Just a couple of years ago, the automotive locksmith world was revolutionized by the introduction of the Lishi 2-in-1 tools. These tools have proven so effective that many of us have begun to wonder how we ever got by without them! And, as so often happens in our industry, the very effectiveness...
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The biggest complaint about the Lishi tools is that they don’t come with instructions. While that is true, most picks don’t include instructions either. But to deal with this, Lishi has made available a wealth of videos on their website and some distributors such as Lockmasters, Inc. include an instructional DVD with each 2-in-1 tool. Once you learn to use one of the 2-in-1 picks, you will generally not have any trouble using any of the others. Using the TOY43R was not particularly difficult, and I was generally able to pick and decode the door locks in less than 10 minutes, often in less than five minutes!
Using any of the Lishi 2-in-1 picks requires a light touch and a degree of patience. The basic procedure to pick the lock is as follows:
- Make sure that the lock is clean, well lubricated and in working order.
- Insert the tool fully into the lock before applying any turning force to the tool.
- Using the probe(s), determine the placement of the tumblers inside the lock. (Generally, the even-numbered cuts will be located on one side of the lock and the odd numbered cuts will be found on the opposite side of the keyway.)
- Once you know where each tumbler is located, apply light turning force to the tool by way of the built-in hinged turning lever.
- Place one of the probes against one of the tumblers and apply light pressure. If the tumbler moves and feels “springy,” move on to another tumbler. If the tumbler feels solid, apply increasing pressure until the tumbler clicks and becomes springy. (Caution: do not apply excessive pressure – if the tumbler is already in the picked position, it will not move and too much pressure will damage the tool. This is where the practice comes in.)
- Continue on to the next tumbler and repeat the above procedure (step 5).
- Keep this up until you have checked all of the tumblers, then go back to any of the “springy” tumblers that you skipped over earlier. Some or all of those tumblers should now feel solid, so repeat step number 5 with each of these.
- You may have to go back and re-check the tumblers several times, but eventually the lock should turn; then you are ready to decode the lock.
Decoding the Lock
After the lock is turned, all of the tumblers should be in exactly the same positions that they would be in if a key had been used to turn the lock. This is the huge advantage that the 2-in-1 picksets have over decoders that attempt to decode the lock without turning it. By measuring the positions of the tumblers in the turned position, the 2-in-1 tools give you an exact reading that won’t be affected by small imperfections in the manufacturing of the lock or locks made by different manufacturers.
Begin with whichever tumbler you like and place the probe against that tumbler. Apply light pressure to the probe and then note the reading on the scale that is etched into the body of the tool. Make a record of that reading and then move on to the next tumbler and repeat the procedure. Once you have decoded each tumbler, you should be able to cut a key that will operate the lock perfectly.
Wear is always a factor when you decode any lock in this manner, but most of the wear will be confined to the first few tumblers. If you get a reading that seems to be between two depths, cut the key to the shallower of the depths. Worn tumblers will usually read deeper than a non-worn tumbler. In addition, if you make a mistake you can always re-cut the key deeper.
Lishi GM-B107 Direct Read Decoder
This decoder is specifically made to decode the Huf manufactured sidebar ignition locks used on some of the 2008 and up Cadillac CTS models. I grew up believing that sidebar locks simply could not be decoded unless you either applied pressure to the sidebar and picked them, or disassembled them. This was because almost all my early experiences with sidebar locks were with GM 6-cut locks. Those sidebar locks could not be decoded in the “rest” position because all of the tumblers in the lock are identical except for the placement of the “V-notch” that the sidebar drops into when the correct key is inserted.
But today, not all sidebar locks are made that way. Some manufacturers such as Huf, have chosen to vary the positions of the hole through the tumbler and keep the V-notches in the same position for each tumbler. Other manufacturers, like Strattec, build their sidebar lock tumblers with the holes in the tumblers all in the same position, and varying the positions of the V-notches. If the holes through the tumblers are in different positions, then the lock can be decoded in the rest position. Some of the Cadillac CTS models, manufactured from the 2008 model year and up, use an OEM ignition lock that is built in that fashion. (Many CTS models use a proximity fob and have a knob mounted where the ignition lock would normally be.)