Era Vectis Decoder

For those who don’t already know the Era Vectis is a type of door lock that was designed to eliminate lock snapping altogether by turning a multi point locking gearbox into a mortice style lock. The advantage to this kind of set up is that there’s no euro cylinder for a would be burglar to attack but you still get all the benefits of a multi point lock so I can see why they might be appealing to customers and door manufacturers . Personally I hate them because of the cheap and nasty feel, the keys grind when locking and unlocking, the levers are tiny and flimsy and Era feel the need to ram a screw through the back of the case as an afterthought to try and hold everything together. I would personally favour a normal euro Era gearbox with a decent anti snap lock fitted.

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Unfortunately as much as I hate the Era Vectis door lock, I have to face up to the fact there are now hundreds of them fitted in my area. I have had to open a couple before but I’ve been very fortunate that I could get to the inside of the door and remove the door handles as they are bolted from inside just like any upvc or composite door handles. Once the handles are removed you have the choice to drill or pick the lock. The lock can’t be drilled or curtain picked from outside without firstly drilling or snapping the handles off to allow access which doesn’t look good in front of a customer. The multi gauge curtain pick stem will not reach through from the outside whilst the handles are fitted to the door. So this got me thinking that sooner or later my luck will run out and ill have to open one from the outside with the handles still on. For me that only really leaves one choice and that’s the Era Vectis Decoder which was recommended to me by a locksmith in Hull.

I bought my decoder a few weeks back at the locksmith exhibition from Geraint Jones of GJ Locks who designed the tool. The kit was £220.00 and for that you get a make up key, a box of pins, reader wire, a small tub of grease, storage case and a pair of tweezers for putting the pins into the make up key. The reader charts must be downloaded and printed out yourself but they are free to access and download. You will need to download both the left and right handed charts.

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So I’ve had a couple of weeks to practice with the tool and so far so good. I have tried it out on 6 different Era Vectis locks and every one of them has opened quickly and easily. I have found though that on a couple of them I’ve had to be quite aggressive with the make up key to get the lock to open. When I turned the make up key normally as if I was using the original key the lock didn’t open but when I turned it hard and fast it did open. To be honest though there’s a good chance that this is due to the poor quality of the Vectis lock to start with, as I said above even the correct original keys grind and feel like rubbish!

Using the tool couldn’t really be more straight forward, of all the decoders I’ve used this is probably the easiest one to use. The lever heights are read straight from the make up key. All the reads are taken from the back of the levers so the key is turned in the locking direction to decode. Before you start to decode you must either tape or bluetac the reader chart to the door. To read the levers you need to put the reader wire into the top of the make up key and a number one pin is inserted into the first hole on the key. When the key is turned in the locking direction it will stop when the number one pin makes contact with the back of the lever. The angle of the reader wire will then tell you what number lever is inside the lock. Once the lever has been read the number one pin is then moved to the second hole on the make up key and the reading process is repeated. Once you have all 5 reads it’s just a case of building up the key using the pins provided and the lock will open.

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So although I haven’t used this tool out on site yet it does seem very quick, very easy, and very effective. Another huge advantage is that the make up key is the same length as a normal Vectis key meaning there should never be a problem with the door handles getting in the way. Basically if the original key reaches through the handles into the lock case then so will the decoder. As a locksmith in Leeds I have seen hundreds of vectis locks so it probably wont be long before I get to use this tool out on site!

All in all a top tool!



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