The Evolution of Car Door Locks

10 Mar The Evolution of Car Door Locks

If you build it, they will come. Of course that includes thieves, and early car owners learned quickly that they were no exception.

Many of the first automobiles were open to the elements and those that weren’t had fabric tops and flimsy windows, if they had any at all. So unless you had a chauffeur to watch over your vehicle, you needed a way to safeguard your property—and your car itself.

Removable Steering Wheels for Theft Prevention

Petty thieves could be foiled by locked compartments in or on the car, but what about the whole contraption? One way was to make it undrivable, and what better way than to take the steering wheel with you? This simple solution was incorporated in some of the earliest cars and persisted into the 1970s on models like the AMC Matador. Later solutions included steering wheel locks and clumsy devices like The Club.

Keyed Locks, Pins and Wafer Tumblers

As hardtop cars with better body integrity evolved, keeping unwanted company out of the car in the first place became a better solution. Keyed locks with pin or wafer tumblers were soon standard equipment, often operable with the same key that unlocked the ignition and started the engine. Given the forgetfulness of drivers, and to keep costs down, carmakers used just a few key patterns so new keys could be made easily and cheaply. Of course that meant that your neighbor’s key might work in your car, too. It also meant that thieves could equip themselves with a handful of keys to try out. And if that weren’t shaky enough security, many door locks well into the 20th century had a code stamped on the outside of the lock cylinder for convenience. Just take the code to a key maker and they could look it up and whip out a new one. Whether it was your car or not.

Mechanical Locking System Weaknesses

Tumbler locks can also be picked or “bumped” by crooks with the right tools and know-how, but a simpler way to open a car door with a mechanical locking system is with a Slim Jim or even a coat hanger. With modern doors full of wiring, airbags and other things, trying to open them this way can cause considerable damage, plus newer cars often have “Slim Jim plates” to prevent their use.

Sophisticated Anti-Theft Measures of Electronic Locks

Most new cars now have electronic locks, some with elaborate anti-theft measures like embedded computer chips that will only let the door and ignition locks operate with uniquely coded keys. These sophisticated locks and security systems are beyond the reach of any but the most sophisticated of thieves and are properly serviced only by highly-trained locksmiths and car dealerships.

If you have trouble with your car’s door or ignition locks—electronic or mechanical—save yourself a lot of trouble and call us at 303.974.0215. We have the knowledge and equipment to work on any locking system that’s on your car.

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