Plumber Keeps Thieves Away With Locking System

Electronic deadbolt-lock system gives Chicago plumber a feeling of security

Plumber Keeps Thieves Away With Locking System

Jeffrey Kratowicz, owner of Jeffrey’s Plumbing and Heating Service in Chicago, uses the Cargolock electronic deadbolt-lock system on his vans to protect from theft. The electroless, nickel-plated steel deadbolt integrates with existing key fob and locking systems. (Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Kratowicz)

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After a thief stole equipment worth a couple thousand dollars from a Ford Econoline service van owned by Jeffrey’s Plumbing and Heating Service in Chicago, president and owner Jeffrey Kratowicz figured he’d have to up his game in terms of vehicle security.

The solution? An electronic deadbolt system from Cargolock.

“A guy I hired told me there are internal locks with a cam, like a deadbolt,” says Kratowicz, who’s been a plumber for almost 44 years and founded his business in 1982. “I investigated it and immediately realized it was the solution I was looking for.

“Ever since I had the Cargolock system installed about two years ago, I haven’t had any more problems with break-ins.”

Not that thieves haven’t tried since then; the last time, they punched out the cylinders on the van’s door locks. That released the doors’ locking mechanisms, but the Cargolock deadbolt still held fast. “Unless you unlock it with the ‘clicker’ (the car’s key fob), you simply can’t get into the van,” he says. “You hit the clicker and it shoots that deadbolt between the two doors and, believe me, they’re not coming apart.”

Since then, Kratowicz has installed plastic blanks, or lock covers, over the van’s standard door locks to deter thieves from punching out the locks.


The Cargolock is hard-wired into a vehicle’s electronic system, which allows users to activate it via their vehicles’ key fobs. It includes a deadbolt lock for both rear and side doors on cargo vans, plus all the required hardware. The company makes locks to fit various brands of vans, including Chevrolet, GMC, Ford (including Transits, both full-size and smaller Connect models), Nissan, Dodge ProMasters and Mercedes-Benz Sprinters.

The deadbolt is made of electroless nickel-plated steel and includes a manual-release function; this allows users to activate the locks even if a vehicle’s electronic system fails (or if a key-fob battery dies). The lock actuator, which activates the deadbolt, comes with a one-year guarantee against failure.

For do-it-yourselfers, the Cargolock system comes with installation instructions. Or contractors can have them installed, which is what Kratowicz did. Installation takes anywhere from a half to a full day and can be performed by car-alarm and car-stereo companies and van outfitters.

The deadbolt system sells for approximately $350 and Kratowicz says he paid about $200 to have it installed, for a total expenditure of around $550. “It easily pays for itself,” he notes.


The ability to activate the Cargolock with the van’s key fob also is a game-changer for Kratowicz. Why? Because he used to use so-called “hockey puck” exterior locks on the van, which were cumbersome and time-consuming to use. “First of all, you’re dealing with yet another key,” he explains. “Then it takes 20 seconds or so to unlock it and remove it. Then you take your stuff out of the van; then put the puck back on.

“You do that four or five times a day at three to four minutes a pop and it adds up to hours and hours and hours over the course of a year,” he adds. “Plus, there are times when my mind is somewhere else and I put down the hockey puck and accidentally throw stuff on top of it. Then you waste even more time looking for it.”

Furthermore, the puck locks aren’t foolproof, Kratowicz says, noting that thieves have pried them off his van before — and did significant damage to the vehicle in the process. “They’re a reasonable theft deterrent, but they’re not as good as a deadbolt,” he says.

In addition, the pucks aren’t a good look aesthetically, and they stick out far enough that they can get snagged on things and break off. “One time I was driving in an alley and got too close to a dumpster and it ripped the puck right off my door because it stuck out so far past the body,” he says. “That’s another good reason to get an internal deadbolt system.”

Moreover, the pucks get coated with snow and ice during the brutal Midwest winters. As such, Kratowicz says there are times he’s had to thaw them out with a torch.


As a plumbing contractor in a major city, Kratowicz realizes he’s a prime target for thieves. “The sign on the side of my truck is advertising for thieves,” he says. “It might as well say, ‘Tools inside.’”

But with the Cargolock system, he no longer feels vulnerable. “We’re not an easy target anymore,” he says. “If we buy another truck, we’ll also buy another Cargolock system. Eventually, I plan to outfit other vehicles we own with them. Given that they’re so secure, save time and are much less frustrating to use, it just makes sense.”


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