Long Reach Car-Opening Tools Re-Invented

Oct. 2, 2013
Just as with an old Model A, when a suitable long rod is inserted, the inner handle or button can be moved to the unlocked position to unlock the vehicle. A new class of long reach tools has emerged to overcome many of the security and weather resisting feature in the cars of today.

With the invention of long reach tools, car opening has returned to its roots from an earlier time.  One of the favorite tools my father once used in his locksmith business was a long, snake-shaped rod which was designed to extend up through the clutch pedal hole in the floor board of old cars.  A hook on the end of the rod was then manipulated around the inner door lock handle and the handle was moved to an unlocked position. This worked fine on cars such as a Ford Model A which had enough ground clearance to allow easy access to the exterior floor boards.

A different type of car-opening tool had to be invented as automatic transmissions eliminated the clutch pedal. Vent windows became popular and somebody made a fortune by inventing a flat tool which was inserted under the vent window, moved against the vertical lock button and magically unlocking the car when pressure was exerted against the vertical lock button. Specialty tools for cars such as the VW Beetle made popping the vent lock handle an easy chore.

Thirty years ago car manufacturers eliminated vent windows and the rush was on to invent car-opening tools which could be inserted between the door frame and window to manipulate lock rods hidden within the door cavity.  Lock rod positions often vary by make and year.  Two-door and four-door models of the same vehicle often have completely different lock rod arrangements.  Locksmith tool manufacturers kept pace with all these changes by introducing new opening tools and developing elaborate car-opening instruction manuals on a yearly basis.

Shielded lock operating cables, electronic auto door locks, tight weatherstrip tolerances and laminated window glass are now commonplace components installed in newer cars. The one remaining constant is that the inside lock button, lever and some inside locking handles can still be operated by the passenger or driver while seated within the vehicle.  Just as with an old Model A, when a suitable long rod is inserted into the vehicle, the inner handle or button can be moved to the unlocked position in order to unlock the vehicle.  Long reach tools, a new class of car-opening tools, have emerged to overcome many of the security and weather resisting feature in the cars of today.  

NOTE: Not every vehicle may be a candidate for use of a long reach tool. Some models may have plastic trim which can be easily deformed during the wedging process. Some models may not have a frame surrounding the glass. On many new models, when the door is closed, the glass automatically moves upward slightly to make a firm weather stripping seal.  Vehicles which have this feature may not be easily wedged.  Always consult your vehicle opening manual for their suggested method to unlock the specific vehicle you are working on.

Wedging The Door

Basically the door frame must be wedged outward just far enough to allow insertion of a long reach tool.  Begin wedging the door outward slightly an inch or so below the top corner of the front door.  Wedging at the top corner of the door can often result in damage.  Most tool manufacturers offer either a special marproof wedge or an inflatable wedge for spreading the door frame.  When using a marproof wedge, use the wedge tip to begin the process, then tap the wedge with the palm of your hand to move the marproof wedge inward.  As you do this, take care not to allow the tip of the wedge to catch on the weather stripping and tear it.  When using an inflatable wedge, open the gap slightly with a marproof wedge, then insert the inflatable wedge into the gap as far as possible.  A mild dishwasher detergent can be used to lubricate the wedges before use.  Dishwasher detergent will not harm the paint.

Carefully insert the long reach tool once the gap between the door and body is sufficient for insertion.  Some manufacturers furnish a flexible sleeve which can be inserted into the gap.  A cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper can also be used as a disposable sleeve by flattening it and sliding it over your rod.  The long reach tool is then inserted thru the sleeve to prevent the tool from scratching paint either on the door or car body.   

Standard long reach tools contain a right angle bend which forms a finger at the working tip. The finger can be used to actuate either the inner door handle, an electronic locking button or manual sliding lock control.

Depending on the manufacturer, long reach tools are available as either screw-together sections or solid rod tools of different lengths.  Longer tools can be used to reach across the vehicle to unlock the opposite door or even to retrieve keys left in the ignition lock. At least one company offers an optional loop attachment which can be snapped to the working end of the long reach tool for better manipulation of inner door handles. 

An important benefit of long reach tools is that you can readily see what you are aiming for and how close you are to your objective. While a variety of car-opening tools will always come in handy, a long reach tool may be the one you will often grab first. 

A partial list of car-opening tool manufacturers includes:

Access Tools: www.caropeningtools.com

Lockmasters Incorporated: www.lockmasters.com

Pro-Lok: www.pro-lok.com

Steck Mfg.: www.steckmfg.com