It’s funny how it happens. You don’t really see it coming, and then one day you wake up and realize that you’re no longer a young man. A few minutes ago, I plugged some numbers into a calculator and discovered that I have been in the locksmith business for 40 of my 62 – two-thirds of my...
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It’s funny how it happens. You don’t really see it coming, and then one day you wake up and realize that you’re no longer a young man. A few minutes ago, I plugged some numbers into a calculator and discovered that I have been in the locksmith business for 40 of my 62 – two-thirds of my life! Then I went to Wikipedia to check out what cars were in production when I became a locksmith. The list included the Chevrolet Vega, Chevrolet LUV, Ford Pinto, and the AMC Gremlin. On the bright side, I became a locksmith in the same year that Pink Floyd released “Dark Side of the Moon.” Next year will mark a quarter century that I’ve been writing articles for the Locksmith Ledger.
So, what has any of that got to do with car-opening procedures? Not much actually, except to establish that I actually do have first-hand experience with a lot of car-opening tools and techniques.
It was the changes made during the late 70s and early 80s that actually got me into the business of teaching and writing about vehicle entry. I stopped doing automotive work for almost six years in the 80s while I was the base locksmith at NAS Pensacola. When I went back to automotive work, I discovered that there had been A LOT of changes in six years. I had no idea at the time that the automotive locksmith world would keep changing and change so drastically during the next few decades.
When I introduced the Jiffy-Jak in 1999, it changed the market for automotive entry tools. The odd thing was not that it was such a novel new tool, but that it was such an old technique. I have an ad from a locksmith publication from the 1930s that illustrates a “Revolutionary New Tool” that is used to reach inside a car and attack the window crank. This tool was designed to enter the car by way of the rubber grommet around the brake or clutch pedal, but the overall idea was the same as today.
Let’s take a few minutes to look back at the vehicle entry tools and techniques of the past, and maybe we can get some idea of where we’re going in the future.
Early cars did not always have locking passenger compartments. I own a 1959 Austin Healey Sprite that has no door locks. In fact, it doesn’t even have an exterior door handle - you have to reach inside the car to unlatch the door. When locks were first added to car doors, they were relatively simple devices. Even today, most automotive locking systems are actually nothing but a “disconnect.” When the car is “locked,” all that happens is that the outside door handle is disabled.
To allow someone inside the car to unlock the door without a key, some “lost motion” is built into the linkage system. For many years, this lost motion was built into the tailpiece, sometimes called a cam or a pawl, of the door lock. In that type of system, the tailpiece can move from the locked position to the unlocked position without the lock cylinder turning. This type of system is known as a “Lazy-Cam” system since the cam on the lock could be moved so easily.
It wasn’t long before tools were developed to move the tailpiece of the lock from outside the car. Usually these tools were made from a flat piece of spring-steel that soon became known generically as a Slim-Jim.
Slim-Jims are still available in a variety of sizes and configurations, but they are not nearly as effective as they once were. The most common use for a Slim-Jim was to use the end of the tool to push down or pull up on the lazy cam to unlock the door. For those who were willing to practice with the tool, there was a lot more that could be done with it. With practice, it was possible to place a bend in the tool to reach hidden linkage rods and then use the curve of the tool and the slots on the end of the tool to move both vertical and horizontal linkage rods.
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