The term wafer refers to the general shape of the tumblers. The wafers are flat, spring-loaded tumblers that are much thinner than pins and the distance between them is less. Wafer locks are picked in the same way as pin tumbler locks, but you must compensate for the smaller dimensions. You can identify wafer locks simply by look- ing down the keyway and locating the first flat tumbler. The last tumbler on most wafer locks is located about one- half inch into the lock.
Wafer locks are used on filing cabinets, lockers, most cars, garage doors, desks, and wherever medium security is required. The only wafer tumbler lock in common use that is difficult to pick is the side-bar wafer lock. It is the most popular type of auto lock. This lock is of different design than most other locks and offers much more secur- ity than a regular wafer tumbler lock, or even a pin tumbler lock.
The side bar lock is used mostly on General Motors cars and trucks since 1935. It is used on ignitions, door, and trunk locks. Side bar locks are hard to pick because you cannot feel or hear the tumblers align with the cylinders breaking point. A spring-loaded bar falls into place to allow the cylinder to turn when all of the tumblers are aligned. There is no way to tell when that happens. One learns to sense the bar while picking so that it seems to fall into place by itself. But for beginners, I recommend this technique for emergency openings: Peer down the keyway and locate the side groove of any of the tumblers using a pick as a searching tool. Drill a small hole in the shell of the lock above the bar which is above the grooves on the tumblers. Since side bar locks have off-centered keyways, the usual place to drill is opposite of the keyway. Using an L-shaped steel wire, put pressure on the sidebar and rake the tumblers using a tension wrench for cylinder rotation and the lock will open.
Fortunately, most GMC autos have inferior window seals; with a coat hanger, one can lasso the locking door knob to open the door. If you are going to be successful at opening side bars, you will do it within two minutes; otherwise, you are causing unnecessary wear on your picks not to mention wasting your time.
Ford auto locks are relatively simple to pick. They have pin tumblers and you have to remember that the door locks turn counterclockwise. Most other auto locks turn clockwise. If you are not sure, remember this: If the tumblers will not catch at their breaking points, you are going in the wrong direction with the tension wrench.
Wafer locks are a cinch to pick if you have learned how to pick pin tumblers. Just remember that wafers are thin- ner than pins and there is less distance between them.
Generally you need less tension-wrench pressure with these locks, yet car locks can be quite stubborn and require a great deal of tension. Any heavily spring-loaded cylinder needs a substantial amount of tension.
As a rule, though, wafer locks need less play with the tension wrench than with pin tumbler locks. But if you find yourself having difficulty in opening these, you may try a little tension-wrench play. Usually they won't pop open like pin tumbler locks, they just slide open; you don't get the warning that a pin tumbler gives before it opens because there is less contact area on the wafer's edge than on a pin, so the sense of climax is reduced with these types of locks. Still, they open quite easily.