Auto Escape Hammer LED Flashlight Hackage

A cheap auto escape hammer (IIRC, free in the bottom of a tag-sale box filled with stuff I could actually use) has been kicking around the back of the bench for far too long; it had a feeble single-cell incandescent bulb flashlight with the cheapest possible non-switch. I ripped all that out, carved out enough plastic to fit a CR123 lithium cell, hot-melt-glued a real pushbutton switch and 10 mm white LED in place, and soldered it up:

Lithium cell hacked into auto escape tool

Lithium cell hacked into auto escape tool

The CR123 puts out enough juice to light up the LED, but it’d be happier with a bit more current. There’s no limiting resistor, so the LED gets what it gets.

Augment the screws with a few snippets of Kapton tape, use some real 3M Velcro tape, and it’s all good (albeit ugly on a stick):

Hacked auto escape hammer

Hacked auto escape hammer

Now, there’s no way to test the hammer part of it (perhaps I could visit a junkyard and whack out a few windows for practice?), but at least now we have a disposable flashlight in the van…

  1. #1 by John Rehwinkel on 2011-11-08 - 08:00

    Auto glass can be surprisingly tough – my tool of choice for breaking it is still an automatic center punch. But the seat belt cutter probably works fine, and a flashlight is a good thing to have. Those CR123 cells have an amazing shelf life, and an LED will still
    produce visible photons from a nearly dead one (unlike incandescents, which tend to make infrared when underdriven).

    • #2 by Ed on 2011-11-08 - 08:06

      Auto glass can be surprisingly tough

      The van’s design leads to smacking the seat belt buckle sharply into the side window not quite every time we get out, so the glass seems proof against a decade of that abuse. However, in the event of an actual emergency, at least one window in that vast expanse of glass will break all by itself, anyway.

      In nigh onto four decades of driving, neither of us have ever had to escape from a car, so the expected benefit of that thing rounds off to zero…

  2. #3 by Aki on 2011-11-08 - 09:28

    “Tires with metal studs may be used in New York State only from October 16 through April 30.”

    The “windshield killer tire” may be used in Finland from November 1 through March 31.

  3. #4 by peter on 2011-11-08 - 09:31

    Heh. I was thinking ‘automatic centerpunch!’ too….

    I don’t carry such an ‘escape’ tool in the car. I figure they’re just about useless, even when it’s a decent one. But should I carry one, I wouldn’t want anything but the best…. not the bottom of the barrel of the close-out bin….

    You’ve seen from up close what non-quality it’s made of. Will the knife part stand up against less-than-careful-use in an emergency cutting the safety belt? Won’t the hammer part shatter to pieces before the window does?

    Hard to tell without actually trying it out by smashing windows and cutting seatbelts at a car wrecker. But if you’re that serious about your safety to bother testing it, I’d buy the real thing and toss your present one in the bin, *after* smashing it with a hammer to prevent anyone from ‘rescueing’ it from said bin.

    Of course, one could argue, ‘better this than nothing at all’. It just…. doesn’t feel right to me. Either you value your safety to the point that you do it properly, or you don’t bother. Or am I thinking too black&white? It’s just that there are some tools where I only want the best; inner-hex wrenches, a pocket knife (BM710), flashlight (Photon and a Surefire EE2).

    • #5 by Ed on 2011-11-08 - 09:45

      not the bottom of the barrel of the close-out bin….

      Worse than that: it was free in the bottom of that tag-sale box. [grin]

      There’s a hulking Maglite in the glove box, that Inova X1 and a small razor knife in my belt pack, so I think if push came to shove, we could hack our way out of the van.

      I can use this piece of crap as a small flashlight or pitiful hammer, lose it, and never look back… I’d miss that Maglite!

  4. #6 by smellsofbikes on 2011-11-08 - 11:03

    My experience with escaping from upside-down cars is that both times, the person inside has been unconscious until well after being found and removed (once me, once someone I found while out bike riding) so I’m dubious about the utility of escape hammers as well.