Some Skills Needed for Locksmithing Are Inherited.
Locksmithing is a trade that uses skills that are genetic, such as being mechanically inclined or having good hand-eye coordination. Added to the “inherited” mix is a good head on one’s shoulders, which is a mix of intelligence and common sense.
And since I have none of the above attributes, I have always struggled mightily to make a living in my chosen profession. (Just kidding!)
Good Eyesight Is Helpful for Locksmithing.
One item mentioned, as part of a pair, is the eye of hand-eye coordination. A good pair of eyes will carry a person a long way down the road when it comes to developing the necessary skills to be a locksmith.
Many things, such as decoding a key by eye, detecting mistakes or marks on a key, disassembling and reassembling tiny parts, go easier with a good set of eyes.
But, we all get older. . . which makes glasses, contacts, and even laser surgery very important subjects for locksmiths as we get older and our eyes weaken.
Renewing My Driver’s License Required the Vision Test.
The reason for all this concern about eyes is that I recently received the renewal notice for my driver’s license, and, of course, they let me know that this time I would need to come in to take the vision test. For the past renewal or two, it was not necessary to go in. I just had to send them the money. (You get the feeling that’s the important part, anyway!)
Well, I got to thinkin’. It had been a long time since I had had anything but a driver’s license exam of my eyes, in fact, all the way back to service days. Hmm. . .
I’ve been using “cheaters” (off-the-shelf reading glasses) for close-up work for over 10 years now, with varying strengths used for different tasks. I’ve not had any problems and didn’t think there were any, but I just do not like to leave things to chance, whenever there is a sliver of doubt in my mind.
So, like the coward that I am, I had my wife set up an eye exam appointment with her favorite optical doc, and she even went with me.
My Eyesight Is Fine.
Well, the good news is that I have perfectly healthy eyes, 20-20 (or better) in both eyes, and no signs of disease, such as glaucoma, cataracts or anything like that. The bad news is that I will probably never be able to use my eyes as an excuse for retiring from locksmithing.
I’ll just have to come up with another reason, I guess, or retirement will be the first shovel full of dirt in my face.
In the meantime, I can go to the driver’s license bureau, and when they say, “Read the bottom line,” I’ll say, “Patent 2452629, made in Secaucus, New Jersey!” (For those who need an old joke explained, well, it’s like the fine print on a credit card contract. It’s down at the bottom of the eye chart, in the smallest print available. You could write the 23rd Psalm on the head of a pin 3 times using type that small.)
I know that I will need stronger reading glasses as time passes, but for now, I’ll still impression keys when I need to and dial open safes with just moderate-strength glasses.
Which is all the better to serve you with. If you need keys originated for a car, a lock picked, or a safe opened, you can rest assured that I have the proper glasses at my disposal to see well enough to do the job properly and quickly.
Call Us to Take a Look at Your Problem, Automotive or Safe Related.
Call 618-466-9347 and let us take a “look” at your problem. We can help most of you with your auto lock needs, and if we can’t, we will head you in the right direction. Call 618-466-9347, and remember, we dial open safes also, as well as repair safes.
#116--20 YEARS, JUST A HEARTBEAT AGO?
(That’s a mighty slow pulse!)
We’re coming up rapidly on a new year and the end of another decade. For you purists out there, the decade technically ends on January 1, 2021, but I’m not here today to quibble.
Y2K Failed to Live Up to the Hype.
It seems like just a couple of heartbeats ago that everyone was all worried about Y2K and the predicted chaos that would ensue. It didn’t happen like many of the “experts” (who just happened to be selling survival supplies!) predicted. Life such as it was then continued as normal. Granted, there were millions upon millions of lines of computer code written, as well as much new equipment purchased to stave off problems that could arise.
But Changes Were Happening in Auto Lock Technology.
But for the American locksmith, there were a lot of other things to worry about in 2000. The idea of a key with a transponder or computer chip was expanding rapidly throughout all the car companies, foreign and domestic. If one were to keep up with technology, there would have to be a huge outlay of capital for new equipment and inventory. Owners of many smaller shops simply threw up their hands concerning automotive locksmithing and headed deeper into the commercial and institutional areas of locksmithing.
At the turn of the millennium, computers were coming on strong in commercial and institutional locksmithing, too, but only to operate hardware. That is where a lot of locksmiths took refuge: selling and installing all types of lock hardware and putting automotive work in the rearview mirror.
One might point to that time as the turning point from the do-it-all locksmith to the specialist.
Ford spent 5 years going from their first cars having a computer chip in the key (the Mustang in 1995) to a majority of their offerings doing so by 2000. Chrysler started with chip key systems optional in many vehicles in 1998 and gradually increased from there. GM had come out with the Vehicle Anti Theft System (VATS) in 1986 and went to a double-sided VATS to complement their changeover to double-sided keys in 1995.
1998 Was a Breakthrough Year for Car Keys with Chips.
The real changeover to chip key systems for most auto companies, foreign and domestic, was 1998. I have no knowledge of a specific reason for that year, but it is a good rule of thumb: Before 1998, no transponder in the key; 1998 and after, probably.
I have to admit I sat on the fence for awhile because the programming equipment, when finally available initially, was almost cost prohibitive. The dealers—and you have to love them—spent a lot of effort convincing the general public that only they could program your keys, which simply wasn’t the whole truth.
Key Programming Machines Eventually Came Down in Price.
Many of the key programming machines available to locksmiths initially were exactly like those being used at the dealerships. However, these original equipment programmers were just out of this world on price, and they just programmed keys for one car company. The ice was finally broken by Strattec, which developed the T-Code, which was immediately stolen by the Chinese.
Also, ILCO developed a programmer, but it too was copied and sold out of China as the SBB.Once lower cost programmers became available, I took the plunge and gradually bought the equipment and inventory needed to service as many automotive customers as feasible.
Keeping Up with Technology is Not Easy--or Cheap.
We are now twenty years past the end of the century. Twenty years is a long time in technology, including auto lock technology. Things change so much that there are even midyear changes in programming. It is really hard to stay even remotely up to par. In fact, it’s virtually impossible.
It is rapidly becoming like the old joke about farming. When asked what he would do if someone gave him a million dollars, the farmer replies, “I’d keep farming ‘til I ran out of money.”
Hopefully that’s not the case in locksmithing, too, but the trend is there. If someone gave a locksmith a million dollars, it might cover the tools and inventory needed to do auto work through 2025 or 2030. Again, I hope not, but until then, we’ll do our best to take care of your automotive key needs.
Call Us for Help with Your Automotive or Safe Lock Needs.
Call us at 618-466-9347, and you may be surprised that we very well could have your $150-175 proximity key in stock. If we don’t, we’ll do our best to get it in a timely manner.
Call 618-466-9347, and remember that we also open and repair safes. Happy 2020!
#115 – FROM NICE TO NASTY—IN ONE BIG JUMP
I deal with a lot of nice people every day. Some are regular customers; others are using my services for the first time. One afternoon last week, in just the space of an hour, I went from having a jewel of a customer to one of the nastier characters I’ve run into in a couple of years. When you run into the nasty ones, it makes the good ones shine even brighter.
Job One: A Nice Lady with a Hard to Open Lexus
The first job started with a call from an older lady, who admitted right up front that I was not the first person she had called. She had AAA and when she called them, they dutifully sent out a tow truck driver to open her car, a 2001 Lexus with the keys locked in the trunk. There was a valet key in the passenger area, but it didn’t do anyone any good because it was locked inside as well.
Lexus cars of that time period have a high security, side-milled key that makes them nearly impossible to pick by normal methods. The real monkey wrench in the works is the electronic locking system. Lexus decided to defend against standard car-opening tools by installing a relocking system where the car relocks itself in about a tenth of a second when it is unlocked with a car-opening tool. Well, you have to be pretty durn quick, if there is just one of you, to unlock the car with a tool and pull the door handle before it relocks. Even working with 2 people, it is still nearly impossible because the effort has to be precisely coordinated.
The person from Triple A tried repeatedly to open the car with a car-opening tool and was unable to do so. Did I mention that the alarm goes off on each attempt? It can drive you, and anyone in the neighborhood, batty listening to an alarm go off over and over again.
After Triple A gave up and left, the lady called me. When she asked if I could get her car open, I just said, “Yes, I can.”
When I arrived, she explained how the other person had failed, and I told her that by picking the lock, there would be no problem gaining entry. Since picking duplicates the action of a key in the lock, the car does not immediately relock itself as it does when a car-opening tool is used. As mentioned above, normal picking does not work on this car, but I would be using an expensive pick specially designed for this Lexus.
I warned her that it could take a little while because it was only 20 degrees out, and locks get harder to pick when lubricating grease hardens.
I lubricated the lock with Tri-flow, my favorite lock lubricant for 38+ years, and ran a key in and out a couple of times. It was a stubborn lock, and I stopped once or twice in picking the lock to warm my hands before trying again.
It did finally open. Not as fast as I wanted, but fast enough to bring amazement to the woman’s face. She retrieved her keys, remarked at how good I must be at my job, and said I was a lifesaver. I gave her my usual “Aw, shucks.” She wanted to give me a tip, but I just told her to find someone who needed a meal to give it to. (I just charge an appropriate and reasonable fee and do not expect or accept tips.)
Job Two: A Nasty Man with a Baseball Bat
The next job was less than a mile from the first but in another adjacent small town. A “gentleman” called about having keys made for his vehicle because all keys were lost. When I quoted him the price, he told me it was way too high. I have several standard responses for that. He received the “You are welcome to call around for prices, but I will not reduce mine just because you think it’s high.” He finally decided to have me do the job and told me to call when I was on my way, which I did.
The car was at his brother’s house. Because of that and the fact that he was supposedly on his way, I started work on the vehicle when I arrived. By the time the key was originated and programmed, the customer arrived and immediately started an argument with his brother. I tried to busy myself for a moment, thinking it would blow over quickly, but it did not. My customer grabbed a baseball bat and started after his brother, who made a mad dash for his house.
I tried to stay calm, not easy to do when someone who complained about your prices has a baseball bat in his hand. Fortunately (at least for me) his anger was directed against his brother and not me.
He decided he wanted a remote as well as the key. I got a remote out of stock and programmed it. Even while he was counting out the money to pay me, the baseball bat was within reach.
I was very glad to be able to get in my van and just drive away. I had no interest in what might have happened between the two.
There you have it: a sweet little old lady who really appreciated my skills, contrasted with a man who thought my price was way out of line, trying to do harm with a baseball bat. At the end of the day, I would rather have the nice little old lady as a customer, wouldn’t you?
Call Me for Auto Lock or Safe Opening Services.
If you need my services in the auto arena, such as opening your car, originating keys if they’re lost or stolen, or repairing or replacing your car’s ignition lock, give me a call at 618-466-9347. I also change safe combinations and open safes when the combination is lost.
I would prefer that you leave your baseball bat in the closest—at least while I’m doing your job. Call 618-466-9347, and let’s talk about your lock needs.
#114 – “HERE A CHRYSLER, THERE A CHRYSLER, EVERYWHERE A CHRYSLER”
(sung to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm”)
Sometimes Jobs Run in Streaks.
In the locksmithing business there are often unexplainable “streaks” such as a whole day’s jobs in one small town that you haven’t been in for a month. Some streaks involve many lockouts in a row, without any key originations. I also can go 2-3 weeks without a safe job, and then get 5 or 6 in one week. There is no real answer for this streakiness. You just take what comes your way, and do it to the best of your ability.
One Day the Streak Involved Chryslers.
I recently had one day when all but one small job was either originating, duplicating, or programming Chrysler keys. It made for an interesting and very long day.
Job One: 2 Jeep Wranglers and a Dodge Ram
The first stop was a small used-car lot where I do a lot of “second key” additions. Many times the cars and trucks come to them with just one key, and I cut and program a second for those. On that particular day, there were 2 Jeep Wranglers and a Dodge Ram needing a second key.
Now, now, don’t get picky! Jeep is made by Chrysler and has Chrysler locks, keys, and immobilizer systems. In fact, some of the new Jeep Wranglers have very old Chrysler systems, comparatively. Once the keys are cut, they are easy to program with the proper pin code.
The only hiccup with one of the Wranglers was the remote start. One of the salesmen finally figured out that you had to press the remote start button twice really fast, and then it would start. If you did it too slowly, it would not. Oh well, keeping track of remote start procedures has always been one of my weaknesses. (Yes, I have several!)
The Ram took a special cable that I purchased a while back to bypass extra security that Chrysler has put on their 2018 and newer models. It adds time to the programming, but it does get the job done. There might be more about that cable in future articles.
Job Two: a High Security Ford Key (break from streak)
Well, that was 3 Chrysler products. The next job was a dinky little Ford job about 15 miles away. I duplicated an emergency laser cut key for a dealership that could not get it by ordering from the Ford distribution system. Lots of miles to get there, duplicate a high security key, and done.
Job Three: a Dodge Durango
After lunch, I started in on the Chryslers again. A 2004 Dodge Durango had been without keys for about a month, and the owners were told by the police to do something with it because it was parked at an angle in their yard. They had planned to sell it anyway, so the new owner arranged with me to make keys.
This one was fun because I got to use my tool that is in Spanish to pull the type 2 pin code. Since I was hooked up with the tool anyway, I also used it to program in the two keys. Job done.
Job Four: a Dodge Avenger
The next job was a Dodge Avenger that had been rode hard and put away wet. The driver’s door lock was missing, the trunk lock was frozen up, and it ended up being very time consuming to make the mechanical key. Then I went through 4 very expensive chip keys to come up with two that would program into the car. Sometimes chips are bad straight from the supplier. I was glad to put that car in my rear view mirror.
Job Five: a Dodge Dakota
The last Chrysler product, and the last job of the day, was in a rougher part of town, where a lot of people with cigarettes hanging from their lips and with a lot of tattoos, were staring at me—and that was just the women. (Just kidding, both men and women!) A Dodge Dakota of the 1999 vintage needed some regular keys made. Within 5 minutes, the keys were done. It’s nice to have good tools.
Call Us for Your Auto Work, Chrysler or Not.
Well, that was a day. Now, you need not own a Chrysler to call me. In fact, I do a lot more Ford cars and trucks than any other type. But we do open and originate keys for most makes, models, and years. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and let’s talk about what your key needs are. Remember, we open and repair safes also. Call 618-466-9347, and start a new streak!
#113 – “GREEN FIELDS AND ROLLING HILLS. . .”
Illinois Has a Lot of Similar Small Towns.
A lot of small towns in Illinois look the same, mostly because they were built and are populated by the same type of people. Many are what you might call “farm towns,” which sprung up to service the many farms and farmers of Illinois.
The towns always include farm-related businesses, implement dealers, and seed and grain buyers and sellers. They also contain businesses such as grocery stores, hardware stores and such to support the needs of the people, whether living in town or on the farm. One must not leave out the churches attended by these small-town dwellers, or the occasional bar on the edge of town. Such was, and is, the small town of Illinois.
Going to Town Was a Treat.
I grew up around small towns, never “in” one, and it was always a treat to go to town because ice cream could be easily procured. (That was before I knew or cared that it was bad for you!)
I Recently Revisited Greenfield.
I recently revisited one small town: Greenfield, Illinois. I never lived there, but I still have a lot of memories of growing up and spending summers at my grandparents’ place. They lived less than 4 miles from Greenfield.
When I was a youngster, there were 4 of us kids who needed to be attended to and kept busy during the summers, with school out of session.
We were literally “farmed out” to our grandparents on a rotating basis. We spent a lot of time working, and some time playing, while we were with them.
Greenfield Is Not in My Usual Service Area.
I haven’t had much opportunity to do locksmith work in Greenfield. It is about an hour’s drive one way from my base in Godfrey, and there just isn’t any way to make it pay without passing on large service-call fees to the customer. But when the situation is right, or services desperately needed, then it sometimes happens that I drive that far.
My Last Job There Involved Making Keys for a Pontiac LeMans.
The last job I remember doing there was making (originating) keys for a Pontiac LeMans, for which all keys were lost. No, this wasn’t the old 60s version of the Pontiac LeMans. It was the newer, Korean-made version that had a lot of “Saab” characteristics, including the locking system. My reference book says they were made for 5 years, between ’88 and ’92.
Most LeMans of that time period were easy enough to originate keys for IF you could get to the trunk lock, and the code was legible. It was stamped into the plastic housing, but that didn’t always work well.
I remember that for some reason I could not cut a key by code for this particular vehicle. Since disassembly is not practical on these locks, the next option is to impression a key, which is what I did on that one.
It is very slow going because the ignition wafers were a bit on the fragile side, but the operation was a success and I was able to originate the keys needed.
Greenfield Hasn’t Changed Much.
I thought about that job as we returned to Greenfield, and it was amazing how few major changes had happened. There is a new business here or there, but as I found out that morning the people are still the same.
I recounted to several people how I had spent time in Greenfield in my youth. Back then I helped wash school busses since my grandfather worked as a bus driver and part-time mechanic/handyman for the school district. My brothers and I were part of a small crew that built a horseshow area and concession stand just east of town.
We were treated well that Saturday morning (when I recently had occasion to go to Greenfield), and I will always have fond memories of Greenfield.
Call Us if You Have Auto Lock or Safe Opening Needs.
There are a lot of little Illinois towns out there that I have some history with, and maybe you live in one of them. If you do, and it’s within shouting distance of my standard service area, we might be able to service your auto lock needs or safe openings as long as you’re in Illinois—I don’t cross the river into Missouri to do locksmith work.
Just give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk it over and try to help you out. Rest assured that if I do take your job, you will get the best I have to offer at a price you can afford. Call 618-466-9347, and don’t be surprised if I have done several jobs in your town. As the Beach Boys sang, “I Get Around!” (Just as a footnote, the title of this article came from a Carole King song called “Been to Canaan.” It was the source of inspiration for this article.)
#112 – A HOUSING SHORTAGE
GM has been around for a long time in many different variations of corporate assembly. Very few actual “GM” vehicles (such as their truck line) have ever been produced, as compared to vehicles manufactured by the subdivisions under the GM corporate umbrella.
GM Introduced a Totally New Locking System in 1995.
As with many companies structured like GM, when a major change is made, it is made in all its divisions. Such is the case of the massive changeover to a totally new locking system that happened in 1995.
For 60 years, GM had clung to the basic 6-wafer sidebar lock, with minor variations during that time. It was easy for locksmiths to deal with, in the sense that new technology was not being trotted out each and every year as some companies have done.
The number of keyways expanded in 1967-68 and again after 1971 but held steady until the end of the 6-wafer, single-sided sidebar lock.
GM had already sent shock waves through the lock industry with the introduction of the VATS system on the Corvette and Cadillac lines. This system was the first major American attempt at electronic security through the locking systems.
By 1995, most lock shops had gotten used to the VATS system and were comfortable making the transition. However, GM had a surprise in store: double-sided keys with 10 wafer positions.
A Major Housing Change Took Place.
A significant change to the housing of the ignition lock was also introduced at that time on the Chevy and GM truck lines: the housing for the lock plug was permanently attached to the rest of the lock housing. In other words, when the lock was disassembled at the steering column, only the plug came out, without any type of housing.
This did throw some locksmiths into a “tizzy,” but others got busy and started inventing tools to service these lock “plugs.” Companies like A-1, Aable, HPC and others came up with some creative and innovative ways to service these locks.
I recently made keys for a 1996 Chevy S-10, using a set of tools that I have had for a long time. They were made by A-1 Manufacturing.
Servicing These Locks Requires Knowing What You’re Doing!
To service these locks, there are certain things you have to know to get the job done. Let’s cover a few.
The first order of business is to pick the lock, using a method that I of course will not describe here. With successful picking, the plug must turn only slightly and a specially prepared key must be inserted to avoid breaking the very expensive keybuzzer switch.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, the ignition has to be in the “start” position to push the retainer down through its access hole. This means that you must put the vehicle in gear (and set the emergency brake!) or disconnect the battery so the engine won’t crank while you are pressing the retainer down and removing the plug.
Getting the plug out is tricky enough to begin with, but you simply cannot afford to do it with the engine cranking. It could also do damage if you try that.
If you do disconnect the battery, you need to be aware that the key will not turn to the “lock” position without power to the vehicle. Vehicle owners found this out the hard way if their battery died for some reason. I used to get a lot of calls for “keys stuck in the ignition.” I solved most by just telling the customer to charge or jump the battery.
Servicing these locks sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Well, it was for the first half-dozen times, but the last hundred (??) haven’t been too bad.
New Technology Presents New Problems.
Of course, this is old technology now, but at the time, without proper tools, the ignitions were somewhat daunting. That system has now been replaced by new generations of technology that have presented new problems and steep learning curves.
But, learn we have, and we will continue to study the new tech as it rolls out.
Call Us with Your Auto Lock Problems.
So, whether you still have some of the old tech or have just purchased a new vehicle, rest assured that we will do our best to take care of your needs and problems. Call us at 618-466-9347 whether you have a 1996 S-10 or a new proximity-based pickup.
We have keys in stock for both, so call 618-466-9347, and we’ll get you back on the road in a hurry. Remember, we also open and repair safes.
#111 – GIVING THE FULL MEASURE
Giving the Full Measure May Involve Self Sacrifice.
I’ll be upfront with you: I have never been in combat, nor have I ever wished it for myself or anyone else. I cannot think that anyone would truly desire it, given other options or choices, but when asked to defend others, many, without hesitation, step up and answer the call.
To selflessly offer one’s self to protect family, country, and even our way of life is left to a few who have carefully weighed the costs. And those who do give their lives have been said to give “The Last Full Measure.”
Giving one’s life is the extreme end of offering up the last full measure. There are situations far short of that requiring the last amount of effort that a person has to give.
For example, anyone who has completed a marathon (26.2 miles) might have an idea of what I mean by giving full measure.
A Parent Trying to Rescue A Child from Drugs May Give Full Measure.
Another example (related to the subject of this article) might be a parent trying his or her best to rescue a child from the drugs that have captured their body and soul. That alone should make you reject the use of drugs outright.
Let’s talk more about drug use and driving impaired.
Drug Use Has Risen Astronomically.
Over the last almost 39 years that I have been a locksmith, I have seen what can only be called an astronomical rise in the use of drugs.
The drugs have gotten stronger and are even to the point that just touching some drugs like uncut Fentanyl can potentially kill you. First responders routinely administer Narcan® to people who have put themselves on the edge of death. Anyone not seeing the rampant drug use in our society must choose to ignore the signs because drug use is everywhere.
Legalized Marijuana Will Impact My Business.
So what does that have to do with locksmithing? A lot, actually. Recreational marijuana use will be legal in Illinois in 2020. The trouble is, at what point does a locksmith say, “No keys,” or “No car opening” for those who have been using marijuana?
Alcohol consumption has always been a problem, but drinkers have finally come to an understanding (at least when they’re sober) that no one will put them on the road if they even suspect that they have had too much to drink. Everyone knows that there is no shame in having a designated driver.
Marijuana users are a different crowd and a different problem altogether. Most people do not exhibit extreme symptoms of overuse, and there are no current methods to determine what is impaired, and non-impaired, behavior.
I Will Not Put Impaired Drivers on the Road.
So, I must state this upfront for those of you who plan on using marijuana on a regular basis.
Click to edit text. What stands you apart from the competition?
#110 – FRESH AIR
One of my favorite “old” television comedies was “Green Acres,” a spinoff of “Petticoat Junction,” which some claim was a spinoff of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” They were all based on the same type of silly humor, and they were a lot of fun. “Green Acres” had a very good theme song, sung by the show’s two main actors, Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. In the song, he talks about the joys of country life, including the “fresh air.”
Fresh Air Can Be in Short Supply These Days.
I’ve come to appreciate fresh air more and more because there seems to be less of it available. Living in a metro area with a garbage dump (now closed) nearby and a large refinery within 15 miles means some days the air, well, stinks. I do enjoy a good fresh, northwest wind to blow some good air our way.
Ah, Safe Work in the Fresh Air!
I love the chance to do my safe work out in the open in the fresh air. That doesn’t always happen. I’m usually relegated to the basement, back bedroom, or dirty tool shed with a variety of chemical smells.
But not always. There are days when the safe is outside, the sky is blue, and the air has a small-town, or even country, sweetness to it.
Case Study 1: Opening Sentry Safe #1
I just had two safe jobs in two straight days. The safes were almost carbon copies of each other, and both safe opening jobs were done in the beautiful sunlight.
The first was a small Sentry safe that needed to be opened, and the owner agreed to meet me at the business he had just retired from after 40 some odd years.
I could tell he was rather dubious about my ability to open his safe, but I just left it on the back of his Blazer and parked my stool from the truck in front of the safe. Ah, the cool breeze, the beautiful sky and bright sun, with the wind blowing through my long hair. . . . Wait, I don’t have that much hair; I’m actually balding rapidly. Scratch that last part.
Anyway, about 25 minutes of furious dialing on my part produced an open safe. I wrote the combination on one of my business cards while the customer went about picking up his jaw from the floor. I showed him the proper procedure for dialing his safe, then parted ways, he with a working safe, and me with my fee in cash in my pocket. (I don’t take plastic.) I would take a safe opening like that every day and be happy for the rest of my career.
Case Study 2: Opening Sentry Safe #2
Well, having said that, the next morning, I took a fairly long trip up into Jersey County to an area so remote the deer have to use GPS to find their way around. This safe opening job was at a very nice house with cornfields on two sides. A safe, yes, a Sentry safe, was sitting, waiting for me in the sunlight.
The owner was hoping beyond hope that a piece of jewelry from her late mother’s estate was inside, but as I turned the safe on its back to better position it for manipulation, it sounded empty.
About 20 minutes later, when I got it open, the lady was disappointed that it was empty, as I had thought. Again, I showed her how to dial the combination while she took a full page of notes from my instruction.
I felt very sorry for her. She had recently been widowed and told me in a choked up voice how much she missed her late husband. He would have been the one to take care of the safe, but now she was left to it. In locksmithing and safe openings, you can’t avoid real life and death. It is there all the time.
All of which makes those sunny, beautiful days outside even more important. My customer was enjoying it as much as I was, and as I left, I could tell she appreciated a sympathetic ear.
Call Us for Your Safe Opening, Indoors or Out.
Even though we are heading to the part of the year when weather can be just a bit dicey, and sometimes downright gloomy, it doesn’t mean you have to hold off until spring to call me about safe work. In fact, if the weather is not good, I’d rather be inside, but we take the conditions and the situations offered to us and do our best. So, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk about your safe that needs opened or serviced. And yes, we do all kinds of safes, not just Sentry!
We Can Also Help with Automotive Key Needs.
And for your automotive key needs, call the same number (618-466-9347), and we can get you back on the road quickly. Maybe we can even add a little sunshine to your day!
#109 – THE RUBBER BAND MAN
Sometimes and some days, I feel stretched pretty thin. The day usually starts with 2 or 3 scheduled appointments and then on the really busy days, the calls start pouring in. Now, I’m not complaining too much. I like to stay busy, but some days I just get swamped.
Sometimes Everything Can’t Be Done Same Day.
Even with good scheduling and working quickly through the easy jobs, there is sometimes just not enough time in the day to get everything done. What can’t possibly wait gets done to the best of my ability, and some not as critical jobs get pushed back to the next day.
Jobs Are Sometimes Prioritized.
This does not happen often, but when it does, I try to make sure that: 1. No one is out in bad weather too long, locked out of a car or house; 2) Anyone who must go to work or to a doctor’s appointment gets moved up the line as far as necessary; and 3) Anyone needing to have something done before a transaction can happen gets it done, such as originating or programming in a second key or remote to finalize a sale. Here's an example.
Case Study 1: A Second Key for an Orange Beetle
A few weeks ago, a lady wanted to buy an orange Beetle but had to have a second key that day since her daughter would be taking it to college.
I showed up as quickly as I could, cut and programmed in a second key for the very bright orange college-bound vehicle. The owner of the small car lot was extremely grateful, and it promoted good feelings and a lot of free advertisement for other customers.
Case Study 2: A Locked Up Lockbox at the Sheriff’s Office.
One situation just recently was a call from a Sheriff’s Office (not the county I live in!). They needed a lockbox opened since they had broken a key off in the lock.
Normally I would refer this call to another locksmith if possible because I just don’t do Master locks and lockers anymore; I just do automotive and safe work. But this fell under rule number 2 mentioned above. A deputy could not go on patrol duty until he had gotten his firearm out of this lockbox.
I took off for the county office, obeying all the speed limits, of course (mentioned in case any deputies are reading this!), and opened the box. The lock was broken and could not be fixed, so I promised to return the next day with a replacement lock which I did do.
With the lockbox open, the deputy was able to get his firearm out and be on his way.
Meanwhile I explained to those in the office that I could not do routine work of maintaining locks. That was for another locksmith or even a maintenance man since I didn’t and don’t do that type of locksmithing anymore.
This reached the sympathetic ear of an old grade school acquaintance there who understood what I was trying to say. She promised she would only call me for absolute emergencies in the future and would line up someone to do their lock maintenance.
I Strive To Arrive at the Agreed Upon Time (or a Little Early).
So that’s a little bit of insight on how I try to operate these days. Many days pass smoothly with the work fitting into the hours allotted. But sometimes I have to hustle pretty hard.
Know this: I will do my best to do what I say when I say it. Even when busy, I try very hard to be exactly on time, or a shade early.
Call As Soon As You Know You Need Lock Work Done.
If you do catch me on one of those days where I am spread thinner than a pat of butter on a loaf of bread, bear with me, and we’ll figure out how soon we can solve your problem.
My best advice is to call me at 618-466-9347 early in the day or as soon as you realize you have a need for my services. Obviously it is much easier to get your job done on the same day if I hear about it at 8:00 a.m. rather than 4:00 p.m.
So, call us at 618-466-9347, and if it is somewhat urgent, we’ll see if we can stretch out the day to get it done. Remember that we also open and service safes.
#108 – LINCOLNS, LINCOLNS, EVERYWHERE. . .
Last week I wrote about two Lincolns, one from the mid-1960s and one from the mid-“0’s”. (I always wanted to try that out on paper—mid-“0’s”?) Well, Lincoln reared its head again this week, and this time one in its mid-teens. And we all know how much trouble teenagers are! (Just kidding; don’t sue me!)
The Proxy Key for a Lincoln MKZ Is Stolen.
The object of some thief’s attention was a 2015 Lincoln MKZ, a very nice car, with every possible extra and add-on that you could think of. The owner’s manual ends up being just about as long as “War and Peace.” It would be a close call as to whether the car would wear out before you mastered all the gadgets and amenities. One of the amenities is push button start and a proximity system that includes remote start.
But back to our sneaky little thief. This person grabbed the only proximity key from the cupholder, where the owner (and many others with similar systems) left it for convenience. Why the thief didn’t just get in and drive the vehicle away would lead one to suspect that he (or she) was either too young to drive or too dumb to know the car could be started by just pressing the start button since the proximity key was within range.
In any case the owner went to leave in his car, and whoops, he had no proximity key, no start, nothing. On top of that, even though the thief didn’t take the car there was a real possibility that someone smart enough to know that what he had taken was not just a remote but a proximity key would return to take the car. The car was not in a good position for the owner to have it towed to avoid that possibility. He found out that I had bailed out members of his family before on a vintage 2000 Mercury Mystique, so he gave me a call.
Replacement Proxies Are Ordered.
Proximity keys for this Lincoln are not something I carry in stock, but after some questions over the phone, back and forth, the owner decided to have me order some OEM ones, made by Strattec. I knew I would be able to program them because I had done a similar car with my current equipment.
I told him I would order the keys right away, and if he wanted, I could get them overnight. He liked that idea since he was without his car, and the threat of theft was still out there.
The First Step of the Programming is Completed.
After a long hot afternoon, I myself was still worried about the car, so I decided to go ahead and do the first step of the programming. “What is that first step?” I’m sure you are asking with eager anticipation.
In most cases when all keys are lost, the first step is to remove all the old keys from the car’s computer (so they will no longer be recognized and won’t start the vehicle). Many key programming computers have programs that erase keys for many models. However, some car companies such as Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi have you start from scratch for the most part and program everything as if all keys were lost.
With Lincoln, you just hit “erase” on the programmer, and all old keys are removed. I did this for the MKZ.
Mustang Proxy Keys Provide a Temporary Fix.
Since I was there and had a little time available, I decided to see if some Mustang proximity keys I had would program in. Surprisingly they went in “slicker than a whistle,” and the owner was then able to move the vehicle to a safe place.
The Lincoln Proxies Arrive and Are Programmed.
The next day, after I received the shipment of Lincoln keys, I went down to where the car was located, removed my temporary fix “Pony” keys from the computer, and programmed in the two Lincoln keys.
Now, I’m sure some disgruntled soul in my reading audience is going to say, “Why didn’t you program in the cheaper Mustang keys and just be done with it?” Good question—and there are cheaper keys to start the car besides the Mustang keys (but not much cheaper).
However, this Lincoln needed a very specific proximity key that has a feature called a “two-way,” and the cheaper keys do not have that feature. When in doubt, it’s best to go with original equipment (Strattec, in this case) if you want everything to work correctly.
Moral: Don’t Ever Leave Your Keys in Your Car.
This was not the first, or last, car I will have done where someone has stolen the keys. Some good advice: Do Not Leave your keys in your car, even parked in your own garage. Insurance companies are notorious for denying claims on auto theft when the keys were left in the vehicle. With the coming of the proximity key, it becomes even easier and more inviting just to have a “push button” car by leaving the proximity key in the car as this owner did. Just don’t do it.
But We Can Help If Your Keys Are Stolen or Lost.
But if you do, and the keys are taken, we can help you out. We can take the old keys out of the computer and make it so that you are the only possessor of keys for your car. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we can talk about what you need done. Also remember that we open and service safes. Call us at 618-466-9347.
#107 – A LINCOLN PORTRAIT
Lincoln: When you see or hear the word, you either think about the U.S. President whose face is on two types of our money and who presided over the North during the Civil War, or you think of a luxury car or limousine. For those of you who thought of money, perhaps an “Economic Blogger” website might be a better fit for you, as we’ll be talking cars today.
The Lincoln Motor Company—not to be confused with the maker of the Lincoln that was sold by Sears Roebuck for a few years back around 1910—was 102 years old this year. It has a long and storied history, and if you want a good short read, Wikipedia has a good article on it.
I’ll be comparing two Lincolns I worked on recently: one similar to those I saw for the first time in high school in the 60s and the other a Lincoln produced in 2007.
Case Study 1: Originating Keys for a 1966 Lincoln
Simplicity is the catchword for the 1966 Lincoln that I was called on to make keys for in a small Illinois town. The car was literally in a hundred pieces. Most of the body was intact, however, and my assignment was to replace the lost keys.
I have found that on older vehicles, you should work directly on the lock that counts (i.e., the one you need keys for), if possible, instead of another lock that is keyed the same. The ignition and doors came from the factory keyed alike, but the ignitions frequently get changed without being keyed back to the original code.
The ignition is an in-dash, 5-pin-tumbler lock that is located in the middle of the dash, over the “hump.” With a worn lock, it becomes a bit tedious to impression a key from the lock, but it is doable. In this case, I took my time and 15 minutes later, through the grace of God, I was rewarded with a working key which surprisingly also worked both doors fairly smoothly.
The trunk key was interesting. I thought I would get clever and read the code number on the back of the glovebox lock with a mirror. It was right where I expected and easily read. But I got “out-clevered” by someone in the past because the secondary (round head) key cut from the code would not fit either the glovebox or the trunk. Someone had apparently rekeyed both. So, back to impressioning. And again, 15 minutes of careful impressioning and filing produced a working key for the trunk and glovebox.
Some quick notes on this car—It was one of the heaviest standard production cars ever built. It was outstanding for all the features that it didn’t have. No electrical anything. . . About the only things that used electricity were the AM radio and the heater. No A.C. and certainly no heated seats with driver memory.
It was the closest thing to a tank made as a production car. Ah, those were the days. The first one I saw back in high school made me realize that people with money often think bigger is better.
Case Study 2: Doing a Parameter Reset and Programming Keys for a 2007 Lincoln Navigator
The other Lincoln for this article is the Lincoln Navigator. The 2007 one I was called to work on had sat at a local small repair shop while a replacement Powertrain Control Module (PCM) was special ordered and shipped. The main mechanic and owner had checked with me before starting the job to make sure I could do a “parameter reset” and program 2 keys back in. I had assured him that I could if everything was installed correctly and it was a good replacement PCM.
When he called back to tell me the new PCM was installed and he was ready for me to do my thing, I had almost forgotten about it. Three weeks is a long time to wait on any part. The Navigator had everything ready to go—a good fully-charged battery and all parts installed.
The only problem was that “the best laid plans of mice and men” often fail. My main diagnostic tool, that I use most of the time for parameter resets, failed, not once but twice. Headscratching time. But that is why I have multiple tools.
I pulled out my latest tool and went through the 10-minute process again. At the end of the time period, it was like the vehicle hiccupped, the dash lights flashed a couple of times, and the tool said success. I was a little skeptical, but both keys programmed in, and the Navigator fired right up and ran quite well for having set so long.
Talk about luxury—This 2007 vehicle had everything that its ’66 ancestor did not have. Heated seats, seat adjustments for different drivers, and more communications gadgets than could be listed in one article. And this was a 12-year-old vehicle!
We’ve come a long way since 1966, and I understand newer vehicles have all kinds of new safety and comfort features. But there is something about the old masters that made you feel that same level of comfort and safety, while being very simple. There will always be an argument as to which is better: the one from the good old days or the new modern tech wonder.
Call Us If You Need Car Keys Made or a Safe Opened.
No matter which way you lean, if you need keys made for your car, give us a call. I certainly won’t look down on your old classic, but I also won't complain about how hard it is to work on your latest model with proximity technology. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll see what the solution is for your automotive problem. And, of course, remember that we also open safes.
#106 – THREE PEOPLE ON THE ROAD OF LIFE
If you really think about it, most of our lives are spent dealing with or learning how to deal with other people. Yes, of course, we get an education and maybe go into a job that requires more labor and skills than communication. But still, every day of our lives, we come in contact with relatives, friends, co-workers, and even strangers with whom we have to associate and communicate.
In the locksmithing business, I meet all kinds of interesting people. Some are happy, and some are sad. All are anxious for me to solve their problems and be on their way. Let’s take a look at some people I met just in the last week.
Customer 1: An Unfortunate Setting
The first meeting, for lack of a better term, was because of a real tragedy. A young woman locked her keys in her car, a Toyota, and the local police could not get to the keys since they were in the car’s trunk. She called me and told me where to find her in a local cemetery, and a short time later I pulled up to the car.
The woman had been crying, and it was not about the keys in the car. She had come to place flowers on the grave of her son on his birthday, and truthfully I have never seen anyone more grief-stricken and in anguish than she was. My heart was torn to see her literally suffering from grief. But as in all situations, I have a job to do, and maintaining my composure is absolutely necessary to get the job done.
Picking the emergency lock on the trunk was the first order of business, but I found that since it was the new Toyota high-security lock, the pick I use would only go in facing away from me. So, I had to pick the door lock and hope the alarm wouldn’t go off and complicate the situation. I successfully picked the door lock, and the alarm did not go off.
If it had, an emergency key could have been made to open the trunk.
Needless to say, the lady was very grateful to have her car unlocked. I cut her a spare emergency key, and she could not stop thanking me for helping her. She insisted on a hug, and although I normally resist, in this case she needed one and got one.
Customer 2: Curiosity and Enthusiasm
The second meeting was not with a customer as such but with someone who worked for a company where I had just done a job. He had heard me tell someone else about having opened a safe that morning, and he was just astounded.
“How do you do that?” he asked, and by the fire with which the question was asked, it was clear that he really wanted to know something.
I gave him a standard explanation that explains a little (it does leave a lot out!), and a light bulb went off as he realized that the dial is used to measure various lock parts.
He said, “You can do that?”
Him: “That’s just amazing!”
I agreed with him that it was “cool” but explained to him that it was just another type of job that I have been trained to do. The kind of excitement and enthusiasm he had is what draws young people to become locksmiths.
Customer 3: A Lesson Learned
The last person I will mention is a young man who had called me 3 or 4 times over a period of a month to replace a key on a Dodge Caliber. Each time, he asked for a price quote, which was the same every time. I could tell that there was some distrust, as if he had been burned before, but I reassured him that that was the price.
Finally came the call that he had been paid, and he now wanted the key made. So I showed up.
He had a bad key, from which I could readily determine the mechanical cuts. I cut them onto a new remote head key. Programming the key into the car’s computer took less than 5 minutes. I presented him with a bill that was about $30 less than what I had quoted him repeatedly over the phone.
He said, “This is wrong. This is less than you quoted.”
I explained that the original quote included determining the mechanical cuts from scratch, and since that part of the job was not necessary (because his bad key revealed the cuts), there was no charge for it.
It had apparently never dawned on this young man that some people only charge for what they actually do, not what they quote. I explained that it wasn’t even “giving him a break,” since I had not done the work. Maybe somewhere down the line, he will do the right thing himself in his dealings with other people. It is just a form of passing on an idea, instead of money.
There you have it: 3 different people with 3 different situations, each learning something about Al Davenport CML. What I hope you take away from this article is a little insight into how I deal with people as well as the locksmithing I do.
Call Us to Help Solve Your Automotive or Safe Problem.
A “people person”? I wouldn’t go that far, but I do try to solve the problems that are presented to me. If you have a locksmithing problem, whether it is automotive or safe related in nature, give us a call at 618-466-9347. We’ll do our best to figure out what needs to be done and do it.
#105 – “GOOD EVENING, MR. PHELPS”
“Mission: Impossible” Was a Great TV Show.
One of my favorite shows back in my younger days was “Mission: Impossible.” I loved the plots and the way the storyline rolled out to keep you on the edge of your seat. There was also Barney, the “tech guy,” who was responsible for all the gizmos the IMF team used to accomplish their goals.
As dated as some of it seems now, Barney always had a gadget that would get them through an alarm system, or any old vault door that might need to be opened in the process. Some of the gadgetry has come into existence, such as safe dialers and remote control of cars and planes.
I, along with others, watched and waited for the Tom Cruise movie, only to be very disappointed that Mr. Phelps sold out. Maybe Jon Voight would do it, but Peter Graves would never have done that. No way. . . .
Some of My Jobs Are Mission: Impossible.
It seems like some jobs I have had lately have fallen into that Mission: Impossible category.
Case Study: A 2004 Ford Ranger Which Wouldn’t Start
One that sticks out in particular is a 2004 Ford Ranger that was towed into a local garage with the complaint that it just wouldn’t start.
The immobilizer light was indicating that the keys were no longer programmed into the vehicle. So, the mechanic at the repair shop thought, “Keys not programmed, then keys need programmed.” Well, under some circumstances that logic would be valid, but keys “kicked out” of the computer is often just the symptom of some other problem.
I have one tool, an older one, that runs a full diagnostic check, as well as programming keys. I tried to program in the keys, but they would not go in. So, the problem was either the immobilizer and the antenna which surrounds the lock cylinder, or the PCM (Powertrain Control Module).
Based on the trouble codes from the full diagnostic, the best guess was the immobilizer. I left the repair shop to do other work and let them replace the part. The next day I got a call to come back. They had replaced the immobilizer.
Things should have gone smoothly with a new part, and in fact, the keys did program in. But the vehicle still wouldn’t start.
Well, there was only one thing left: the starter. The repair shop replaced it, and the little Ford fired right up.
One Failed Part Can Cause Other Failures.
The lesson to be learned is that with electronic parts, when one fails, there can be a cascading failure. Other parts can be affected, revealing their weakness or even be damaged by another failing part.
A good example is that if you have a PCM failure, you should check the ignition coils on the engine.
They can cause a PCM failure and will damage a new one if a bad coil is not replaced. The engine could run for awhile or even a few days, and boom, you’re paying for the same PCM part all over again.
Solving Problems Can Sometimes Seem Impossible.
It does seem impossible to sort out these problems sometimes, and especially when most problems are on the very fringe of even the electrical side of locksmithing.
But, I just remember a line from Anthony Hopkins in a later Mission: Impossible movie: “That’s why they call it impossible.” If it were just difficult, lots of people could solve the problem.
Call Us With Your “Impossible” Automotive or Safe Problem.
If you have a problem with your vehicle’s key not working and the security light has begun to flash, give us a call, and we’ll start the process of sorting it out for you. Sometimes your vehicle may just need a “parameter reset” because you have had a part replaced, or you may have to go to a repair shop. In any case, we are here to help, and we work with many small repair shops in the area to help sort out problems like these.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and ‘let’s see if what you consider “Mission: Impossible” is just “Mission: Slightly Difficult or Less.” Don’t forget that we also open and service safes as well. 618-466-9347 will get you in touch with the Mission Slightly Difficult team, and no, nothing is going to self-destruct in 5 seconds!
#104 – MORE ODDBALLS
I have often written about the amount of variety in the various job requests that come my way. I do get a lot of requests to make keys for older and antique vehicles. I think it’s mainly because people realize it takes an antique to work on one!
Even with the normal fare of work this week, the additional oddballs made it an exceptional week for variety. I’ll touch on a few, just to give you a taste of what this week looked like.
A Mitsubishi Tow Truck with Nissan Locks
The first (in no particular order) was one of the odder vehicles I’ve ever run across. It was a Mitsubishi tow truck, but the very odd thing was that the locks were Nissan, the old 8-cut X123 keyway. It wasn’t hard to make keys for this truck. I just had to pick and decode the door lock and cut a key by code.
What was strange was handing the customer the working key that said Nissan, with a truck clearly labeled Mitsubishi.
A Bright Orange ’39 Chevy Truck
The prize for the oldest vehicle of the week was a ’39 Chevy truck, painted bright orange. It, too, wasn’t the greatest of challenges because GM went from 1935-1964 with the same code series, and that included the truck. The ignition key was made by hand, but the right hand door lock had a code that I utilized to cut a key that fit both doors. Not much different than trucks 50 years newer.
A ’59 T-Bird Needing a Trunk Key
I guess my favorite of this whole batch was a ’59 T-Bird with the key to the trunk missing. The gentleman arranged to have me make a key for it at a local car sales lot, a very popular place in Godfrey. The owners and staff are very friendly and just good people.
With Ford products of any vintage, the approach is to first look for a lock that will impression. Yes, there are codes on some of the old Ford locks, as on GM, but I just had one lock to work with, and I wasn’t sure of a code even if I took the trouble to pick the lock, take it out, and look for a code. With a very fancy antique such as this T-Bird, you really want to avoid turning bolts and screws that are 60 years old. Gentle impressioning is a more reasonable way to go, and about 15 minutes later, the gentleman was handed two new keys for his trunk.
A Chevy Aveo
A Chevy Aveo with no keys showed up this week, but it wasn’t an impossible job. The vehicle is a rebadged Korean import, a Daihatsu, if I remember correctly, and the locking system is very plain and direct, with no transponder chip in the key. Chevy has gone from importing Toyotas (Chevy Nova) to Isuzu (the GEO line), to Daihatsu. One might conclude they are on a downhill slide.
A BMW With a Rusted Key
Probably the strangest job was a BMW that had sat outside with a bad engine for several years, with the mechanic waiting for the customer to come up with the money for a new engine.
He had just thrown the only key on the floorboard, knowing no one could steal a broken down car. As I said, the car sat for several years, but finally, the owner had come up with the money to put in that new engine.
The big problem, and where I come in, was that the original steel BMW key had rusted to the point where a good section of it was gone, making it completely unusable.
When I was handed the key, even with parts badly rusted, I was able to decode the key and cut a key by code that worked the ignition, passenger door, and trunk. The driver’s door lock was frozen up, and lubricant did not unfreeze it. I left that for the mechanic to take care of.
There were others in the oddball group, including a ’97 Chevy school bus converted to a party bus, and others. But I think I’ve made my point and don’t want to bore you to death.
Call Us About Your Vehicle, Young or Old, Oddball or Not
The conclusion is this: If you have an odd or strange vehicle, young or old, we are capable of handling most of what you can throw at us. We can be that confident because we simply do it every day and have for the past 38+ years. Remember, that ’81 car that might have been your first car in high school came out when I started locksmithing.
Yes, there are some things that are not possible for me to do, but just give me a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk about what we can do for you. You might just be talking to someone who’s done your antique many times since it was new. Call 618-466-9347, and talk to the human antique!
#103 – IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES AND THE WORST OF TIMES
The profession of locksmithing is filled with extremes. It has a lot to do with the nature of the work because a lot of times it is success or failure with nothing in between. The individual jobs are often amazingly easy or ridiculously difficult, and it is sometimes hard to tell before I start which it is going to be. I’ll give you a few examples to show you what I mean.
Case Study 1: Originating Keys for a Yamaha Motorcycle
Motorcycles—I still do them, but I pick and choose my jobs. I don’t get as many calls for them as I used to, so I don’t do them very often. Recently I got a call to originate keys for a Yamaha Road Star, 2008 vintage. All the keys were lost. With no codes on any locks, it always makes it harder. I opted to use the gas tank lock and the seat release lock to get the cuts, which I could then combine onto one key. The gas cap lock has the last five tumblers, and the seat release lock the first five, with 7 total on the complete key.
I impressioned the gas cap lock with no problem, but when I tried to finish up the other two tumblers, my working key broke off in the lock. I removed the lock, disassembled it, and removed the broken key.
I used that opportunity to “read” the tumblers (determine what they were) and then put everything back together.
With all the tumblers on one key now, it should have worked the ignition, but no go. Forty-five minutes later, I figured out that one tumbler position was cut 1 depth too deep. What I basically had to do was figure out why the two unknown tumblers from before worked when they should not have.
Anyway, a lot of time was wasted on locks because the tolerances in the ignition lock were much tighter than my two working locks. Yes, I made some errors, especially the broken key, but I’m not perfect, and in the normal course of making a key, not everything goes perfectly.
Sometimes, though, it feels so good and so easy that you almost feel guilty about charging the customer.
Case Study 2: Dialing Open a Small Fire Safe
Another recent job was to open a small fire safe, about 25-30 years old, made by a company that is no longer in business. The customer did not have the combination. I recognized this type of safe when the customer led me into the living room. With a couple of turns of the dial, I took a deep breath and dialed open the lock in less than 5 minutes. Three tumblers and a drive wheel gave up very quickly, as I knew they would.
How, you ask, did you stinking do that? That’s what the customer wanted to know, too, but there are some things that have to remain secret in order to preserve the security of the safe.
Besides, I have had an enormous amount of training and experience in order to dial any type of safe open in that short amount of time. It makes up for a lot of long-suffering safe jobs that went to the other extreme.
So, very hard, and very easy. Sometimes it is the vehicle or safe in question, and some days things go very right or very wrong for various reasons.
Case Study 3: Originating Keys for an Impala in the Rain
Even with the weather sometimes bad, the job can go smoothly. I recently made keys for a 2006 Impala, just your average key origination job where all keys are lost. Yes, I got a little wet because I wasn’t smart enough to remember to put my raincoat back in the van. But for the most part, even with a pouring, driving rain, the job went very smoothly. I always have dry clothes at home, and getting wet was a self-inflicted boo-boo.
Let’s Talk About Your Auto or Safe Lock Needs.
How will your job go? It really is hard to say for sure, but training, experience, and a solid routine give the best possible circumstances for a smooth job. Whatever your needs—automotive or safe work—give us a call, and we’ll talk about what it will take to complete your job. And even if it is an extremely difficult job, we will keep at it until both you and I are satisfied. Call us at 618-466-9347, and let’s talk.
#102 – THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, or How I Rescued a Pointer Mix at the Beagle
I thought the above was a pretty fancy title, especially for one of my articles. Actually, the title is probably going to be more interesting than the article, but we’ll try to do our best.
Emergency Lockouts Frequently Happen at Meal Time.
One of the things you learn right away as a locksmith is that emergency calls happen when you are eating. Not only then, but quite often lunch or dinner is interrupted by a plea for help in unlocking a vehicle. I leave out breakfast because I usually eat breakfast at a time when 99% of all people in the area are asleep.
A Dog Needs to Be Rescued.
At lunch recently, I got a call from an insurance agent indicating that a customer of theirs had locked their dog in a 2007 Ford Escape. Since an animal was in the vehicle, I did not hesitate to hurriedly finish the last bite of lunch and head out the door to a local bar/restaurant called the Regal Beagle. It’s not far from home, so in less than 10 minutes, I was at the vehicle.
Ford Escapes Can Be Tricky to Open.
Now, Ford Escapes can be just a little tricky to open sometimes, and that is the reason why I pick the door lock. With Lishi picks, I can open the Escape door generally under 2 minutes and, most importantly, without any damage.
With the advent of remotes, the first order of business is always to lubricate the lock. Some people have locks on their auto doors that have never been used, not even once.
The young lady was helpful in keeping the dog’s attention to the passenger side of the vehicle. With full concentration on my part, the lock opened in about a minute.
I asked the young lady what type of dog he was, and a “pointer mix” is the best she could come up with. The dog was nattily dressed in a bright t-shirt and was friendly, which is always a good thing. Mean dogs and mean people are two sides of the same coin. . . .
As I pointed out earlier, the rescue was a little less dramatic than the title may have implied. But to put some beef in, let’s talk about the Escape door lock a bit.
Escape Locks Aren’t The Usual 8-Cut Type.
The Escape lock is a different animal. It is not like the standard 8-cut Ford locks that are spread across the Ford lineup because the Escape uses a different type of tumbler. The tumbler is actually a throwback to the old 10-tumbler system that ended in 1995 or thereabouts. The door kit from that system can be used to service the Escape locks. For some years, the Ford Focus also used the same type of setup, and they tend to be much easier to pick than the Fords with 8-cut locks.
You can tell the difference between the two systems because the key opening in the Escape lock is shaped like the profile of the key while the key opening in the 8-cut system is just a plain rectangle. As far as ease of making keys, the Escape lock can be a bit of a booger, but then again, it is doable with a healthy dose of TriFlow (my main lubricant).
Make a Habit of Exiting Your Car with Keys in Hand.
So, there is my tale of the Pointer at the Beagle. What should stick out to you from this article is that although it was a dog being rescued this time, it could have been a child. Please, for your own sake, if nothing else, get used to exiting your vehicle with keys in hand.
One of the first Escapes I ever opened when they first came out had a child locked inside. The story ended happily then also, but the happiest outcome is when the incident doesn’t happen at all.
If You Accidentally Lock a Child in Your Car. . .
If you do happen to accidentally lock a child in a car without any keys being available, you must know 2 things:
First and foremost, I am not 911. If there is a child in danger, do what you must to open the vehicle immediately, up to and including breaking a window.
Second, I will respond with the best possible speed in any case where a child is locked in, but again, if the child is in danger, do what you must. The cancellations that I like best are the ones where “Junior” has just been rescued and my services aren’t needed.
Give Us a Call for Your Auto Lock Needs.
So, if you need auto lock servicing, keys made, or car doors opened, give us a call at 618-466-9347. We will do our best to get your job done as soon as possible.
#101 – WHAT DO YOU DO WITH PRAISE?
What Is Praise?
Praise—it is basically getting complimented for doing a good job. Simple, right? I just don’t handle praise well, though. Praise, or being complimented, almost always demands a response, or at least an acknowledgment. I don’t always have much more than a “thank you” available, which is kind of strange for someone who has enough verbiage to write a weekly article. I do try to at least say “thank you,” but even that feels awkward at times.
I guess the big reason is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist at heart, and that means that I often fall short of my own expectations. If a job goes well, or timely service has been rendered, it was supposed to happen that way. There is no need to add a compliment. It is not fake humility; it just means my personal assessment of the job is tempered by the number of times the same job, or one very similar, has gone bad, or “gone south,” to use my favorite expression.
How Well A Job Goes Can Vary, Even with the Same Type of Vehicle.
Jobs over the years, 38 years, can go well or not so well, depending on the individual, specific conditions of any particular job. A 2016 Kia may pick easily, or the next time, with the same year, make, and model of vehicle, may be a person’s worst nightmare. In fact, the example I just gave is a “for real” instance with Kia.
Case Study 1: A 2016 Kia
I had opened two other 2016 Kias in the last couple of months, but this particular one the other day just refused to pick.
Every little thing I did just wouldn’t help, such as lubricating the lock and running a key in and out to loosen it up.
I finally, finally gave up trying to pick it and used a tool to open it that I consider a defeat for the locksmith, namely me. So while I was successful at opening the locked-up car, it didn’t seem like a victory to me because I had to use a certain tool instead of picking it.
What was the real kicker, and so dripping in irony, was that just as I started on the vehicle, a long-term customer stopped by and chatted with the Kia owner, telling her how good I was and that if you “google” him, he has nothing but 5-star ratings. That deserves a real “I can’t believe it” snort. 2 feet tall at the end of that job instead of 10 feet. But again, I try not to let the praise jobs inflate my ego because I’ve been in too many deflating situations.
Case Study 2: Two 2012 Malibus
Another example is two cars that I recently worked on, back to back. Both were 2012 Malibus, with the situation being that all keys were lost. The first went very easily and quickly. The customer was telling me about all the good ratings I had on the internet, and he was going to add to them. He wanted to give me a big tip, but as politely as I could, I refused and very self-consciously said it wasn’t necessary to take the time to put up a rating for me.
The very next job was different, however. It didn’t go badly on the next 2012 Malibu, but it didn’t go exactly smoothly, either. I ended up wasting a couple of extra key blanks, and the programming of the keys had a small hiccup that was overcome. The customer was polite and did not realize that it could have gone smoother, but I did.
There is a place in the Bible that says, “Judge yourself with sober judgment.” Thirty-eight years of ups and downs have a tendency to smooth emotions out to an even keel.
I Will Do My Best To Solve Your Lock Problems.
So, I understand that I might have saved you a lot of money, fixed what you thought was an unsolvable problem, or just brightened your day a little, but don’t be surprised if I am a little awkward handling your compliments. Just know that, no matter what, I will give you my best effort to solve your lock problems. That best effort includes an enormous amount of time learning new methods and skills and preparing ahead to make your job go smoothly.
And most, probably 99%, do go smoothly. You can count on the drive which comes from my being a perfectionist to ensure that you will get my best.
Call So We Can Discuss Your Auto Lock Problem.
Call us at 618-466-9347, and let’s discuss your auto lock problem. More than likely, I’ve seen it before, and from 38 years experience I will give you my best possible solution.
If I can’t help you directly, I will point you in the right direction. Some problems fall into the category of dealer only, or a mechanical fix that doesn’t involve locksmithing.
Call 618-466-9347, and we will at least try to make your day better, and maybe even make your whole day. But you don’t really even have to thank us. . . .
#100 – TRIPLE DIGITS
If you look at the number up by the header, you will see that this is article number 100. Please quiet down and keep your composure; it isn’t that big a deal to yell and cheer about! There will be no party. Certainly no cake and ice cream. . . . It just means that there have been 99 previous articles.
It is simply moving into triple digits, and nothing more. It would and will be more important to hit #104, which is the equivalent of two years of weekly articles. Years are something everyone can relate to, since we all keep adding one every 12 months, whether we want to or not.
If you’re looking for a special article, one with a summation of wisdom to rattle the literary world, well, that’s not going to happen. I do have a subject, so bear with me.
Case Study: Originating Keys for a Dodge Neon
A lady who had called me about a 2000 Dodge Neon finally managed to get the money together to have keys originated for her car. The time was set, and I showed up at the appointed time and designated place. I made a key for the door lock which worked smoothly, but when I tried to put the key in the ignition, it would not go. Inspection of the keyway revealed that someone had jammed a screwdriver in and destroyed the lock. She wasn’t sure who had done it but was willing to pay the extra cost to replace the lock.
I keyed up a new lock (so that the door key would also work in the new ignition), removed the old ignition, and installed the new one. At that time, after I had overcome all obstacles thus far, a neighbor whom I knew showed up and insisted on engaging me in conversation.
Not getting the hint from my one-word answers to his questions, he finally retreated when I asked him if I could concentrate on the job. Finally I was free to focus on the car, which was giving me problems in the key programming aspect. Two keys were finally programmed, and the little Neon roared to life.
Neighbors Are Not Always Neighborly.
The lady had something to say about the neighbor who had come over. She told me that as a grandmother trying to raise her daughter’s son, she had a hard time keeping up with home maintenance. Her daughter, she explained, was a strung-out mess on drugs, and it was left to her, the grandmother, to raise her grandchild. The neighbor had called the city on her a couple of times for basically minor things, and, as might be expected, she didn’t care for him much.
I knew this guy to be a member of one of those churches like “The First Church of We Have the Only Way” (a made-up name, obviously). I also knew that he works for a government agency and, in general, has a fairly high opinion of himself.
I run into this attitude from time to time. Surprisingly it can even be from “church people,” who instead of helping people out look down their noses at people they deem not acceptable because they don’t belong to their church or perhaps any church. In their arrogance and ignorance, they don’t realize they have aligned themselves with (church) corporations which only exist by the word of the government through their 501(c)(3) status. That’s what these “mainstream churches” are—extensions of the government system. Most have left Christianity behind in their wake and pursue the god of political correctness in order to stay in good standing with the government and maintain their status.
Who Is My Neighbor?
No, I’m not this man’s judge, and I only state the facts to you. He and the so-called churches will have to stand before the God of the Universe and explain their actions. Two passages of Scripture come to mind. The first is “When did we see you hungry and feed you?” (Matthew 25: 31-40)
Instead of turning people in to the government, why not offer to help them a little? The good Samaritan parable is still in my Bible (Luke 10:25-37). It is an answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
And one last verse (Hebrews 10:31): “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Period.
The World Needs Help.
We live in a world which is hurting so badly and which needs a physical hand and a spiritual savior. Jesus Christ is that Savior, and if you know Him, then you will want to be that physical hand for those in need that you can help.
If my soap box sermon has offended, maybe it was meant to. I didn’t start out to preach, but it angered me a great deal to find out what the neighbor had done to someone trying really hard to get and keep her life and the life of her family together.
Locksmithing allows me to see a lot more than a variety of locks. It allows me to see people who need help in more ways than one.
Call Me For Help With Your Auto Lock Problems.
If you have auto lock problems and need solutions, call us at 618-466-9347. We’ll do what we can to put you back on the road in the most efficient manner possible.
#99 – HOUSE LOCKOUTS
Sometimes I wonder why, but I still do house lockouts when there is an emergency. I’m not talking about a landlord needing to get into a recently vacated apartment or something like that.
What I mean by an emergency is someone accidently locked out of their own house, with no other means of getting in. Often the person in distress is elderly and does not have family close by.
House Lockouts Are the Only Type of Residential Locksmithing I Still Do.
Perhaps it is the hopelessness of the situations that I get calls on that keeps me doing this tiny sliver of residential locksmithing. As most of you know, I do not do residential locksmithing anymore because, frankly, I enjoy automotive and safe work much more and have decided to limit my business to that type of locksmithing in recent years.
Residential locksmithing can be tedious and somewhat repetitive. Also, with the advent of “do it yourself” kits for changing locks such as Kwikset, the amount of calls for rekeying has dropped off.
The other aspect of residential work is installing locks, especially deadbolts, and I have never liked doing that. Sorry, it’s truth time. I was only adequate at installing deadbolts. It is a job that is for someone more skilled at carpentry than I. I blame it on being left-handed, or at least I’m going to stick with that excuse.
All that being said, I do answer the call when someone is locked out of their home.
House Lockouts Can Be Challenging.
It is not as easy to open a lot of house doors as it used to be. With mushroom pins being included in even the cheapest of locks, and sidebar locks being introduced into the residential market, most lockouts are generally harder than they used to be. I’m not making excuses for increased opening times; it is just a fact of life.
There are even extenuating circumstances where impressioning a key is the proper approach. (Impressioning involves starting with a key blank, inserting it repeatedly in the lock a certain way, “reading” the marks made on the key blank by this process, and filing the blank down, usually by hand, until a working key has been created from scratch.) A lot depends on the particular lock and the combination set up inside that lock.
There are always new tools popping up to open or bypass new lock products on the market. New style picks for Kwikset and Schlage have recently become available, as well as bypass tools for sidebar locks such as Kwikset.
A Recent House Lockout Was Typical.
The most recent house lockout call I got was typical and was a little after supper, which means it really has to be an emergency for me to go out and open anything.
A neighbor called for an elderly gentleman, and even though I usually prefer to talk to the customer directly before going on a job, we could see the need for our service. My wife jumped in the van with me and went on a 10-minute ride to a very nice neighborhood.
The elderly gentleman was sitting in a lawn chair (borrowed from his neighbor) in the middle of his driveway. He apologized for calling us out, and I assured him that an apology was not necessary. What was necessary was to get him back inside his house.
As I worked on the lock, he told my wife how his wife was in the hospital, and he sounded very upset. My wife is very good with customers and very empathetic, and the gentleman was grateful for someone to talk to.
I had a few problems with his older lock, but I did get it open fairly quickly. To ensure that he could use the door I opened, I made keys for the lock, and he said he would give one to a neighbor. His little dog had been inside and was very glad to be reunited with his owner.
Somehow, the money we made was inconsequential, compared to the satisfaction of helping this kindly older gentleman. Yes, we do have to pay bills, but helping someone in need is very satisfying in many ways.
Yes, I know I did some residential locksmithing, but I did what the gentleman had need of, no more.
Give Us A Call If You’re Locked Out of Your House.
If you are locked out of your house and it is an emergency, I will try to respond if I am able. Sometimes it becomes necessary to pass on a job if I can’t do it in a timely manner. But I, as a one-man shop, will do my best to help you if I can. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we will see what we can do for you.
Remember, we primarily do automotive and safe work, but we do see the need to help people in distress, such as being locked out of their home. In any case, call us at 618-466-9347, and let’s talk about your needs.
#98 – ODD THINGS
Odd Things Exist.
There are a lot of odd things in this world; books can and have been written about them. “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” was a very popular feature syndication in many newspapers across America. Two-headed snakes and a headless chicken, rivers that run from south to north, and strange gravitational anomalies are just a hint of many strange things across this country.
The U.S. Is North of Canada?
One oddity that always amused me was actually “man made,” sort of, and lies to the north of us: When traveling from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, to Detroit, Michigan, you must go north. Yes, north. Detroit is actually due north of Windsor.
I wouldn’t have believed it myself had I not actually made the crossing myself. In my younger days, as a cadet 3rd class assigned to the Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw for the summer, we docked on the Windsor side of the river (the south side), and on liberty made our way to liberty in the town of Detroit by going through the tunnel by car north to Detroit.
Canadian Vehicles Are Different from Their American Counterparts.
Canadians are different from their American counterparts. It is a different country and a different culture from what I have seen. Even their cars and trucks are different. Sometimes that affects what is used for key systems on those vehicles.
GMs Made for the Canadian Market Lack On-Board Key Programming.
One big difference that some find out the hard way is that GM vehicles made for the Canadian market do not have “on-board programming” of keys available for the vehicle. To add keys, one must go to a locksmith or a dealer in order to have keys programmed into a vehicle. It is a law, as I understand it.
The logic is that without on-board programming, no one can just come along with an old key and on-board program the key back into the car’s computer system. Theoretically there would be one less chance of someone stealing a car, but for Canadian GM owners, it’s quite a pain compared to American GM owners being able to on-board program their keys themselves.
The problem is that it is such a short distance across the border to the United States from Canada. Accordingly, many Canadian cars end up here, as well as many cars designated as American wind up in the Canadian provinces as second-hand vehicles. Some of the Canadian vehicles just will not program with American aftermarket key programmers because of the difference between the two systems.
The Proximity Key Systems on Some Ford F150s Are Different, If Made for Canada.
One of these Canadian vehicles that is still in the process of being sorted out in the aftermarket is the Ford F150 for the 2018-2019 model years.
There are a ton of these vehicles made for the Canadian market that are finding their way south to the United States (except in Detroit!). They have a distinctively different proximity key system than the American equivalent of the F150. The American version takes one type of proximity key that was introduced in 2015 and was used on up to 2019. This proximity key will not fit the Canadian version of the F150. It works on a system similar to that on the Ford Fusion, and the key is only used for 2018 and 2019 models. Confusing, huh?
The C Max Has 2 Different Versions of Proximity Keys.
One last example of different key systems for the same model: The C Max, which is more popular overseas in Europe, has two versions of proximity keys also. One is a 315 megahertz, and the other is 433 megahertz. The two are simply not interchangeable.
This type of confusion didn’t exist before transponder keys, but they’re here, and we must deal with whatever the car companies put out.
We Can Help You with Keys for Your Vehicle.
If you think you have one of these oddities and are needing keys made from scratch because you’ve lost all your keys or just need a duplicate key, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll try our best to help you sort out the best plan of action. It may mean a special order and waiting a couple of days, but we will do our best to make sure you have the right key for your system. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk it over. I speak Western Canadian, if that helps!
#97 – TWO COMMON SAFES – TWO SAFE OPENINGS
The 1950s and 1960s Were Good Years.
It goes without saying for those of us who lived in the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S that they were good years. This country was on the upswing, and, in spite of all the cold war politics, it was a good time to be growing up. Many people’s personal wealth increased as the economy spewed out good-paying jobs in the industrial heartland.
Many Homes Had Small Home Safes.
In order to keep wealth and important papers at home, many found it necessary to purchase small home safes. Safe companies like Meilink, Major, Sentry and others churned out home safes of all sizes and shapes at fairly reasonable prices, due to increased manufacturing efficiency.
Many of those safes are still around and in use. It is not uncommon to see safes manufactured in the 1960s in homes today. Because of their owner’s age, these safes also end up as holders of important documents that executors of estates need. Anyone who was in their 20s in the 1960s is now going the way of all men and gradually passing on.
Estate Job #1: Opening a Meilink Safe
If the combination is not known for a Meilink basic home safe, there are two basic methods of opening it.
Both require drilling a small hole to either “read” the tumblers or to bypass the lock.
Either method is repairable, but often the safe just isn’t worth repairing since the fire insulation inside the safe usually loses its effectiveness after about 20 to 30 years. That’s right—they weren’t designed to last forever.
A recent Meilink safe opening job was for an estate, with the executor having the combination but unable to open the safe. Usually when someone has the combination, I can talk them through the opening procedure by phone, but I was not successful this time.
On site, I found that the combination had been obtained from a code made up of the ages of relatives in certain years. This is a unique and effective idea unless the person doing the decoding makes a math error or has Aunt Sadie’s birthday wrong.
It took about 10 minutes of forensic dialing to determine that the first number was off by 2, and that was enough to keep that safe, and most safes, from opening. Moral of the story: If you use a method like this to pass on a code, make sure the executor can decode it properly.
Estate Job #2: Opening a Sentry Safe
Another recent estate job involved opening a small Sentry safe. The combination had been known at one time, but forgotten.
I spent about 40 minutes dialing the safe open, using a method I developed on my own for this particular type of lock that Sentry used. Often the opening time is 15 minutes or less, but I was tired, and my hands were kind of cramping.
This safe can also be drilled open, but with 15-minute openings being the rule rather than the exception, it’s usually easier to dial than to drill and repair.
Some Safes Need to be Drilled to be Opened.
Two 1960s-era safes and two openings for estate executors with very little muss or fuss and no drilling. There are situations that require drilling to open a safe, and I reserve the right to make that decision.
With 38 years of experience, I know when to drill, and when not to drill. If that does not line up with your expectations, please remember that the value of most of these safes is negligible, and drilling and repairing does not lower their value.
Call Us for Help in Opening Your Safe.
If you have a safe that needs to be opened, or if you just need help with the combination you have, give us a call at 618-466-9347. Many times we can solve your problem over the phone with exact directions for your safe and safe lock. It doesn’t have to be an estate safe although we do many openings in that venue. If you have lost a combination, we will always let you know up front what you can expect in opening methods and cost.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk about your safe opening needs. The more information you can provide in terms of safe brand and type of lock, etc., the better for being able to provide you with a price estimate.
#96 – BATTLING A NINJA AND TAMING A MUSTANG WHILE TRYING TO GET OUT OF (A) DODGE
Holiday Eve Days Can Be Busy.
The day before a major holiday can be extremely busy. Some people always wait until the last second before getting that spare key or getting keys originated for their motorcycle and such. The jobs and the calls stack up, and I just handle them the best I can, in the order they come in. Sometimes it ends up being a long day, just like the recent July 3rd, the day before the July 4th holiday.
July 3 Was No Exception.
I’m kind of a Civil War historian, and July 3 was an important day in the War Between the States. It was the final day of the three-day battle of Gettysburg, and on that day the South was dealt a harsh blow with the complete failure of Pickett’s Charge. Never again would the South be able to mount a major offensive, and it was truly the beginning of the end.
But back to my problems, which seem quite small in comparison. I referred to three of the jobs I did that day in the title of this article, but there were more.
Battling a Ninja. . .
The Ninja job consisted of originating keys for a 2006 Ninja bike, which has one key that fits all locks. So I had a choice of 4 locks to work from, which seems strange when a lot of new (and very expensive) autos only have one or two to work from. The Ninja, besides having a standard-style ignition lock, has gas cap, helmet, and seat locks.
On this particular model, it’s really a no-brainer on how to proceed since the helmet lock has a code stamped on the back side.
It is just a matter of picking the 6-tumbler lock to gain access to the one screw holding the lock to the frame. You remove the screw, check the code on the back, look up the code, cut the key, and replace the lock.
This job was pretty routine, but many Ninjas came without a helmet lock. In that case, the next choice would be making the key from the seat lock, and this is where it can be fun. You pick the lock and remove the passenger seat, and on the frame of the lock is the code. But it cannot be seen, so this is when you get out the “Silly Putty.” Yes, Silly Putty. You press it down on the hidden code, pull it back off, and you have an impression of the code in reverse. It does work quite well and gives you an excuse to have some fun with the Silly Putty later. (I didn’t need to get out the Silly Putty in this case since the bike had a helmet lock.)
Taming a Mustang. . .
The Mustang mentioned in the title was an ’86, and it was one of the last vehicles that used the 5-pin-tumbler ignition, door and trunk locks. I’m rather fond of this type of Ford lock because the first car I impressioned, way back in 1981, had these locks. In this case, originating the keys from the ignition and trunk locks went smoothly, and I left with that sense of satisfaction that comes when both you and the customer are very happy.
Trying to Get Out of Dodge. . .
The last job I’ll mention is one of my pet peeves: a car whose ignition has been changed, but no one thinks to mention that little fact to the locksmith until after a door key has been originated, and surprise—it doesn’t work the ignition! Since most Chrysler vehicles have a sidebar ignition lock, the best way to originate a key that works both the door and ignition is by using a Lishi pick and decoder or other “measuring tools” on the door lock. But if the ignition lock has been changed (and not rekeyed to the door lock), the key you make from the door lock isn’t going to work the ignition.
In that case, to make an ignition key, you have to work with trying to bypass the ignition lock because it has to be forced on by drilling or other means to originate a key from it. Or you just have to replace it.
And if you’re a locksmith worth your salt, you take the time to rekey the new ignition lock to the door key, so that one key will again work both the door and ignition. All of this takes more time than if you could just make a key from the door that also worked the ignition. You’re also supplying (at no extra charge) a brand-new ignition lock you hadn’t planned on needing when you gave the quote.
I try to remember each time I get an automotive call to ask if the ignition lock has been changed, but I do forget. It would help if customers volunteered that information, but they don’t realize how important it is and that the job can cost more, especially if the lock has to be replaced. Oh well, at least I got the Dodge done in good time.
Don’t Hesitate to Call on a Holiday Eve Day.
Yes, busy is the operative word on a holiday eve. But do not shy away from calling if you need to get something done the day before a holiday. Even if I am busy, I will do my best to see that your job is done in a timely fashion. The old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person,” applies. I will get you back on the road, even if you waited ‘til the last moment.
Call us at 618-466-9347 right away, and for you diehard procrastinators, you can call a little later. Just don’t forget, though, that if you call at 5:30 p.m. about a job that takes two hours to do, the work might have to slide to the next day. I’m human, and an old one at that. Call 618-466-9347, and we’ll get you going.
#95 – THE LOCKSMITH KITCHEN
“Say what?” What in the world does cooking food have to do with locksmithing? Well, it does, somewhat. Bear with me. . . .
Cooking Involves a Lot of Preparation.
In the world of cooking, whether it is the exquisite, almost delicate assembly of fine cuisine or the local fast food chain frying up a burger so you can “have it your way,” there is a lot that goes into preparation. Before that plate--whether it is of fine china or is a blue plate or is even paper wrapped—is delivered, a lot of people have to take a lot of little tiny steps to get it there.
But let’s talk about the type of cooking I know about, so I won’t seem a complete fool and “butcher” the subject. (That was my one mandatory bad pun per article!) My wife is a great cook. . . . No, she really is! I’m not saying that just to stay in her good graces or to avoid having it thrust on me in a huff. She really is a good cook and quite creative.
“Sloppyritos” Are A Good Example.
One of my favorite meals is “Sloppyritos,” which is kind of a combo of a burrito with a “Sloppy Joe” mixture on a soft tortilla. I can’t explain it much simpler than that, but let’s just look at what she has to do to feed us that meal.
The big thing is browning the hamburg (ground beef), starting long before the meal. Then it is imported into a “Sloppy Joe” mix and refrigerated. The mixture is usually heated up right before the meal.
Then the cutting and whacking begin. Vegetables such as tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and/or greens such as chard, spinach or whatever else you can dream up, are cut and put in separate areas on a plate or platter to be assembled later. Cheese is cut into small strips also. The table looks like a mini salad bar before the actual assembly and eating begins. At mealtime, the soft tortillas are heated, and the Sloppyritos are assembled to taste. Wow! They go down good—I eat so well!
Locksmithing Involves A Lot of Preparation, Too.
What does this have to do with locksmithing? Well, I have my mobile shop (my work van) as well as reference resources at home, and after you call but before I come, there is sometimes a whole lot of preppin’ going on. Let’s look at a job this last week to explain it a bit.
Case Study: Originating Keys for a ’97 Lexus (All Keys Lost).
The job was to originate keys for a ’97 Lexus since all the keys were lost. Some locksmiths shudder to think about originating keys for these cars because they can be a bear just because of their age.
The Preparation Begins.
I don’t do one this old every day or even every month; in fact, a year had passed since I last had to tangle with the Toy40 locking system on the Lexus. The preparation for the job mainly involved going back and reviewing the myriad of steps needed to produce a working key.
Toy40 was one of the first laser cut systems out of Japan and is, to put it mildly, a pain. There are 32 individual cuts on this key. That in itself makes it complicated. When approaching a job like this, I always review the assembly procedure for the key. If I have a code for this system, I’m halfway home, but codes are hard to get, and door panels must be pulled to find the one code that is located on the car.
Picking with the Lishi Pick for This Vehicle Is Practiced.
So, without a code, we start our “Sloppyrito” process with a Lishi pick, and if I have a little time before the actual job, I will practice with the Lishi pick for this vehicle. Because of spring tension on the cylinder, it is sometimes much harder to pick this lock than some others.
The Necessary Tools and Equipment Are Gathered Together.
Part of the prep is practice if you can, but it is also digging out the right tools to cut the key. Yes, I still use the old-school depth key system to make the cuts one at a time, sometimes all 32 of them, but mostly half of that: 16. I’ve seen more key blanks and equipment ruined by others with fancy code machines that it’s kind of like the “tortoise and the hare” with me being the tortoise. I plod along but get the job done right with a minimum of waste and hassle.
I set up a chart that has 16 boxes. Eventually, all 16 will have to be filled, and the key will have 16 cuts on each side to work all the locks.
So, let’s get to the job site. We’ve practiced and studied, and all tools are out and ready.
The Driver’s Door Lock Is Picked.
It took about 20 minutes to pick this particular car door lock. I always pick the driver’s door on vehicles where the key is never used in the passenger door or trunk. It often takes 20 minutes just to flush out all the dried grease in an unused door or trunk lock, in order to have a chance to pick the lock. Drivers’ doors get used at least a little, so they’re a better choice and certainly aren’t too worn when most times they are bypassed by the ever-present remote. In this case, the door must be picked twice in the same direction and then decoded.
The Driver’s Door Lock Is Decoded.
The Lishi pick does an amazing job of decoding these old greasy locks once they are picked.
Sometimes there is a question of which depth is correct, but you just go with the shallower depth, and if necessary, cut it down one step deeper later on if the lock leaves a mark on the key.
But alas, you only fill in just two-thirds of the tumbler positions through the picking and decoding process on the driver’s door. Not all tumblers are in all locks, and there are 3 tumbler depths that can only be obtained from the ignition lock.
So, at this point, you have cut the door key from your chart, and your key is working smoothly in the door.
The Ignition Lock Is Impressioned.
Now you must impression the first three tumblers on the A (or left) side of the key to make a working ignition key. It’s not easy, but it’s doable, and a locksmith worth his pick set can do it. (Impressioning is a painstaking process that involves “jiggling” the key blank in the lock, observing any markings made on the key blank, filing or cutting the key appropriately, then re-inserting the key, jiggling, observing, and filing or cutting again, etc., as many times as needed.)
It takes awhile, but eventually you get to the proper depth for each cut. The key turns, music fills the air, and the sweet aroma of victory is everywhere. Just kidding, of course. As a professional, you act like it was supposed to happen because it was. All of the boxes on the cut chart get filled in, and from that point on, extra keys can be made if necessary.
“Cooking Up” a Car Key Involves Prep and Assembly.
But what the customer doesn’t see in all of this is the preparation time—the pre-job practice, the rehearsal of where all the tumblers are and in which locks, and the task of refamiliarizing yourself with the older specialized equipment used to do the job. Then come the picking and gradual assembly of the key on the key machine, one cut at a time.
As you can see, it takes quite a while to “cook up” a key for a car. There is a lot of prep work and a lot of onsite “assembly” of all the cuts needed to make a proper working key. But this is what is needed if we’re going to get you back on the road when you’ve lost all your keys.
Call Us If You Need Keys for Your Vehicle.
If you need me to originate a key for your vehicle, just give us a call at 618-466-9347. We’ll do our best to prep ahead of time, so that on site “assembly” of your key goes smoothly. No, not all are as complicated as the Toy40 system, but the principle is the same. Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and “let us” assemble you a key using the “Sloppyrito” principle. We’ll do our best to get you on your way with a reasonable price and great service. Call 618-466-9347, and we’ll be there.
#94 – TO CLONE OR NOT TO CLONE: THAT IS THE QUESTION. . .
Some jobs are easy, some are tough—and then there are some that are just out-of-this-world strange when you look at them afterward.
Small car lots are a staple of my daily mobile locksmith experience. There are literally dozens in the 5 counties I serve, and they provide a wide and varied array of key problems that need solutions, which brings us to today’s strange job.
An Extra Key and Remote Are Needed for a Toyota Highlander.
Yes, it was a small car lot, and the center of attention was a 2003 Toyota Highlander. The request was for me to make a spare key plus a remote to operate the door locks. I took the job knowing that 1) I did not have an OEM, or aftermarket, remote available to program to operate this vehicle, and 2) I did not have a means of programming a new 4C Toyota key into the system.
There are Key Programming Issues for Some Toyota Systems.
Toyota is one of those problem children that for some of their systems, keys cannot be programmed into the onboard computer without a “Master” key. Without a Master key it is necessary to “reset” the ECU (Engine Control Unit) on the car. With the 4D system, it can be done with the key programmer in most cases, but with the earlier 4C system, the ECU has to be removed and virginized, or reflashed.
This was very expensive for the first years of the 4C system, and no one in the aftermarket could handle reflashing. Originally, the costs for an “all keys lost” situation easily climbed to around $1000 or more. Finally, technology in the aftermarket caught up with the demand, and now there are several tools that can do the job on a 4C system ECU. I have one of those tools, but reflashing the ECU is always the last and still most expensive choice.
Cloning Is One Solution.
Enter a different type of lock technology that has been around for awhile—cloning of transponder keys. It is exactly what the name implies. The original transponder key is read, and the information is then written into a receiver key that is set up to receive info. When you’re finished, the clone (as it is called) is identical electronically to the original.
Yes, it only cures a symptom and doesn’t solve the main problem of no Master key. But the car will continue on indefinitely as long as keys continue to be cloned. If all keys are lost for a 4C, then there is no choice. At that point, you have to deal with virginizing the ECU before keys can be programmed.
The Original Key for Our Highlander is Cloned.
But back to our Highlander. I read the information from the original 4C key and then wrote the information into a specially prepared 4C cloning chip. This was done with a very smart little machine that is very good at reading and writing chips.
I duplicated the mechanical portion of the key onto a Toyota TR47 “chipless shell” key, and after testing, I inserted the newly written chip. The car didn’t even hiccup. It started right up because it didn’t know the difference between the two keys.
A Remote Is Created for Our Highlander.
But what of the remote? Well, with nothing to start with or to clone, I used that same little tool to program a universal-style remote to one that would work for the Toyota Highlander of those years. The little machine writes previously-stored base data into the universal remote. Then you must use either onboard programming procedures or a programmer to register it in the vehicle’s computer. It requires a direct connection between the “little tool” and the circuit board of the remote.
About this time, the question always pops into mind, “What does this have to do with locksmithing?” The answer with a shake of the head is always “Not much,” but it is what is needed and required of me to get the problem solved and the job done.
I programmed the remote into the car’s computer, and voila (which is French for “Well, would you look at that!”), I was done.
The only thing designed exactly for this car was the chipless shell, but with a little technology, the problem of an extra key and remote was solved.
Cloning Is Not Always Best.
Cloning is not always the best solution, and I only use it when nothing else would work. There are fewer problems with original equipment keys and remotes, and they tend to last longer in general. And not all car transponders can be cloned. The cloning industry lags a good deal behind the new technology coming out each year.
Automotive Locksmithing Is Now Electronics Based.
Surreal. . . Yes, automotive locksmithing has become electronics based. To be honest, I’m thankful that I’m nearer the end of my career than the beginning. Someday I will either be overwhelmed with new information and technology, or rendered useless as the computer people continue to take over the security industry.
But for me, for now, I’ll just continue to solve your automotive lock and key (or keyless) problems the best way I know how.
Call Us For Solutions To Your Automotive Key, Remote, or Lock Problems.
If you have a key, remote, or lock problem, give us a call at 618-466-9347 and see if we can come up with the best solution. It may be a standard job, or it may be one of those strange ones as described in this article. In either case, we’ll do our best to solve your problem with your budget in mind. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll talk.
#93 – THE THINGS I SEE SOMETIMES. . .
You might imagine—and you would be correct—that as a mobile locksmith I travel a lot of miles. Some days, a lot of miles. . .
I Plan Out the Job While I Drive to the Jobsite.
There are many ways to pass the time to each faraway job site. The first, and I consider the most important, is to lay out in your mind the sequence of events needed to complete the job. If you have a fairly detailed, step by step plan in mind and follow it, it makes the job go smoothly, quickly, and efficiently. But that kind of planning doesn’t take forever, and as I said before, it’s a long way to some of these jobs.
I May Listen to Some Background Music on the Drive.
I used to listen to the radio, or music on CD or cassette tapes, but the last year or so, I’ve kind of slipped away from that. Radio has its unending commercials, and music can be somewhat distracting. I still listen to a little music, but try to keep it in the background, not belting out “oldies but goodies” like James Corden in his karaoke car. Enough people think I’m nuts without adding to that large number.
I Sightsee as I Go.
So, one of the things I do that you are forced to do anyway is sightsee. Not the rubbernecking kind where you slow down or even investigate something interesting. It’s more like observing people living their lives as you pass by their places (while concentrating on the road in front of you, of course).
The “Sightseeing” is Part of Defensive Driving.
My type of sightseeing isn’t what you might understand. I used to be a driver instructor for a well-known package delivery company, and I still follow the rules I taught. They’re what some people know as the “Smith rules for defensive driving.” A quick listing:
1. Aim high in steering.
2. Get the big picture.
3. Keep your eyes moving.
4. Leave yourself an out.
5. Make sure they see you.
They essentially involve seeing and reacting to what you see, basically defensive driving.
My Early Morning Call Was To Originate a Ford Focus “Chip” Key.
Anyway, I had an early morning call recently. The young gentleman was in quite a panic. He had to get to work, and he had lost both keys to his Ford Focus. On top of the panic, he was horrified to learn that his 2006 Focus had a chip in the key, so it would be one of the higher priced key originations to get him back on the road and to work.
Even though it was 7:15 a.m., I was all ready to hit the highway, my specialty tools had been loaded in the van, and I had already consumed my morning’s ration of prunes. (Try them, you’ll like them. They’re not just for old people like me anymore!) As I started down the road, I laid out in my mind during the first couple of minutes what this simple job required, and then I started to look around and sightsee.
Detour Signs Were Still Plentiful.
The first thing I noticed was that there were still plenty of “detour” signs up, from our current situation around the first of June. Such is life along the Mississippi, but this year’s flood was a “bigun’,” the second highest on record after 1993. You simply cannot travel along the river north of Alton to get anywhere. Calhoun County is isolated just as it was in 1993, with only back roads to Pike County and 4-5 hour commutes for those who work outside the county. As I passed each sign, for every detour sign there was a “We’re still open” sign, sometimes with directions. Businesses in Grafton above the flood, and Principia College, all had their alternate routes marked with signs.
Sightseeing is about nature also. Near the edge of town, by some condominiums, were two does and a very young fawn, fairly close to the road. I went past them slowly, but thought, “Something bad is going to happen.” More on that in a bit. Our young gentleman customer is in a panic, remember?
The Job Went Smoothly.
The rest of the trip out to the jobsite was uneventful, but since Route 3 is the alternative for bypassing the flood, there were several more barricades, detours, and “Yes, we are open” signs.
The young man was waiting, and I proceeded to go through a well thought-out plan for key origination and programming for his car. The person who had been bringing the cash for payment (remember I don’t take plastic!) arrived just as my programming machine said “Success.”
With all the hubbub and excitement, the customer was on his way to work with a “freshly minted” chip key, programmed to his car, in less than 55 minutes from his call, of which 25 minutes was my drive to get there. It’s nice when a plan goes smoothly.
The Trip Back Was a Little Sad.
The trip back was quiet and peaceful until I reached the condominiums where the deer had been. Alongside the road was a freshly killed doe, and from the full bag of milk prominently visible, she was probably the fawn’s mother. Deer and highways simply do not mix. I sent up a quick prayer for the unknown driver that he or she was not injured. Life is a little stark, and yes, harsh, but we just keep going, even though eventually we all come to our end, just as that deer did.
It’s Important to Pay Attention to Surroundings and Driving.
We have no choice on how we pass, but one lesson from this article is to pay attention to your surroundings. This time the road kill was a deer, but too many inattentive drivers end up with the very same fate. Do yourself and everyone else a big favor: Put down your phone and pay attention to your driving.
Don’t Hesitate to Call Us Early in the Morning for Lost or Locked-in Car Keys.
If you are in an early morning panic, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 618-466-9347. We are usually ready for the road by 7 to 7:15 a.m. and can get you on the road to work fairly quickly. Whether it’s lost keys or keys in a locked car, we will do our best to make sure you have time to watch out for the unpredictable bystanders on the road of life.
#92 – OFFSPRING OF 2 CAR COMPANIES
Some Cars Were Only Made for A Few Years.
The junkyards of history are laden with the remains of some very odd cars. Production may have been for 2-3, maybe 4, years, just long enough for the general public to decide that the car just didn’t live up to expectations.
Many Had American Sounding Names.
Many had names that made them sound like an American car, such as Pontiac LeMans or Dodge Omni, or such as that. Many were simply “rebadged” foreign cars, but some were true joint ventures between car companies.
Chevy had its Spectrum; Ford its Fiesta and Festiva; Chrysler had its rebadged Mitsubishi lineup. All the American companies at one time or other stuck their logo on a predominately foreign car and sold it like it was American pie.
The Dodge Omni Was Popular for a Time.
They all had their little quirks, based on their origins. One mentioned before, that was quite popular for Chrysler for a time, was the Dodge Omni, made from overseas parts in the 80s. The ignition lock was genuine Briggs and Stratton, but it was mounted in a plastic housing with a single large roll pin that could be removed very quickly. Even then, a down-on-his-luck thief would just break the lock out of its plastic housing and use a screwdriver for a “key.” Not exactly high security, but then again, who wanted to steal such a low-dollar car?
The Yugo Faded Quickly.
I’ve mentioned Yugo before, and they were one of the few not in the category of rebadged or joint venture cars. Yugo was made in what was then Yugoslavia and was basically a rip off of some inexpensive European small cars. The Yugo was known for its lackluster quality, with transmissions standing out in particular. The car took a Curtis FT46 keyblank and was surprisingly simple to originate a key for, by using the impressioning method. The Yugo faded quickly, as the American public saw what a disaster socialism can make of an automobile.
Ford Has Had Joint Ventures with Mazda.
Ford has had several joint ventures with Mazda over the years. I believe that Ford owned or does own a portion of Mazda. You may remember some of the offspring of that marriage, starting with the Ford Courier pickup, brought out about the same time as the Toyota-based Chevy LUV pickup. Other Ford-Mazda ventures have been the Ford Ranger, which was very popular, the Ford Probe, the Festiva, and the Escort. Many used Mazda-based keying systems, with the Ranger being the big exception. The only real “dud,” at least in my mind, was the Festiva, but many thought it was a fun little car to drive and liked its low price. The drive train was sound, and a lot of people I know put a lot of miles on the things.
Chevrolet Put Its Name on Several Foreign Cars in the 80s.
Through all of the 80s, Chevy was not one to fall behind in bringing in foreign cars and putting the GM or Chevy sticker on them. The Pontiac LeMans is one of the ones that stick out as not being Toyota based, unlike many of the rest.
Some of Chevy’s early Toyota cars were the Spectrum and Nova. The Nova, of course, had been produced as an American car, starting in the late 60s, and GM thought it OK to just stick the name on a Japanese Toyota. Besides, they weren’t the only ones doing it.
As you might imagine, the cars imported by Chevrolet, with Toyota as their partner, were just a wee bit higher quality than those Chrysler and Ford were importing at the time. They were good, solid cars, but sales fell victim to the lack of desire by the general public to drive a foreign car with an American name. If you were going to drive Toyota, just buy one.
Some of These Cars Are Still on the Road.
I still see some of these cars from time to time. I just saw an old Ford Festiva about 2 weeks ago. Maybe you still drive one of these cars from the 80s. It’s possible because some of them do last.
If You Need Keys for One of These Cars, Give Us a Call.
If you do have one and the keys are lost, we can help. Since we are older than dirt (!), our career of over 38 years included working with these cars when they first came out. I don’t need to check a book to see if originating keys for them can be done or not because I’ve done a boatload of them. (Pardon the inadvertent pun.)
If you have that odd car or truck that you just can’t give up because of the good gas mileage, and you need keys for it, rest assured that we have them in stock. Just give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll do our best to get your little old friend back on the road.
(posted 6/19 /19)
#91 – CRUNCH TIME
Some Calls Are Urgent.
Sometimes, as I have written about in other articles, there is a very real time factor associated with some calls I get. Most are not life threatening, although I still get the occasional call for a child or animal locked in a car. That’s “drop everything” time, and I head for the job, knowing that there is a high rate of cancellation on these jobs, due to others on scene trying to help.
I never regret a cancellation on the emergency type of job. I’m just grateful that all worked out well. Not receiving any pay (due to the cancellation) is a small price to pay for doing my best to help in an emergency.
Some “Lost Key” Calls Are During Floods.
With floods back in our area at the time of this writing, it reminds me (and everyone else) of the Flood of ’93, which deserves a title with a capital “F.” Several times, I was called to “do my thing” with equipment needed to fight the flood, where keys were lost or unavailable. Payment was not sought, mentioned, or even thought about. You just do what you know how to do.
This flood—the flood of 2019—is a little different. It has been hanging around a long time. Some months ago, I rescued a car in the river town of Mozier during the flooding. Keys needed to be made so the car could leave the flooded area.
Flooding has and will affect a lot of people in the near future. Besides homes lost, jobs gone, and massive logistical problems for those who still have jobs, there is the real prospect of food prices skyrocketing this fall at harvest time because of the millions (?) of acres not planted this year.
We all have to eat, and the food that goes out the front door of the local grocery store has to be available to go in its back door to start with. They certainly don’t manufacture it there.
Some Calls Involve Groceries Locked in Hot Cars.
Many times groceries are locked in hot cars, and people obviously don’t want perishables to perish. Although such calls are not life threatening, I still try to push them to the head of the line because many people can just barely afford the groceries the first time around, let alone having to replace spoiled food.
Sometimes Work Stops Until Keys Are Made.
There are other jobs that have time consequences, such as when a vehicle or a piece of equipment is stopping an entire crew from doing their jobs. One such job recently was to originate keys to replace ones that were “lost” for a truck used in tree trimming services. The truck was necessary for a crew of about 5 to be working. I got to the job within a half hour of the call, but because of the keying system, a 10-cut Ford setup, I finally had to drill and replace the ignition lock. This takes time.
One of the crew that annoyed me most was one who just kept saying, “Take your time, take your time. . . .” He was still on the clock without working, and it would not be surprising if losing the keys was deliberate. I accuse no one because it could have been just as was told to me. No matter. It’s just that the owner of the tree service had to pay a lot of employees for doing nothing during the period of time until I got the truck going again.
I Do My Best to Work Within Time Constraints.
Well, that’s what happens in this old world today. . . . If you have a problem and there is a time factor involved, I will do my best to get you going within your constraints.
But Don’t Cause An Emergency Due to Procrastination.
One caveat, and it comes from this statement: “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” I will try to take care of problems immediately, but if you need to leave town on Saturday morning and you’ve waited 5 days to call me Friday night, you might not see me if you call late enough. After 38 years of locksmithing, I have a pretty good feel for real emergencies versus self-inflicted emergencies resulting from procrastination or a failure to plan ahead.
Remember this also: I am not a 24-hour locksmith. Those days, along with my youth, are behind me.
If You Need Me, Call Me at 618-466-9347.
Having said all that, if you need me, call me. (I think there’s a Carole King song in there somewhere!) We’ll try to work it out if you have a real emergency. If I know I can’t get to you in the time necessary, I will refer you to someone else who possibly can.
Call me at 618-466-9347, where I do answer the phone personally on each call. Talk to a live human being (an old one), and we’ll see what we can do for you. I just might move faster than you think!
#90 – 50 SHADES OF IMPOSSIBLE
Some Think What I Do Is Impossible.
A very nice gentleman told me after receiving his new keys, “I thought what you just did was impossible.” What he meant was that he thought a key couldn’t be made for his 2004 Chevy truck without replacing the ignition. He was just sure that I would have to drill the lock and put a new one in.
Security Matters Are Often Extremely Difficult, Rather than Impossible.
Obviously it was not impossible, but I get that a lot. When it comes to locks and keys, there are many people who believe myths that have been handed down for years and generations. But the security industry and security matters are more based on “extremely difficult,” rather than impossible.
Even time is a factor when you consider that anyone, given enough time, could dial open a vault door lock by trying every possible combination. That removes another lock from the impossible area to the “extremely difficult” because no one has the time or patience to go through millions of combinations, even if they have a reason to.
So, what people think is impossible hardly ever is. Impossible is much like “perfect,” as nothing in this world is perfect.
Some Claim They Can Open ANY Lock.
I have run into many locksmiths over the years (and even a few non-locksmiths) who claim because of some unjustified pride that they can open any lock.
Houdini was probably the source of such outrageous types of claims as this, as he spent his life escaping various devices and rooms by opening locks. Houdini was a good locksmith, but a much better showman. Much of what he did was the result of trickery and fakery, rather than just picking locks, but it made for a good show.
So, I guess you could say that impossible is one of those “never” words that should be used with caution.
"Pick-Resistant" Is More Accurate Than "Pick-Proof."
“Proof” is another word that is used guardedly in our industry. You will never see anything advertised as “pick-proof” or “burglar-proof.” “Resistant” (as in pick-resistant or burglar-resistant) is more accurate and removes the impossible aspect from the description.
Some Things Aren’t Possible for Me.
Just as I began this article with an example of something considered impossible by someone else, there are also times when I in turn have to tell someone that it is not possible for me to do something. Often times it happens when someone needs keys originated for one of the German cars such as BMW and Mercedes, or for Volvos. (Originating a key is involved, for example, when all keys are lost and there isn’t one to duplicate.)
Time and money for equipment are very real limiting factors, as well as the amount of time needed to educate yourself to do some very highly technical operations. These might involve reading chips on circuit boards or even unsoldering and soldering. The systems are so complex that one needs to specialize in just these higher tech areas.
Essentially you become a trained technician for that company without working directly for it.
“Nearly Impossible” Sometimes Applies.
“Nearly impossible” would apply for me to get to that level with the German cars and Volvo. I don’t have the resources nor the desire to spend the money and effort to get to that level with those cars, especially when I get so very few calls about them. I do open all the above cars when the keys are locked inside; I am just not inclined to go in the direction of being able to originate keys for them. I stay plenty busy doing the next lower level of impossible jobs.
But There Are a Lot of Cars I CAN Do.
It would take many pages to go over what cars I can and cannot do, but generally, I do all American cars up to about 2018 and some 2019, including laser or side-milled keys. Also the Japanese and Korean cars are well within my tools and skills. Of course, there are exceptions, as with everything, and that is why I always tell you in every article to give me a call and we’ll talk about your particular car and problem.
Give Me a Call to See If Your Job Is Possible for Me.
Just as I am doing right now. Give me a call, and we’ll see if something you thought was impossible might actually be possible and at an even more reasonable price than you could imagine. Call me at 618-466-9347, and if something is not possible for me to do, I’ll send you in the right direction, to someone who can make it possible. Again, call 618-466-9347. It’s impossible to not reach me!
#89—AN EYE ON THE SKY
I recently spent a couple of hours in the evening researching key machines and determining which would be a good one for an upgrade. Now, keep in mind that I’m 66 years old, already on that government version of the “prize patrol” (although the amount that prize winners get per week from the “prize patrol” is much greater than what seniors receive from the government!). Why would someone “so close to retirement” consider buying a new key machine?
I Don’t Plan to Retire from Locksmithing.
The obvious answer is that I have no plans to formally retire. Slow down maybe, and yes, death is inevitable. But I'm not going to base my business practices on how much time I think I have left.
One of my favorite sayings nowadays comes from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, and it is paraphrased something like this: “He who looks to wind (weather) shall not sow; he who watches the clouds shall not reap.”
This life that we are given is just about as unpredictable as the weather. Any farmer worth his beans will get out in the field and work as hard as he can right up to the rain. Those who go bust are the ones who look to the sky and head to the coffee shop because “it’s just gonna be a rainout today.”
I plan to be involved in locksmithing in some form or fashion as long as I can. There is a verse in the New Testament where Jesus himself says, “Work while it is day because the night is coming when no man shall work.” I know it refers to the Christian life, but it has a practical application to our daily labors. That is why I still consider how best to run this business, and that means new tools, innovations, and yes, education.
I Keep Learning and Helping.
Locksmithing is a non-stop learning occupation. It is different from a lot of occupations in that aspect. If you stop learning, you fall behind, and eventually you are a Model T in a Thunderbird world.
It’s no secret that our country is having problems. Without going political, it is enough to know that government intrusion into private lives makes for lower incomes and less privacy. How far, and how quickly, we descend into the same pit that all empires of history have gone is a matter of opinion, and opinions vary widely. It is necessary, even if you’re in the field working, to keep an “Eye on the Sky.” You don’t want to be caught out in the open in a thunderstorm, but you also want to get as much done as possible.
And I do want to help as many people as possible. That means continuing to work hard, and maybe even harder, as it becomes more difficult to operate a business. “Yes, it’s easy to talk the talk, but do you walk the walk?” Yep, at least I try.
I Continue to Invest in New Tools.
I recently spent $120 for one picking tool that just hit the market. That amount is a lot for just one tool. The reason I went ahead and bought it, even though the price will come down eventually, was that I see in the tool the capability to do something creative that no one has realized yet.
I have already spent a couple of hours on my theory, and things are progressing. When I am confident enough with my results, I plan to release them to other locksmiths. It would be a significant breakthrough, and both locksmiths and their customers would benefit.
I Am Committed to Solving Your Auto Lock Problems.
Yes, I have slowed down. . . . I can no longer lift a 250-pound safe and put it in my truck. My eyesight is not as good, and those of you who have talked to me on the phone know that my hearing isn’t 100%, either. (Some of you will say, “That’s an understatement.”)
What I still have is the desire and commitment to do my best to solve your problems with the latest, most up-to-date tools and methods that I can come up with.
Auto lock problems today are more complex than they used to be, but so are our tools and methods. Call us at 618-466-9347, and let’s examine your problem and come up with the best solution for you, the customer. Call 618-466-9347—don’t wait for a rainy day!
#88—BIG EARS AND BROKEN KEYS
Ignition Locks Used to Have “Ears.”
Back in 1981, when I first started in locksmithing, the Big 3 and Small 1 automakers all had ignition locks with "ears" on them. Ears, you say? Is that something like a "1984" reference where the car was listening to every word you said? Nope. . . Although cars today might have the capacity to listen, that's an article for another day.
The "ears" are the extensions that stick out on opposite sides of the lock and aid in turning the ignition cylinder with the key in it. I know this doesn't sound important, especially since most locks do not have ears and some newer cars no longer have an ignition lock at all, due to push button starts. However, ears used to be important. Let me explain why.
Ears Helped Prevent Breakage of Smaller, Thinner Keys.
The older cars, back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, often had smaller, thinner keys. Without the additional ears, many keys would not stand the pressure from repeated turning. Ford seemed to be an exception regarding the small keys. In 1965, they were the first to go to a larger, double-sided convenience key.
But GM, Chrysler, and AMC all had small, thin keys, and without ears on their ignition locks, many keys would have broken. Many did anyway after they were worn down to the proverbial “nubbin.” The reason for that is that most people unconsciously start to rotate a key before it is inserted all the way into a lock, and even with ears, a thin key will break.
Broken Door and Trunk Keys Were a Boon for Locksmiths.
Locksmiths did quite well in those years, removing and replacing broken keys.
The doors and trunk, usually operated by a different, secondary key, would have this breakage problem because although there was some support for the key from the lock, there were no “ears” to take the brunt of the turning force.
A lot was asked of a small thin key, moving attached linkages and parts of the latch as well as the inner door button. In the early years, I was thoroughly schooled in pulling broken keys from door and trunk locks.
Keys for foreign cars could be thin, even when brand new. Anyone who drove a Saab in the 80s or a Toyota-based Chevy LUV truck knows what I am talking about. Moving ahead, things started to change a bit, but for today, let’s stick with American cars.
Larger Double-Sided Keys Eventually Resulted in Ignition Locks without Ears.
American engineers, following Europe’s lead, started producing key systems with a larger, thicker, heavier, double-sided key. Chrysler got a jump on everyone and produced a double-sided key in 1989, but still maintained the lock with ears concept. The other two “Big 3” manufacturers, Ford and GM, held out until around 1998 to go earless, with GM well ahead of Ford. Ford used ears on several models right up through the middle 90s. It is now hard to find an American ignition lock with any type of ears.
This was partly because of cost factors, but really, with the bigger, heftier keys, it was no longer necessary. Also, the locks were and are being designed so that the key goes deeper in the lock, which offers it more support most of the time.
Replacing Old Keys Occasionally Can Help Prevent Breakage.
So what does this exciting (“yawn!”) trend have to do with anything?
Well, it means that if you drive a really old car, you should replace your keys from time to time, so I won’t have to fish them out of the door when they break off in the lock. It is a wise thing to do for the earless locking systems also. Keys do get worn, and if worn enough, they will eventually break. You and I don't really want this to happen.
Habitually Using the “Thumb Method” Can Also Help.
The problem I told you about before—rotating the key before it is all the way into the lock—is still a big problem. Since the key is not completely in, it is like putting the key in the jaws of a vice and turning. The key will give before the vice does. Compound this with a worn key, and “twisto-chango” you have a key in two pieces instead of one.
If you do happen to be one of those who rotate the key before it is seated all the way into the lock, it is easy enough to retrain yourself. I use and teach the “thumb method,” which is to put the key in the lock, stop, push the end of the key with your thumb to make sure it is seated, and then turn the key in the lock. Simple, but effective.
It’s the little things in life like this that when you learn them, cut down on the possibility of a disaster. Maybe there is a good life lesson there—learning the little tricks in all areas of life to avoid disaster.
But If Your Key Does Break, Give Us a Call.
However, if you prefer to live out on the outer edge in the “danger zone,” we are here if disaster happens. Broken keys are not the end of the world for us, but breaking a car key off in a lock could be a disaster that leaves you stranded away from home.
So, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll get you back on the road. And I promise, no lectures on the benefits of ears on locks. . . . Well, I might mention it. Call 618-466-9347 to get help with your auto lock and safe problems.
#87—TWO TOOLS FOR THE TRIGGER HAPPY
Today I want to talk about 2 locksmith tools that look very similar, and both are trigger operated. Let’s start with the one you might even be familiar with.
Pick Guns Aren’t “Guns.”
Ah, yes, the pick gun. Is he going to talk about firearms today, maybe? I can just see half of you picturing an Old West shootout, and the other half not wanting to hear about it because you have been told by people with their own agenda that guns are bad. Well, the pick gun I’m going to talk about is not in the firearms area, so if I may have your attention again, we’ll get started.
The pick gun is just one of the most popular names for a tool that uses some not so hard to understand physics to do what it does. It takes the principle Conservation of Momentum and applies it to the real world. When a pick gun is used on a lock, tumblers (both bottom and top) are hit like cue balls on a billiard table, and the lock opens.
Wait, you didn’t really think that I would go into detail about how a pick gun works, do you? I don’t want to be the one to give someone enough information to open a door lock with a pick gun, if that person shouldn’t have one in the first place. Yes, I’ve seen pick guns in the hands of law enforcement, tow truck drivers, and various other tradesmen loosely associated with security. But I’ve yet to see anyone outside the locksmith industry use it properly, and I won’t be the one to upset the apple cart.
You Won’t Learn From Hollywood How Pick Guns Work.
I will admit that Hollywood has included them in several movies, but you won’t learn how to use one from them, either.
One of the funniest scenes I ever saw in a movie involved a private eye putting the needle of the pick gun into a car door lock and pulling the trigger. An explosion ensued, just like a firearm going off, and the P.I. pulled the pick gun away with the lock hanging from the end. Rest assured, that is not how the things work. Other examples in the movies are not as extreme, but they will not lead you to an understanding of how to use a pick gun in the real world.
The Reversing Tool Helps With Locks Picked the Wrong Way.
The other type of “gun” that has become popular is the “reversing” tool. Many times a locksmith will be unfamiliar as to which direction to pick a lock: to the right or to the left. There is a 50-50 chance of getting it right. Everyone, including the locksmith, is happy when the choice is correct.
Of course there is always that 50-50 chance that you are wrong, and that is where the reversing tool comes into play. Simply put, it is a “no harm, no foul” way of correcting the mistake of picking the wrong direction.
There are several different types of reversing tools, but all work on the same principle of spring tension. The tool spring is wound to the direction needed to reverse the lock cylinder plug to the opposite direction. Once wound, it is held in place by the triggering mechanism. The end piece is placed in the “picked” lock plug. When the trigger is pulled, the rapid unwinding of the spring rotates the plug in the correct direction so quickly that the lock plug does not have time to relock itself into place.
When the tool works correctly, which it does most of the time, it is smiles all around, and you have gained entry. I won’t bore you with the physics on the rotational acceleration due to the spring tension, but it is fun to know that all those lab experiments I did in physics class weren’t totally without use!
Locksmiths Are Two-Gun People.
So, there you have it. Locksmiths are “two-gun” people. Both the pick gun I have and the rotation “gun” have little holsters that would fit on my belt. However, it would probably look a little silly to have one on each side like the Lone Ranger.
Why do you need to know about these? You probably don’t need to know, but the next time you are locked out, you will know a little better what the locksmith has to do if he pulls out one or both of these tools.
There’s Always a Plan B.
Also, we want you to know that we are not amateurs who do not have alternate means of opening your lock. One thing not mentioned previously is that by having the rotational tool, a lock can be deliberately picked the wrong way because some locks pick much more easily to the locked position. Picking that way would not be an option without a rotation gun to reverse the direction after picking the wrong way.
Sneaky, huh? Well, locksmiths—good locksmiths—always have a Plan A, B, C, D, etc. to make sure that the most efficient way of opening a lock is used. If one method doesn’t work, there’s another one (or two or three) to try. It’s not a “one trick pony” routine for a “two-gun locksmith.”
Call Us With Your Lockout or Safe Work Needs.
Call us if you need a locksmith to open your lock. Not only are we creative, but we have tools (and the skill to use them effectively) that help with the more stubborn locks that are out there. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll handle your lockouts and lost auto keys, as well as any safe work that you may need done.
#86 – WHAT’S NEW IN AUTO LOCK TECHNOLOGY AT THE BIG 3
A lot has happened over the last 2 years in the auto lock area. Some changes are just format types, where the programming is just a little different, while others involve new keyways and keys. Let’s just jump in. . . .
Chrysler – Pin Codes Becoming More Important
Chrysler is no longer just Chrysler, as many of you may know. It is combined with Fiat, and some of the Fiat technology has started showing up in some of the newer Chrysler cars. The emergency key (the key that fits in the proximity key for emergencies) is now a sidemilled (“high security”) key on several models.
Some changes are a little more hidden and subtle. The “rolling code” type of technology introduced into the Chrysler systems by the Fiat side is technologically advanced and theoretically more secure. But the end result is that fewer people, especially in the aftermarket, are capable of programming keys or pulling the pin number needed to program those keys.
Pin numbers, or codes, are becoming more important because the codes are increasingly available only from the dealer. Chrysler has cut way back on handing out codes, even to customers or owners of Chrysler vehicles, and consequently more people will be forced to go to a Chrysler dealership for keys and programming.
Along with all of that is the possibility that in the near future, because of the new Body Control Modules (BCMs) on some models, the use of an aftermarket programming computer will damage the BCM and make a very expensive replacement necessary.
Wow, things could get expensive if you’re a diehard Chrysler fan/owner. But what about the other carmakers?
GM – Onboard Programming Easy for Consumers
GM remains on the top of the heap when it comes to consumer-friendly onboard programming procedures.
Even with the advent of the sidemilled key back in 2010, as long as you could get the key cut, it was easy to add a key yourself in just 30 seconds or less of user-friendly programming.
Even in an “all keys lost” scenario, there was a procedure, right up to 2017, allowing you to put in or program a properly cut key yourself. Not only that, but many of the earlier remotes were onboard programmable. That has changed since around 2010 or so. It is to the point where most individual remotes have to be put in with a programmer.
Even with the proximity style keys, onboard programming procedures were available to consumers with the right proximity remotes.
From 2017 on, you basically need 2 keys in order to do any onboard programming, but it is surprisingly still available on various models. To be sure, procedures are more complex than they used to be, and keys are much more expensive, but a determined “DIYer” can get a lot done with a GM car.
Ford – Remotes Inexpensive and DIY Programmable, pre-2017
Ford is kind of in the middle of the Big 3 when it comes to “key and fob friendliness.” Almost none of the Ford cars from 1998 on utilize keys that a consumer can onboard program, but Ford has been on par, or even ahead of, GM for remotes and remote programming.
To onboard Ford keys up through 2017, the procedure involves using two existing keys in the ignition and then using a third unprogrammed. The third will program after that procedure.
It has been necessary from 1998 on to handle “all keys lost” with a key programming computer (owned by locksmiths, dealers and such), and two keys have to be programmed for the car to start. From 2017 on, an increasing number of Ford cars (starting with the F150) have stepped up to a 128-bit key, and the programming aftermarket is just now catching up with the technology to handle them.
The major hiccup for the future is whether Ford is going to make it impossible to program keys with the alarm in active mode (i.e., going off). Currently a 10-minute wait to counter an active alarm will work with most models, but not all. If it develops that an active alarm on upcoming models would prevent keys from being programmed, Ford would be in the same arena as Chrysler.
In that scenario, only Ford technology (at a Ford dealership) could be used to program the newer keys. That is yet to be seen.
The remotes for Ford are so cheap now that you can buy them for $10 a piece on eBay and do the onboard programming yourself for all Ford key-type ignition security systems. If you like “doing it yourself” and you own a Ford older than 2017, you can buy your own remote and program it in under a minute.
I have even thrown in a free remote from time to time when making an extra key if the situation warranted. (Please do not ask or expect to get one for free. It is at my discretion for those who need a remote and can’t afford the little extra in cost.)
Access to New Automotive Technology Is Become More Difficult.
Well, that’s what is new and anticipated for the Big 3 automakers. In a future article, we’ll cover some of the advances in locks and keys for some of the foreign car makers. But for now, what is important for you to know is that we are doing our dead level best to keep up on the technology as it becomes available in the aftermarket.
If there is a trend, and a lesson from this article, it is that it is becoming more and more difficult to get access to new automotive lock technology. The car companies are desperately trying to keep as much as they can in-house. In 5 to 10 years, automotive locksmithing will very possibly be relegated to working on older “antique” vehicles.
Call Us With Your Auto Lock and Key Needs.
But until that time, rest assured that we will try to be there with the keys and technology you need to keep your vehicle moving down the road. Call us at 618-466-9347, even if you have a new or newer car. We can often handle your auto lock and key needs.
I leave you with Tesla’s plans for the immediate future: a fleet of driverless taxis operating nationwide. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with that.
Give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we can talk about your car.
#85 – “THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. . .”
Usually the phrase, “The more things change,” is followed by “the more they stay the same.” Sometimes that does ring true.
April 24, 1981
On April 24, 1981, I woke up early and did my daily run. I got ready and went to 1121A North Avenue in Grand Junction, Colorado, and started my first day of locksmithing. I don’t recall exactly what I did that first day, but it was basically learning how to find the right key blank, duplicating keys, cutting Kwikset keys by code using a depth key set, and masterkeying Kwikset locks for a walk-in customer.
April 24, 2019
On April 24, 2019, 38 years to the day later, I got up early and did my daily walk/run (some walking, some running). I then got ready for work and started my 39th year of locksmithing. That day’s work involved high security sidemilled keys, proximity keys, and automotive remotes.
Some Routines Haven’t Changed Over the Years.
As you can see, I do have about the same routine that I had 38 years ago. There are some exceptions. In the earlier days, I would also do a short run right before supper. There are also some similarities, such as spending time after supper studying and continuing to learn my trade.
After 38 years as a locksmith, I still spend at least an hour, sometimes almost two, upgrading knowledge and skills. Today I study electronic security and key systems on cars and safes; back then, more of the time was spent practicing picking locks. I had some practice locks that I practically wore out in the first six months of learning the trade.
I Am Grateful to Tom and Phyllis Baden.
I will always be forever grateful to Tom Baden and his wife Phyllis for their patient training and guidance, as well as taking a huge chance on someone who had never done anything remotely like locksmithing.
The act of hiring me was such a leap of faith on their part. I have never seen anything like it ever since by anyone anywhere in the locksmithing industry. It could have only been because two fine Christians recognized that even though I had no background in locksmithing, I had the same Savior they had. God does work in mysterious ways.
My Wife Linda Has Been on This Journey With Me.
There is another person that I haven’t mentioned much in these articles, but I need to say something about in this anniversary one. I have a wife, Linda, who stuck with me through what seemed to be ridiculous circumstances and stood back with me and watched God move us three states away from Illinois, to a place we’d never been, without a job or any prospect of one. She encouraged me and has always been one of my biggest promoters as we have traveled the locksmith trail over the years.
She assumed the bookkeeping role without complaint and has had to spend much time learning the thousands of parts and keys that we keep in inventory. She is the best at it, and I have been everywhere to see what others do. She is simply the best.
On her day 38 years later, she woke up early, did her mileage, and spent a good portion of the day rewriting, editing, and publishing the new article online on our website (an entity unforeseen 38 years ago!). We are like two horses in harness, pulling side by side these 38+ years.
I Am Still Eager to Tackle Locksmithing Challenges.
Tomorrow morning, God willing, things will be the same. I will start the 1st day of the 39th year by getting up early, doing my mileage, getting ready for work, and taking calls on your locksmith needs. I don’t know how many more of these mornings I have left, but rest assured I will approach your problem of today with the same enthusiasm that I felt on Day One of the locksmithing adventure.
Call Us With Your Auto or Safe Lock Problems.
If you have problems with locks on your car or safe, we are here to take your call and discuss the best solution for your particular problem. And you probably shouldn’t be surprised if I’ve seen it before and can immediately offer a solution to get you going again.
Call us at 618-466-9347. We do have a history of taking care of locksmithing problems. We can probably help you, too.
#84 – SECURITY KNOW-HOW OBTAINED ONLINE
Locksmith Trade Secrets Are Secret For a Reason.
For the most part, people who watch me work do not make unreasonable requests of me when it comes to explaining what I am doing. There is a level of locksmithing that I can and will share, to those who are truly interested.
Having said that, there are things that I will not tell you because I consider confidentiality necessary to maintain a certain level of security. Often called “trade secrets,” they are maintained by those locksmiths and security professionals who consider security more important than the public’s “need to know.”
But Online Videos Abound Relating to Lock Secrets.
But what happens when an entity is created where every lock secret is not only exposed, but explained in detail? That entity is available to everyone, and it is called YouTube™. Want to learn how to pick a lock, unlock a car, or even open a safe? Just punch in your desired topic, and dozens of “how-to” videos will pop up. There is no shortage of so called “experts” who can’t wait to make money by showing some “insider” information they have managed to obtain.
In pursuit of money and to feed already inflated egos, there isn’t anything that seems to be off limits.
Most of these video “experts” claim they put the information out there so you won’t have to pay hundreds for a security professional to do what you can do for yourself. They often claim they paid out hundreds themselves until they discovered these secrets. They use this as justification to strike back at “high-priced” locksmiths.
Following Online Procedures Can Be Helpful or Damaging.
Obviously the information on YouTube™ can be accurate or inaccurate. I have seen videos made by actual locksmiths showing procedures that are exact and well-explained and that use the correct tools for the job.
Others are offered by people who have so little knowledge of their security subject that the videos are laughable. The problem for those watching is discerning what will work and what will destroy a lock or do excessive damage in order to bypass a lock.
Recently (see Article #83) I wrote of a Ford ignition lock being so badly drilled out that a column replacement was necessary. This was a direct result of online videos, made by irresponsible people who encourage others to do as bad a job as they did. The people who follow what they see demonstrated online frequently do so much damage that a locksmith would have been cheap in comparison.
Two Case Studies of DIY Safe Openings
I had two safe jobs recently where both customers had previously viewed online videos to try to solve their problems—not being able to get their safes open.
Case Study #1: Shorting Out the Circuit Board
I suggested to the first customer that he call the safe company with his safe’s serial number to obtain a reset code. With the code, he could reset the combination of his safe’s electronic lock. He replied that he had already gone online and found a video on how to short out the lock on its circuit board to reset the lock to a factory code.
That type of information online would allow any criminally-minded employee to reset a code, come back after hours, and clean out a safe.
I hope you can see from that, that there are some things that should be kept confidential. Yes, I know about the reset, but I do not use it myself because I do not want to be accused of frying an already malfunctioning lock. Just self preservation on my part, and I do not apologize for that.
In this case, although he had managed to get the electronic lock open, he still needed my services to open the mechanical safe locks that were located on the exterior and interior of his safe.
Case Study #2: Using a Rare Earth Magnet
The second customer had seen a video where a rare earth magnet was used to open a safe.
He tried it on his safe, holding the rare earth magnet over the combination pad of his electronic safe lock. He found out later that his safe lock was no longer working.
I do not know that a powerful magnet will damage an electronic safe lock; I only know what he told me. In any case, whatever he did caused a malfunction, and the lock had to be replaced.
You Will Not See Me Demonstrating Lock Techniques Online.
No, you will not see me online explaining how to bypass locks or how to open your own house or car if you are locked out. Neither will I sell you tools or explain how to use them. It’s not because I am some moral prig or want “all that work” for myself or anything like that. I am, and have been, a security professional for 38 years, selling security products with the idea that I am selling security as well.
To deliberately shoot down locks and safes for some desire to be rich or famous has nothing to do with security. Such people just don’t get the idea that the person they teach to bypass a lock might just be the person who will bypass THEIR lock, violate their privacy, and take their possessions.
Until someone starts taking responsibility for content that should be confidential, the online videos will be there. I will not be there, and I will not direct you there to solve a problem that should be handled by a professional interested in your security.
Call Us If You Want a Security Professional to Solve Your Auto or Safe Lock Problem.
Call us for your auto, safe or lockout problems, and we will do our best to help you out.
Just don’t tell me about all the “shortcuts” you learned on the internet. People who think they know more than I do about locksmithing get to do their own locksmithing as far as I am concerned.
For the rest, who are seeking the aid of an experienced security professional, give us a call at 618-466-9347. You won’t regret it.
#83 – THE DRILL – NOT MY FAVORITE TOOL
Locksmiths Use a Lot of Different Tools.
As we have discussed in many previous articles, the locksmith has one of the most extensive and widely varied tool collections of any professional. We even have tools from other professions, such as dental picks, stethoscopes, jewelers’ loupes and magnifying lenses, and a whole host of oddball stuff.
One Basic Tool Is Usually the Last Resort.
However, the locksmith has one very basic tool that is usually the last resort. In some cases, using this tool is a backward admission of defeat when trying to use finesse to open a lock or originate keys. But there are times when it is absolutely necessary.
Yes, I’m speaking of the drill. Now, I have written about drills before, but a Mustang from a job last week has sparked my desire to write about them again.
Case Study: Keys Are Lost For a Vintage Mustang.
No, it wasn’t me who even used a drill this time. Let’s backtrack a bit, so you get the whole story. Our customer traded his beloved Jeep for a chance to own a vintage Mustang, which according to the VIN was a 1995. He had already done his side of the transfer, turning over the Jeep and keys to his “friend,” who somehow was immediately able to lose the only key to the Mustang.
Friend Offers to Replace the Ignition.
Of course, to a locksmith, or to any of my regular readers or customers, this is not the end of the world as we know it. Keys can and are replaced all the time. My customer made one big mistake, however; he let his friend try to replace the ignition instead of calling a locksmith or even taking the car to a qualified mechanic.
Let’s skip on down to where I received the call, supposedly just to program in the new transponder keys that came with the new lock.
Friend Tries to Use a Drill to Remove the Old Lock.
The “friend” had pulled out his drill and had made the huge mistake of trying to remove the lock by drilling out the retainer. The hole that was left in the lock housing was large enough that the new lock moved in and out about 5/8ths to 7/16ths of an inch when “locked” into the housing. What the “friend” (as someone uneducated in Ford locks) found out is that the tailpiece of the lock is interlocked in the column housing, and the lock must be turned to the “on” position to remove it. “Well, what the heck,” I’m sure he thought. “That’s why I have a drill.”
Major Damage Results.
He then proceeded to destroy as much of the lock as he could and managed to drill off the tailpiece, which was left in the housing. The remains of the destroyed lock were now removed, and he saw no way of getting the tailpiece out, short of more destruction. He finally removed the interlock plate (damaged) and the drive gear (damaged).
So, yes, he did get the lock out. But the damage done would not allow the new lock to operate in the housing. Along with that, he managed to break the key buzzer switch as well as the immobilizer ring. The car was not going to be properly fixed without replacing the whole steering column.
Now I’m used to hearing a lot of swearing, and I expected to hear some from my customer. But he was supportive of his “friend,” and I guess gave him credit for his effort and enthusiasm, if nothing else. Perhaps he didn’t mention that he helped his friend in the whole drilling debacle.
Professionals Know What They’re Doing When Using a Drill.
Where are we going with this? Well, when a trained professional pulls out a drill, he should know exactly when, where, how, and what the results will be.
Also, the damage must be held to an absolutely bare minimum to allow for proper repair and replacement.
Personally I go one step further: If I find it necessary to drill a lock in such a way as to prevent its repair and reuse, I do not drill unless and until I have a replacement lock in hand, ready to go back in. I have walked away from jobs where the lock was not available or I did not have it in stock. I simply try to never leave a customer “dead in the water.”
If you do not know where to drill, trying to do so can be a very expensive lesson, especially on Fords but on many other cars as well. Now, I’m not begging for your work. I’m just strongly encouraging you to take your vehicle to someone, anyone, who has the “credentials” and knows where to put that “one tiny little hole” that solves the whole problem.
DIY Automotive Lock Work Is Not a Great Idea.
Automotive lock work is simply not a do-it-yourself proposition any more, if it ever was. With complex systems, columns with airbags, transponder keys and such, it is no longer a good thing just to pick up the ol’ drill and drill ’er out.
Call Us If You’ve Lost Your Car Keys.
If you’ve lost the keys to your vehicle, and you have a “friend” begging you to let him try and save you money, at least give me a call. I can generally get you back on the road with no damage, and you can keep your friendship intact. And if that odd case comes up that I must get my drill out, it will be used properly, and the lock immediately serviced or replaced.
Call us at 618-466-9347, and see what we can do for you. We might even make your friendships last a little longer!
You can reach us at 618-466-9347.
#82 – PHONIES AND FRAUDS
Sixty-six years is enough time to recognize just about every scam and fraudulent scheme that has been invented. Granted, there are always variations, and technology adds a little “spice” to the con game. But the same ideas have been around since some shady character way back decided he could hide a pea under one of three shells.
You Would Think You Could Trust Locksmiths.
But let’s talk about locksmithing since that is what we are always talking about. You would think that in such an honorable profession, you wouldn’t have problems with someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Locksmiths are “keepers of the keys”—the people who you not only should trust, but in a sense, you have to trust. A well-equipped, skilled locksmith has the ability to access just about everything. Cars, houses, safes—anything that takes a key or specific restricted knowledge—the locksmith has access to.
Some Locksmith Corporations Are Just Focused on Money.
The problem does not lie in the older, core group of locksmiths who were trained in small shops or even self-trained, where integrity and honesty always came before money. The problem started with the influx of corporations, both large and small, being formed by individuals who had money as their primary interest. Locks and keys were a means to the end they desired—lots of money.
Corporations, whether they are smaller Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) or larger corporations that have dozens of “investors” or stockholders, may or may not have a direct interest in locksmithing. Their main goal is a return on investment, which is a fancy way of saying, letting your money do the work in place of them working for it.
It really matters a great deal who operates the local shop, if it is part of a corporation. If the manager is “old school” enough to have the integrity to run a shop for the customers’ benefit, then everyone benefits.
Untrained Help Is Cheap And Does Inferior Work.
Frauds and phonies pop up when it is money, money, money as the top three priorities. A shop manager married to these priorities will hire anyone they can that will not cost them much investment to start earning money.
Hiring someone poorly trained or not trained at all means the employer can get by with paying minimum wage. These phony locksmith-wannabes do what they can with the skills that they have. They’re quick to pick up a drill, instead of picking a lock, knowing that they will get a cut of an overpriced replacement lock to replace the one they destroyed through drilling.
They solve automotive lock problems by drilling and replacing, without bothering to key the new lock to other existing locks on the vehicle, which is standard locksmith practice. Or if they do not have access to a new ignition, they do the minimum possible to create a key of sorts. That sometimes means compromising the security of a lock by filing tumblers or leaving many of them out entirely.
Case Study: a GM Pickup
A good example was a GM pickup I worked on the other day. The customer had lost the keys once before and had hired a company that had about 30 phone numbers in the listings, with many variations on their names. The “locksmith” left him with a key that, yes, would turn the ignition, but it was hand filed and didn’t have many “cuts” in the key. It wouldn’t work the door. The “locksmith” charged about $250 for this total job.
I was called because the gentleman had lost his keys again and heard about me from a local dealership. Once at the vehicle, I found his lock had been poorly drilled to allow removal. It had been left with 3 of 9 possible tumblers for that lock. The lock simply was not salvageable, so I replaced it and keyed the new lock to the door lock code, so the key would work the door as well as the ignition.
I charged the man as if I had originated keys for a good lock (which is what I had been expecting to do) rather than replacing a lock (which is what I ended up doing). I took a little less profit on the job to put the customer back to standards: a lock with all tumblers operational and a key that would work all the vehicle’s locks.
The problem is that I can’t always do that every time. Some situations I encounter are so bad that entire columns need to be replaced or bodywork is necessary due to shoddy work done by someone before me.
Safes May Be Damaged (But Not Opened) by Unskilled Attempts.
After some “attempts” at safe opening by someone purporting to be a locksmith, the safe looks like it has been the victim of a burglary.
Sometimes it is repairable, sometimes not. Often the safe is left in a condition where it is relocked or double locked, and it costs the customer more than if they had called me originally. Again, I try to ease back a little on the pricing, and I usually try to charge as if I were the first one to the safe.
Imposters Thrive in Larger Cities.
If you live in a larger metro area, the chances of running into an outfit like this are much higher than in rural areas. The biggest reason is that large cities have a lot of work, so that means a lot of locksmiths are needed.
If you see an ad or do a computer search that shows 20 or 30 phone numbers for a company, it should set off warning bells for you. Calls to some of the phony company’s numbers are sometimes routed to a call center in another large town hundreds of miles away. That is really a problem. Large shops should have a local shop or office of some kind.
The best defense is to call as many locksmiths as you have time and patience for, for estimates—and hope that you don’t get a bait and switch situation where they end up charging you significantly more than what they originally quoted on the phone. If you call multiple numbers and the same person keeps answering, you might steer away.
Small reliable shops sometimes have the name of the shop’s owner mentioned in their ads, and if they’re locally based, you may recognize the name.
So, be cautious. There are problem shops out there, and they are usually out of town conglomerates with no shop. (This is not to say that all mobile-only operations are bad. I’m one!)
Call Us and We’ll Help You or Recommend a Reputable Shop.
If you need a locksmith recommendation for parts of our metro area that I do not serve, I will try my best to steer you to a good shop and/or locksmith.
If you’re in my area (see my home page for my service area), call 618-466-9347, and I will do my best to solve your lock problems, properly and inexpensively. It is what you should expect, and it is what you deserve.
#81 – TMI?
If you understand the popular meaning of “TMI” (although older people might think “Three Mile Island,” a nuclear disaster in this country), then you have probably been exposed to the Information Age problem of TMI.
TMI=Too Much Information
Yes, TMI stands for “Too Much Information.” It can mean being exposed to too many intimate details of a person’s life, or some uneasy situation. Sometimes it refers to being just absolutely buried in factoids, clichés, or legalese, but not limited to those three categories. A good example of the latter category is the info contained in half a screenful or half a pageful of “fine print,” usually consisting of disclaimers, warnings, and the limits of liability.
On a TV screen, it is never there long enough to read unless you graduated from Evelyn Wood’s Speed Reading Course. In print, you have to have eyesight good enough to lip-read the actors in a drive-in movie while flying over in a jet. And if it’s a spoken commercial, they may hire some speed-talker to say at the end in 10 seconds what it would take most people to say in a minute and a half, in order to get in all the disclaimers. All three methods cause a person to say, “Why bother?” but it is just one of those “I told you so” legal things.
There’s Even TMI in Locksmithing These Days.
In the ever-increasing complexity of locksmithing, TMI tends to be more of the former type, where one can get buried under mountains of complex information. And yes, I am here to profess my guilt at being a party to it as well.
I Sometimes Catch Myself Providing TMI on the Work Performed.
For example, I recently programmed a remote that took quite a few steps and quite a bit of time to do, at a small local car lot.
As I was writing up the bill, I gave the owner a running commentary of the work, including details on the complexity of the job. About halfway through my explanation, I saw the glaze come over his eyes, and I knew that I had tragically reached that tipping point of Too Much Information.
Yes, I am guilty of it, and when I do catch myself, I simply stop, saying something like “. . . but you really don’t need to know all that. You just need to know it worked.” That will usually allow the return of order and sanity, and hopefully no “permanent damage” is done. Just kidding, of course. The problem is that the nature of the work has taken on that type of complexity.
Some Customers Can Understand Automotive Explanations; Some Can’t.
I have customers, some even knowledgeable in electronics and the auto repair field, who will ask me how a transponder system works on a specific car. I try to tailor the explanation to the individual customer if I can because some do understand PCMs, ECUs, and BCMs. (For the uninitiated, that’s Powertrain Control Modules, Engine Control Units, and Body Control Modules, respectively.) These are at the heart of most transponder systems, and there are many people who can follow the basic explanation.
The other extreme is the 80-year-old lady who wants to know why she has to pay $185, for example, for a key when thirty years ago a spare key only cost a buck. You start down Alice’s rabbit hole by telling her there is a chip in the key, and it is all downhill from there.
It is almost impossible to make the explanation simple enough, but I have developed several explanations that sometimes work.
The simplest is that the chip, or electronic component, in the key allows all the computers on the car to agree with one another on what needs to be done to start the vehicle and keep it running.
For people who have not been exposed to electronic technology, any more information than that is too much information.
Hopefully My Weekly Website Articles Aren’t TMI!
In general, I have often been concerned that publishing a new article weekly on this website might be too much information. However, what may make it bearable is that the information is broken down into small articles that are complete in themselves. You can choose how many of the 80 or so articles you want to read at one time and control your own rate of information input.
It’s like eating that “elephant” of information “one bite at a time.” You may not need or want to know some of the information in some of the articles. That’s OK. That’s why we put titles and headings in, so you can scan an article first to see if the topic is something you want to read about.
We do try to keep things simple, so you may recognize that I am talking about a lock problem that looks a lot like yours. With a little information beforehand, it may be easier for you to tell me what your needs are.
Call Us at 618-466-9347 with Your Lock Problem.
If you do have a lock problem, though, you needn’t try to read about it first. Just give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we will try to sort it out, tell you the problem, and offer you a solution in language you can understand.
And correct me (and forgive me) if I start to make your eyes glaze over with an explanation. I’m here to help, and I want a satisfied customer when the job is done. Call us at 618-466-9347, and we’ll try to make that happen.
#80 – OPTIONS
Yellow Is My Favorite Color.
Yellow: it’s the color that I kinda fell in love with at an early age. Robin’s egg blue came in a close second but never really challenged my affection for yellow. I think it all started as a young man, about 13 years old or so, when my parents bought me a yellow lightweight spring jacket. I just loved that thing and did my absolute best to keep it clean and unstained. It eventually became too small, but I wore it as long as I could.
Our Yellow ’66 Chevy Impala Was Custom Ordered.
Another yellow favorite was our ’66 Chevy Impala that my parents bought brand new. Not only was it a wonderful car and fun to drive, but it stood out like a sore thumb in any parking lot, which made finding it easy.
When my parents decided they wanted this as a new car, they did something that is almost unheard of nowadays. They went into the dealership, sat down with a salesman, and put the car together on paper. All the options they wanted were checked, such as engine size, color, air conditioning, radio, etc. Everything that was optional was given a yes or no. About two months later, that car was delivered to the dealer, and the trade-in was made at that time.
We All Want Options in Life.
Options: we all want them. As a normal human trait we like to have the ability to choose, no matter what we are considering. Anything from material objects, such as clothes, cars, houses and such, to the person you want to spend your life with, is subject to choice and options.
You Have Options When Purchasing Replacement Keys for Your Vehicle.
With the advent of the new transponder key systems for vehicles, there are a lot more options for keys than there used to be.
Let’s take a car that I originated keys for yesterday. It was a 2014 Ford Focus, your basic small-to-medium family car. The ignition and door lock, the only two locks on the car, are operated by side-milled, high-security keys, sometimes called laser keys. The keys available for this car are several and varied:
1. Plain transponder key
This key, cut with side-milled cuts, has only the proper chip inside it. There are no remote buttons of any type on the head of the key. As you might guess, going basic like this costs the least, and many people opt for this basic key even if their other keys are fancier.
2. Remote head key
This is exactly what the name says. It has remote control buttons built right onto the head of the key. It allows for locking and unlocking the car or trunk from a distance. Some people get so used to doing this that the mechanical lock on the driver’s door only gets used in an emergency.
3. Flip-out style remote head key
This is for those who like to put a key in their pocket without getting poked by the key blade. The key blade folds neatly into the edge of the remote when it is not being used.
Still another type is available on higher end vehicles with push button start: a proximity key that has an emergency key hidden inside the key fob. Proximity keys allow for starting a vehicle without operating a mechanical lock. You just have to push a button to start the car.
So, you see, the keys available to you can vary a bit, depending on the year, make, and model of your car. For example, with the titanium option on some vehicles, such as the Focus and the Escape, you can just leave your key in your pocket to start the car.
Key options are just part of the new day in automotive security. You can choose your car, and when replacing keys, you generally have some options as to how much money you have, or want, to spend.
We Can Usually Offer You Several Options for Replacement Keys.
What can we do for you? Well, for most U.S.A. models with transponder technology, we can offer you at least two different levels of price and type of keys, and sometimes more.
We can get Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) keys if you desire, although they are usually the most expensive. Alternately, we can offer you after-market ones of good quality without the higher cost. However, in some cases, especially with foreign cars such as BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and such, OEM keys are the only ones that will practically work on your car.
No matter what you choose, we’ll do our best to give you the best price we can. You have choices, and the option you choose will be the one we’ll try very hard to supply.
Call Us for Your Options.
Call us at 618-466-9347 and tell us what type of vehicle you have and what your needs are. Whether you prefer a plain key or something a little more fancy, we’ll do our best to match the keys to you, the customer. Doing our best for you is not optional. It is standard procedure for our service.
#79 – MAKING KEYS FOR OLDER EVERYDAY VEHICLES
It’s always a bit of a surprise when I get a call to originate keys for a car or truck that is 25 years old. Oh, I do make keys for what most people and the State of Illinois consider “antique” cars (collectors’ items and such), but when the car is used for everyday, it seems a bit different.
Older Vehicles Are Driven to Work Every Day.
A lot of people drive to work every day in a vehicle that is 20 to 25 years old. Why? Because they simply can’t afford anything newer or “better.” If we were to stereotype the owner, he or she might be someone who has a very low paying job and just can’t seem to advance from that level up into what a lot of people think of as “middle class.” Education, training and other things may keep that person from advancing to the next level, and they’re just kind of stuck in place. There may not be any money in their budget for a monthly car loan.
At any rate, the car they can afford is limited to older models. Spare keys cost money, and the only key they have is generally worn to a nubbin. Because of that, it is easy to break keys or lose the only key they have.
Owners May Not Have the Money to Have Car Keys Made Immediately.
When that happens and there is no other way out, I get called.
I quote a price to make keys where all keys are lost, say for a ’95 Honda, and the response I get is, “I’ll call you when I get the money together.”
That may be a couple hours, a day or two, or even a week or two later. Most of the time it is attached to the person’s next pay day, but not always. When they do get the money, I can’t get to their vehicle fast enough, in their opinion. I often wonder who is getting “shorted” in this pay period, so that I can be hired to make keys for their car.
Case Study: Making Keys for a ’95 Honda
That ’95 Honda was an actual job recently, and it was one of those that fell on the first of the month pay days. After the initial call and price quote, I received a later request to make keys (where the customer did not have any) for a ’95 Honda Accord. An Accord of that age is fairly simple to do.
Most Hondas of that vintage have code numbers on the locks, but you have to know where to look. The locks have several numbers on them, and the code is stamped in such tiny print that a magnifying glass is mandatory. With code books and code equipment, it only takes 15 minutes or so to produce a working key.
The only hiccup can be if the ignition lock was changed and not re-coded to the original key. That does happen a lot with older cars, and a smart locksmith always asks if the ignition has been changed so that it requires a different key than the door key.
Being forgetful, I have been burned, oh, say, once or twice, over the last 38 years.
Simply my own fault, and on the rare occasion when it happens, I try very hard just to stick with what I had quoted even though more work is required if there are two different keys to originate instead of one.
But this job was smooth with no speed bumps, and I collected my fee. The customer was truly grateful to have her work car back “in business,” and it didn’t cost her that much. The customer told me that she had called a shop in St. Louis, and they had wanted over $300 for the job. My fee was a fraction of that.
No locksmith who knows what he is doing and has the equipment should need that kind of money for a 15-minute job. We’re talking about originating a standard mechanical key by code with no transponder technology involved. Apparently someone saw a desperate person and tried to take advantage of it.
My Prices are Reasonable and a Good Value.
That doesn’t happen with me. If you call, you will get the best price I can offer, and because of my knowledge and experience it will be reasonable. Call others, as you should, and you will find that to be true. I’m not always the cheapest, but I’m always a good value. Call me, and no matter if it takes you a week or two to get the cash together, I will do your job for a fair price.
Call 618-466-9347, and I’ll do my best to solve your lock problem within your budget and get that old work car back on the road. (And believe me, I’m not looking down at anyone who drives an older vehicle. My work van is 12 years old!)
#78 – “IF I HAD A HAMMER”
If you are as old as I am, you can remember when Peter, Paul and Mary made “If I Had a Hammer” a hit in the 60s. Yes, it was last millennium, but it came at a time when there were some important historical events in this country. The song was one of several that were at the core of the protest movement. It was a turbulent, uncertain time, much like today is in this country.
I Like Hammers.
But back to the subject of the song. . . I like hammers—and I have a lot of them. Now, some of you might say, isn’t locksmithing a “finesse” job, delicately picking locks and carefully, slowly filing keys to fit a lock? Well, yes, that’s a big part of it, but there are times in locksmithing when the judicious use of the proper type and size hammer is necessary.
I Use a Small Ball-Peen Hammer for Tapping.
I use a very small ball-peen hammer a lot, for tapping on a key in order to vibrate damaged or worn tumblers into place in a lock. If the key is a chip key or otherwise “delicate,” I may drop back to a plastic head hammer to “tap, tap, tap” the lock into submission. This is often times necessary on auto locks because the key must be in the “on” position to remove the lock. Tapping with a hammer after lubricating the lock generally allows the key to turn the lock just the “one more time” necessary to remove the lock.
I Sometimes Use a Sledgehammer.
Oh, I’ve got big hammers, too. I’ve got 8 and 12 pound sledgehammers to use when a good deal of force is needed in safe work. I won’t go into detail about that, but it is generally when the safe lock is unlocked but the bolt works are not functioning. Vibrating stubborn locks on a safe requires a larger hammer like this, but I must be careful not to damage parts or sometimes the finish on the safe or vault door. To protect finishes, I have hammers made of rubber, plastic, rawhide, copper, as well as lead and even wooden mallets. I just need to pick the right hammer for that particular job.
I Don't Use a Medium-Size Ball-Peen Hammer Much These Days.
One hammer I don’t use much anymore is a medium-size ball-peen hammer. I used to use it installing deadbolts, and I don’t do that kind of work anymore. Paired with a 1” chisel, it was used to mortise out the edge of the door and the jamb for the latch face and the strike plate.
Customers Require Different "Hammers" or Approaches.
Using the proper hammer for a particular job is much like the varied approaches taken to customers as well as to their lock problems. Some jobs, such as estate jobs where a loved one has recently passed, require the gentle tap of a small “hammer” that will not be disruptive and will leave no further mark on a grieving family.
Other jobs require just a little larger “hammer” or sales pitch, if you will, to persuade a person that his lock problem is correctable and necessary.
With most people, it is not necessary to pull out the big “hammer.” But if someone is trying to get me to do something illegal, immoral, or unethical, the big hammer comes down hard. My answer is “no” or even “heck no,” and I make sure there is a definite understanding that I will never do their job.
Maybe I stretched the hammer analogy a little out of shape, but I think you get my meaning. For the most part, I consider myself a quiet, gentle Christian soul, out to help people with whatever problem they might have. I do sell ideas and products to people, but only what I think they really need, and sometimes salesmanship is more direct and definitive, like using a large hammer.
But don’t try to trick, coerce or bully me into doing something that should not be done. In that case, the hammer comes down like steel on steel: “No, that’s not going to happen.”
Call Us for Help with Your Lock Problem.
If you are in need of lock work or safe work, just give us a call, and we’ll try to do our best to come up with the right solution for your job. And it may or may not even involve a hammer. But if it’s one of those cases where it does, rest assured that we have the right one to do the job correctly. Call us at 618-466-9347. And please, don’t ask to borrow my hammers—I’ve grown very attached to them!
#77 – HIIT TRAINING FOR LOCKSMITHS
HIIT Training is a Popular Fitness Method.
One of the most popular training methods for those who want to get really fit, or even those who just want to lose some weight, is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). There are variations of the ever-present, cutesy acronyms, but it boils down to this: You warm up, then do a high-intensity or hard level of running, biking, or whatever exercise you are doing, followed by a period of low-intensity or “easy” recovery. After recovery, you dive into the high intensity effort again, followed by another easy recovery interval. You repeat the hard-easy intervals or cycles throughout the length of your workout.
This method trains heart, lungs and muscles to higher levels than straight aerobic training at a steady pace. Another bonus is that it makes you mentally tougher as well.
What’s the point here? You thought these articles were about locksmithing and stuff? Well, bear with me; there is a point to be made and a parallel to be demonstrated.
Some Days in Locksmithing are HIIT Days.
Life and locksmithing at various times will give days with both types of jobs—hard and easy. There are some days that pass easily, smoothly, and steadily. You get a good workout of jobs that are interesting but doable. All of a sudden, it’s 5 p.m., and you finish up the day tired, but not exhausted. Then there are other days where it seems like every other job is a superhuman challenge: a hard tough job, followed by an easier recovery job or two in-between.
Warm Up: A Broken Key
A day last week during the coldest weather is a case in point. The day started off with a job where it was not clear in advance how it was going to turn out. It involved a 2004 Pontiac G6 with the only key broken off in the door lock. Pulling broken keys can be easy, or it can make you scream and run around in circles flapping your arms.
Add wind chill in the single digits, and it wasn't looking like it would be an easy job.
After about 10 minutes of concentrated huffing and puffing, I managed to get the broken piece extracted. The big problem in the process was getting two tumblers and the dust shutter out of the way. Fortunately, all locksmiths have 3 hands and the ability to hold a small flashlight in their teeth, positioned exactly where it needs to shine.
Once the portion of the key which was stuck in the lock was removed, I simply decoded the key (i.e., figured out what the cuts of the key were), cut a test key, and checked. Then I cut the more expensive “chip” or transponder key and used the test key along with the head of the broken key to program the new key. I believe “easy-peasy” is the correct way of describing that portion of the job, after the broken key had been removed.
High-Intensity Interval: a House Lockout
If that was the warm-up job in my HIIT day, the next one was the high-intensity or hard interval job. It was a 15-mile drive to the job, which was a house lockout, and there were two doors locking out the owner of the house. The “main use” door had a dead electronic deadbolt lock on it, and someone had tried to force the key bypass, so getting in that door wasn’t going to be possible.
The second door had a Kwikset deadbolt, for which they had never had a key. No problem? Yes, problem. It happened to be a type of sidebar lock that is generally not pickable. I did try to pick it, but cold weather, cold fingers, and a stubborn lock made for a tough one. I finally used a bypass method (that I will not describe here) to open the lock without damage. (If you’re curious to know what I did, sorry. I don’t give out info on things like that to the general public.)
Of course, after getting in, the homeowners wanted a key for the deadbolt, so I took the lock to the truck to originate a key. In the process of making the key, a quick autopsy was possible. It revealed that there were two broken tumblers in the lock. Because of that, the lock would never have picked, period, and even the original keys wouldn’t have worked, which is probably why the current owners were not given any keys to that door. I had to repair the lock by replacing a part to originate the keys.
Recovery Interval: a Sidemilled Key Cut
Now I was “due” for an easy job, at least if this were to be a HIIT day. On the way back home for lunch, I stopped to cut a sidemilled, high-security key for a local used car dealership. That was the recovery interval in the cycle of jobs. Sidemilled keys have to be cut very carefully on a special key machine, but in comparison to the previous job, this one was relatively easy.
More Hard and Easy Intervals
So, you can see that it works out that way sometimes—hard job, easy job recovery. The rest of the day went about the same way. I won’t go into detail since this article is getting long.
A Couple of Easy Intervals to End the Day
The last two jobs were fairly easy. On the first job, a vehicle lockout, I inserted my truck key into the car door lock to check the keyway. To my utter amazement, my key actually turned in the lock and opened the car! There are long odds of that ever happening again, but I’ll take an easy one when it comes my way.
The next, and last, job of the day was also a vehicle opening (keys locked in the car) on the street where I live, less than a quarter-mile from home. It could have been tough. Before Lishi picks, this particular car opening would have been very tough, with snow flying and still brutal temperatures. But I was able to pick it opened in less than two minutes, and I went home feeling tired, but having accomplished a lot. Supper tastes so much better when you eat it kind of tired.
We Welcome Your Job, Hard or Easy.
So, hard, easy, or in-between, no matter what type your automotive or safe lock job is, give us a call at 618-466-9347, and we’ll see what we can do for you. And don’t worry. If your job is a hard one, we’ll get right to it because somewhere down the line, there will most likely be an easy one to balance it out.
And after 38 years of mental training for the hard ones, we will get your job done in the best, most efficient and timely manner possible. Give us a call, and we’ll get ‘er done.