Car Locks in the USA

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Locksmiths work on vehicle locks new and old, specialized, out-of-date and technologically advanced. When in the field many of the numerous locks, ignition locks and their respective types of hardware seen are on automobiles of all makes and sizes which are usually within an age range of brand new to twenty years old.

For the automotive locksmith, car mechanic, auto-restoration specialist or hobbyist who finds themselves interested in or find they are working on locks, ignitions and parts from older modes of transportation it is a good idea to be well-versed in not only servicing or opening these vehicles, but a short history of the car lock in the U.S.

Starting our way back in 1935 and moving forward it was General Motors who with only one keyway consisting of four depths and six cuts began using side bar locks. Chrysler followed their lead by installing sidebar trunk locks in 1959, then in 1966 changed to pin-tumbler locks that were the same size as the previous locks.

In 1967 GM came out with two new blank keys and added a fifth depth to their codes. 1968 saw GM introduce two more blank keys to the market and another two blank keys in 1969, along with steering column mounted ignition locks. Ford, Chrysler and American Motors (known as AMC, purchased by Chrysler and now defunct) also began using mounted steering columns in 1970 while GM stopped putting codes on door locks and introduced two more new blank keys.

1972 saw Chrysler using GM’s Saginaw tilt steering columns with sidebar ignition locks. Chrysler also started to use trunk locks retained by large nuts in 1973. GM, in 1974, began to key locks so the principal key fit the ignition lock only while the other locks used the secondary key. In 1977 Ford stopped putting codes on door locks altogether while GM stopped using codes on glove compartment boxes in 1978. General Motors also changed their ignition locks to screw retained instead of the previous spring tab retained while Ford started to install fixed pawls on door locks in 1979. GM followed the use of fixed pawls in 1980.

Also keying locks so the primary key fit the ignition only and the rest utilized the secondary key in 1981 was Ford, who also stopped putting codes on glove box locks. American Motors (see above for reference) began making the Alliance using the X92 door key and the X116 ignition key, both only being used previously on foreign cars.

In 1985 Ford started using wafer tumbler locks and sidebar ignition locks that worked with the Ford ten cut keys with primary keys working on ignition and doors and secondary keys working for the trunk and glove box.

1986 saw General Motors introduce the Vehicle Anti Theft Systems knows as VATS on the ’86 Corvette.

Chrysler, in 1989 began to use their double sided wafer tumbler locks.

In 1992 GM followed the VAT system with the Mechanical Anti Theft System (MATS) for its full sized, rear wheel drive vehicles and in 1996 a radio frequency called the Passive Anti Theft System (PATS) was introduced on the Mercury Sable and the Ford Taurus.

With general research you can find not only find these locks, ignitions, keys and makes but a myriad of other, including foreign, to keep you in the know for any types you may come across.