Electric Pick Guns - Overheating, Smoking, and the Rest...
SHORT VERSION: Electric Pick Guns should be used in short half-second bursts. This will prevent them overheating and last longer. It’s also a better technique.
Over the years I have heard the occasional story about an electric pick gun (EPG) that has started smoking, started growling like a beast, even electric pick guns that have started shooting fire. The logical progression of these tales are EPGs that have apparently exploded! Not the ideal situation for an object in your hand or a professional setting.
Reassuringly however this isn’t something I have witnessed first-hand. In fact, I’ve never known an electric pick gun to do anything beyond the purpose it was designed for (except the one to which my friend* attached a split cotton-bud or ‘Q-tip’ and used it to stir his homemade eJuice). In nearly two decades in this field I have never seen for myself, or had a friend, who has had an EPG smoke, catch fire, explode, or even spark!
I dredged You Tube for all sorts of terms, things like “Electric pick gun fire”, “Electric pick gun smoke…..spark….explode…..blow-up…..” etc, etc. I am NOT saying this hasn’t happened, or that it won’t. What I am saying is – beyond rumors, beyond urban myths - they seem to be exaggerations at best, and complete fabrication at worst.
However, while we cannot protect against a potential fault, whether it be an EPG, a hairdryer, car, or telephone! There are a couple of classic mistakes that will not only protect you against these dangers, but will help increase the life of your EPG, which is a good thing, obviously.
The bottom line is to prevent you’re a unit from overheating. This is something I have seen many times, and the solution is simple. In short, you should use your EPG in short bursts. It is not designed to have the trigger held for minutes on end as this will certainly cause the unit to overheat, and overheating would logically be the beginning of a unit failing, however that manifests. Not only that, a sustained pulling of the trigger will not be great for the lock you are working on, as well as potentially damaging the needle. It’s quite normal to see small amounts of brass pouring out of the lock as the needle vibrates rapidly against the pins. Using the EPG in short, half second bursts, gives you the ability to readjust your technique between bursts, move the needle in or out a little, change the angle, etc. If you’re holding the trigger down for long periods of time, you may have false set some pins, meaning it doesn’t matter how long you keep going, the lock will not open. It’s good technique after a few bursts to let the lock reset, pull the needle out, move the wrench anti-clockwise to get the pins back in their default position and start again. It’s not only good for your unit, it’s good for opening locks.
Another thing to watch out for is free movement of the picking needle. Several times I have seen beginners using their EGP without the needle actually moving. Caught between the warding and the pins, or some other unseen ‘trap’ in the lock, the needle is not free to make its up and down movement. If the trigger is being held for long periods without free movement of the needle, this will also cause the motor to overheat and should be avoided – so be aware – used correctly EPGs are one of the most effective tools for opening locks, and long may it continue!