A Brief History of Vehicle Entry Procedures

With all of these new systems in place that make it difficult to unlock modern cars, what’s next? The current trend is toward lock-picking.


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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Side impact-airbags also popped up as a result of the side-impact collision standards. The vast majority of them are mounted in the seat-back or in the door pillars or both. Door mounted airbags simply don’t work as well as seat-back mounted airbags because the position of the seats are adjustable. An airbag mounted in the door may give great protection with the seat in one position but can actually cause harm if the seat is in a different position. A seat-back mounted airbag will always be in the same relationship to the passenger, regardless of where the seat is positioned.

Door-mounted airbags also got a totally undeserved “urban legend” reputation for killing Slim-Jim jockeys. According to this legend, using a Slim-Jim can cause a door-mounted airbag to deploy and the force of the deployment will shoot the slim-Jim out of the door and through the user’s neck. Despite the fact that this is complete hogwash, these rumors still make the rounds. In the first place, the airbag deploys into the car, not into the inside of the door. Secondly, no incident like the ones described in the emails as being “common” have ever been reported to the authorities. Thirdly, the only way that I can see that a Slim-Jim could possibly deploy an airbag in the manner described would also involve the user either stepping on a high-voltage electrical wire or being struck by lightning at the moment the Slim-Jim was in contact with the airbag wiring.

Of course, the easiest way to unlock these vehicles without having to deal with airbags, tinting film, or cable linkages is to use a long-reach tool like the Jiffy-Jak Vehicle Entry System. The Jiffy-Jak system was introduced to deal with all of the problems that I’ve listed in this article. It was simply the right tool for the times.

A long-reach tool is definitely my tool of choice for almost anything made by Toyota, Lexus, or Scion, but it certainly isn’t the best tool for everything. I cringe when people tell me they use the Jiffy-Jak for “everything.” There are just a lot of vehicles out there, such as the 350Z, Camaro, Chrysler mini-vans, and many Hondas, on which you should never use a long reach tool. The real secret is to have the proper tool for the job, and to know how and when to use it.

So with all of these new systems in place that make it difficult to unlock modern cars, what’s next? Well, the current trend, as I see it, is toward lock-picking. When GM stopped using sidebar locks on the doors, a trend toward cheaper and less sophisticated door locks began. Today, most domestic vehicles use door locks that are about as complex and hard to pick as the average desk drawer. All that is required is the proper tools. Wave keys, Marshal Keys, Pick Keys, Jiggle Keys, and similar products all allow you to pick open the door locks of the majority of domestic and imported vehicles quickly, once you learn how to use the tools.

Recently, we’ve seen domestic manufacturers jumping on the side-milled key bandwagon, but if you think these locks are impossible to pick, then you’re using the wrong tools. The current crop of domestic side-milled systems like those found on the Camaro, Equinox, Terrain, Focus, Fiesta and others can all be readily picked with the Lishi 2-in-1 picksets.

The locksmiths that I talk to today, who tell me they’re afraid to work on high security automotive locks, remind me of a guy I worked with in the 1970s. When GM changed the six-cut system so that the door key no longer worked the ignition, he swore loudly that he would “never pull a steering wheel to make a key to a car.” Within a year, he told me privately that he couldn’t believe how much time he had wasted in the past pulling door panels, when pulling steering wheels was so much faster and easier. As he and I both learned, what we initially thought of as a challenge, became an opportunity. I see lots of opportunities out there for automotive locksmiths that aren’t afraid of new things.

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