Common Mistakes With Tension Wrenches: Troubleshooting and Solutions for Lockpickers

Key Takeaway

  • Some of the common mistakes to avoid while using tension wrenches are choosing the wrong wrench, wrong wrench position, applying excessive force or slippage.

I can’t stress enough on the fact that using tensioning tools the right way makes up 90% of our lockpicking skills. In-fact, we can pick up 40-50 different types of locks with one or two lock picks (a short hook or a rake) but we will definitely need at-least 4-5 different tension wrenches of varying sizes and shapes.

In my experience, I have realized that beginner lockpickers make the same sort of mistakes with their tensioning tools. And if they can find any external help in overcoming those mistakes, then not only they will save a lot of time but also advance their lockpicking journey. So in this article, we are going to discuss some of those common mistakes along with their solutions so that you can learn from my experience.

Common Mistakes We Make While Using Tension Wrenches

Here are a few common mistakes that we make while using tension wrenches.

  • Choosing the wrong tension wrench
  • Incorrect wrench position
  • Excessive force or finding the right tension
  • Slippage

Choosing the Wrong Tension Wrench

Selecting the right tension wrench is as important as applying the right tension technique. There are various types of tension wrenches available in the market, each designed for a specific type of lock or situation. Some common types include:

  • L-shaped: These are the most basic wrenches, which consist of a metal piece with two handles at right angles to each other.
  • Top-of-the-keyway (TOK) or prybars: Top of the keyway wrenches sit directly at the top of the keyway, providing more control and visibility for the picker.
  • Bottom-of-the-keyway (BOK): These wrenches sit at the bottom of the keyway, applying torque in a common configuration for most lock types.

I recommend using a L-shaped wrench in BOK configuration when you are just starting out. As you graduate to more complex locks, you can try TOK tensioning tools.

The Straight Wrench
The “L” wrench

Advice: Do not use a twisted wrench in the beginning as it dampens the feedback from the lock and hampers our learning journey.

Next aspect in choosing the right tension wrench is the size. A good lock picking set will likely include different sized (typically between .020″ and .030″ thickness) tension wrenches to choose from. Try each one of them in the keyway to see which one fits the best.

Incorrect Wrench Position

A tension wrench should sit comfortably in the keyway in order to provide necessary tension to the lock.

Ideally, the bent side of the straight wrench should sit flush with the lock body in BOK configuration. This will ensure 2 things which are crucial for picking the lock –

  • You will be able to apply sufficient tension without putting in too much force.
  • Tension wrench will not break or damage the lock internals if heavy tension is being applied.

Finding the Right Tension

When using a tension wrench, it’s crucial to apply the right amount of torque for successful lock picking. Too little tension and the pins won’t set correctly, while too much tension can result in binding the lock and making it even more difficult to pick.

To achieve the desired tension, I recommend starting with light pressure and gradually increasing it until the pins begin to bind.

It’s also essential to maintain a steady hand and consistency while applying tension on the lock. Positioning the wrench to ensure optimum stability and grip can make a significant difference.

Trust me when I say this – Finding the right tension for a lock is the hardest skill to master. It requires rigorous practice and will come only with time.

Issue of Tension Wrench Slipping

Another common issue I’ve faced with tension wrenches is slippage, where the wrench doesn’t grip or maintain tension on the lock mechanism properly. There are a few steps that can help troubleshoot and resolve the problem:

  1. Choosing the right size: Make sure that the tension wrench is properly sized for the keyway—too small and it may not get enough grip, too large and it might not fit at all. Tools like feeler gauge can help you figure out the correct size.
  2. Applying torque effectively: Sometimes, slippage occurs because not enough torque is applied. Experiment with different pressure levels. A good rule of thumb is to apply just enough pressure to keep the wrench in place without forcing it.
  3. Changing angles: The angle at which the wrench is inserted into the lock can also be adjusted to improve grip.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of a worn-out tension wrench?

A worn-out tension wrench may show signs such as reduced effectiveness in applying tension, difficulty in turning the lock, or visible wear and tear on the wrench’s body. This may lead to a decreased success rate in lock picking. It is important to monitor the condition of your tension wrench and replace it when necessary.

How can I correctly adjust the tension applied when using a tension wrench for lock picking?

To correctly adjust the tension applied when using a tension wrench, start with light tension and gradually increase it until you feel the pins setting. Listen carefully for the sound of pins clicking into place. If you apply too much tension, the pins may bind, making it difficult to pick the lock. Experiment with different amounts of tension to find the optimal balance for each lock.

How does improper tension affect the process of lock picking?

Improper tension can make lock picking more difficult and less efficient. Applying too much tension can cause the pin springs to compress and bind, preventing smooth movement of the pins and making it harder to pick the lock. On the other hand, too little tension may not provide enough force for the pins to set in place, causing them to drop back into the keyway.

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Hey! I am Mark. Though I am not a locksmith by profession, but locks have always fascinated me since my teens. And it all started when I got locked out of my house and I had to pick the lock. Since then it has become my hobby to learn more about different kinds of locks, understand their working and methods to pick them up. In due course of time, I have also become better aware of how installing the right lock goes a long way in ensuring iron clad security. I aim to share my passion (about locks) through this blog. If you are also passionate about picking locks or are just looking to beef up the security, hop on the ride.