Tibbe Rides Again

May 1, 2009

Many locksmiths probably will not remember the 1987-89 Merkur Scorpio. This four-door import was sold through Mercury dealers. Styling was rather bland, few cars were sold and the Scorpio quickly disappeared into oblivion.

One interesting feature on early Merkur Scorpion models was the Chubb lock system. The key blank, (Ilco S30FD-P), is shaped like a double-sided bit key. The deepest cuts actually required cutting into part of the central round shaft. This weakened the shaft and led to many broken Chubb keys. Mercury later reportedly had a recall on the Scorpio and replaced Chubb locks with a new design by Tibbe. Tibbe key systems were later used by Jaguar, but with different key blanks and cutting dimensions.

Ford continued to use the Scorpio Tibbe key system on several vehicle models sold in Europe. At the recent 2009 Chicago Auto Show, Ford introduced a minivan called the Transit Connect (Photo 1). Models on display at the show had the Tibbe key system. The Ford Transit Connect is scheduled to go on sale here at Ford dealers in May. This van is similar to a Chevrolet Astro Van but smaller in size. Since there is no minivan work truck competition today in the marketplace, Ford Transit Connect may sell very well.

Ford Transit Connect has been sold in Europe since 2002 using the original Scorpio-type Tibbe lock system and the T111111-T444444 direct digit code series.

We checked with a source at Ford to be certain that the auto show models reflected the actual locks which will be used on the 2010 Ford Transit Connect. Ford reported that Tibbe locks will be used and that owners may receive extra keys at time of purchase because of the scarcity of Tibbe key duplication equipment in the United States. In addition, Tibbe locks will be using a transponder security system.

Tibbe locks consist of six round, rotating locking discs. Each disc has a hexagon-shaped hole cut in the center plus a notch located on the outer circumference of the disc. The notches can be located at four different positions and each position is approximately 12 degrees apart. The Tibbe key is inserted through the hex-shaped holes and then turned to rotate the discs.

A correctly cut key will rotate the discs and line up all disc notches in a straight line to form a channel. Further turning of the key forces the locking bar to move out of the locking groove and into the channel, allowing clearance for the plug to continue turning to an unlocked position.

The Tibbe lock design only provides locking in one direction. This works fine for the ignition where only clockwise locking is required. In order to allow two-way turning in door locks, the locking groove is made purposely wide in one direction. This allows any Tibbe key to turn any door lock to the locked position even though the locking bar is still extended. When the key is turned towards the unlocked position, only the correct operating key will align the tumbler notches to unlock the vehicle.

The working part of a Tibbe key blank has a rectangular shape. Cuts are made at each corner of the rectangle. Since there are four corners to a rectangle and six discs in the lock, a total of 24 cut positions are required to form an operating Tibbe key. A “1” cut is a no-cut, so only depths of 2, 3 & 4 must be cut into the blade.

When originating a key, the blank must be tilted approximately 12 degrees, 24 degrees or 36 degrees depending on the depth of cut. Special adaptors for code machines, or a dedicated Tibbe machine, must be used in conjunction with a slotting cutter. Check with you favorite key machine manufacturer to see if there is a Tibbe attachment available for your code machine.

Every Tibbe lock must have at least one “4” cut. This tumbler is used as a connection between the key and the lock plug. As the key is turned in the lock, all tumblers are rotated as needed, then the “4” tumbler touches against the plug and the plug can be turned to the unlocked position.

Several different Tibbe picks are on the market, which use levers to independently operate each disc. Tibbe picks are first used to find which position contains a “4” cut. Once that position is found, the lever for that position is used to exert a turning pressure on the plug. This pressure acts in a similar way to using a tension wrench for picking a pin tumbler lock. The remaining tumblers are slowly turned using each individual lever. A drop-in point can be felt when the opening in each tumbler is in line with the locking bar (the tumbler will have a ‘loose’ feeling).

Tibbe picks will usually have markings on each lever holder which aid in determining cut depths. From personal experience, it is easier to determine key cuts with Tibbe picks than to actually get the plug to turn. The dainty nature of the picks and heavy spring pressure in door locks may preclude unlocking. Perhaps a better term for Tibbe picks would be ‘decoders’.

Locksmith Ledger will be reporting further on the Ford Transit Connect lock system as information becomes available.