Dec. 1, 2007
The electronically controlled Tri-Code H.S. machine simplifies duplication or origination of sidewinder keys while quickly producing accurate keys to factory specifications.

Sidewinder keys were an interesting curiosity when they first appeared on some Mercedes models in the late 1970s. BMW and Mercedes led the way for many years with several different types of two track and four track lock systems. Low volume, quirky design and tedious duplication procedures kept many locksmiths from finding much value in servicing these early sidewinders.

A new key machine from the Kaba Group solves many of the headaches associated with making sidewinder keys. Your first thought might be: I want a sidewinder machine, but do I really need a sidewinder machine?   If you are doing automotive work, the answer is becoming a resounding YES.

As globalization takes over the marketplace, many of the world cars appearing on our market are using sidewinder systems. In the last few years Pontiac GTO, Kia Amanti , Hyundia Azera , Range Rover, VW, Porsche, Audi, Lexus, Infiniti, Mazda, Saab, Mini Cooper and Toyota have added sidewinder systems to their lineups. The 2008 Pontiac G8 (Holden Australia ), Saturn Astra (Opel Europe) and Subaru Impreza will be using sidewinder key systems. Coupled with increased popularity of BMW and Mercedes, the sidewinder seems here to stay.

One problem associated with sidewinder keys is the wear factor. Normal key systems use the entire thickness of the blade to interact with the tumbler. Mating surfaces on sidewinders keys only use a partial amount of the blade thickness. This can lead to premature key wear. Duplicate sidewinder keys made on manual sidewinder duplicator machines generally trace the same worn cuts onto the new duplicate.

The electronically controlled Tri-Code H.S. machine simplifies duplication or origination of sidewinder keys while quickly producing accurate keys to factory specifications. All key cutting is accomplished using one 3-position jaw fixture. One cobalt cutter blade is used. No optional cutters are required. A large dial in the cutter head is used to adjust cutter depths. A 25-button, ‘soft touch' key pad is used to send information to the machine while input information is easily read on an LED screen.    

The Tri-Code H.S. has three built-in systems methods for key origination: Decode and Copy, Indirect Code, and Direct Code.


Depth and space information is listed in alphabetical order on the LED screen. Up and down arrow keys are used until the correct vehicle, code series and key blank are displayed. Also displayed will be tip stop, jaw position (A, B or C), plus the depth setting to use. There are 16 possible depth settings.

Once the jaw and cutter are adjusted, the original key is inserted and tightened in the vise jaw. To ensure operator safety, the machine has a transparent shield which must be closed before the machine can be started.

During the decoding cycle, a tracing guide will be automatically moved against the original key at each space position and a reading taken. The Tri-Code compensates for any key wear and memorizes the correct factory depth at each space location.

The final step is to remove the original key and tighten the new key blank in place. With the shield again closed, the Tri-Code will quickly produce a new duplicate key to factory specifications.


Tri-Code H.S. contains dozens of sidewinder code series in memory. Use up and down arrow keys to source the correct vehicle make and code series required. Use the keypad to input the key code required. Information will then be displayed for proper adjustment of the cutter depth plus jaw and tipstop settings. Insert a key blank in the vise jaw, close the transparent cover, and the key cuts are completed in seconds. The key is then removed from the vise jaws, flipped over and retightened for reverse side cutting.


If the key code is unknown, bitting cuts can be directly entered into the Tri-Code H.S. Begin by sourcing the correct model and key blank information on the LED screen. Each series shows the amount of ‘tracks' and wafer tumblers used by each series. An example might be (4T-8W), indicating a 4 track key with 8 spaces per side. Once the correct amount of bitting cuts is input, the Tri-Code will originate a key in the same manner as cutting a key by code.

Duplicating or originating keys for sidewinder locks can be a profitable addition to your business. As example, the charge for a duplicate 9-3 Saab key at a local Chicago car dealer is $250.   

Most of the sidewinder keys in use today also incorporate some kind of transponder security, so you must also be prepared with the proper transponder programming equipment.

Either check the www.kaba-ilco.com website to learn more about the Tri-Code H.S., TKO, EZ-Clone and the full line of transponder key blanks from Kaba-Ilco , or check with your local locksmith distributor for more information.