiffy-Jak light (photo 1) is a small self-contained LED flashlight with a threaded socket in the end that can be screwed directly onto the end of the Jiffy-Jak rod or any other tool that has the proper thread. It has a tough translucent plastic coating over the LED that allows you to use the light itself as an opening tool. Even if your tool is not threaded on the tip, if you have access to a tap and die set, you can usually adapt the end of the tool to accept this handy little light. I recently spoke with a locksmith who had used his Jiffy-Jak light to find and pull the inside trunk release handles on several different vehicles. He inserted the tool into the trunk, either between the rear seats or through a gap in the fold-down rear armrest and used the light to guide the tool into place inside the trunk.
The Hands-Free Flashlight Adapter (photo 2) has a suction cup that is large enough to support the heaviest Mag style flashlights. The mirror in the adapter can be adjusted to put the light exactly where you want it inside the vehicle. The tool is designed to firmly grip any Mag style flashlight and includes a sleeve so that you can use smaller Mini-Mag style flashlights as well. I particularly like the versatility of this tool and have used it for a lot of hands-free operations as well as for vehicle entry.
Even with all the tools, some jobs are harder than others.