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Houdini Automotive Escape Tool Review

on February 6, 2009 4:05 pm

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Every so often, I’ll hear a story on the news about someone getting trapped in their vehicle after an accident. We’ve probably all wondered what we would do in a situation like that. I have something to show you today that will make you feel more confident the next time you wonder how you would react if you were trapped in your car. It’s the Houdini Automotive Escape Tool.

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There are two versions of this tool. The Pro version and the non-Pro version. Let’s start with the less expensive non-Pro version.

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This tool is made of bright Yellow plastic and is small enough (2.5 x 1.25 x 0.5 in) that it can fit easily in the glove box of your vehicle, a purse or gear bag.

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This small device has several escape features. Pull off the keyring / blade cover, to expose a very sharp cutting blade. You can use this to slice through a seat belt.

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You can also see the window breaker tip. It has a spring loaded point inside it, that will pop out and shatter a window.

With the blade cover off, you can also use the built in LED flash light.

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Just slide and hold the Black button on the front to light the LED. When you let go of the button, the light goes off. I wish that you could lock the switch in place, but this is better than nothing.

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There’s also a built in whistle. It’s not the greatest whistle in the world, but it should get someone’s attention when you blow it.

This smaller, non-Pro version is priced at $24.95 and it is handy. The only issue I have with it is that you have to pull off the blade cover to use the window breaker tip. In an emergency situation, I’d rather have a device that is ready to go and doesn’t require me to fumble around removing parts of it.

That’s where the Houdini Pro comes in…

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The Pro comes with a nice nylon belt case and a small screw driver to be used for changing the flashlight battery.

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There’s a lot more substance to the Houdini Pro. It is about the size of a utility knife and has a robust hard plastic case.

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There’s a metal pocket clip attached to the back side.

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The hooked seat belt cutting tool swivels out for action like a pocket knife blade. It locks in place and is extremely sharp.

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This tool also has a built in LED flashlight. The small Black rubber button at the top toggles the light on and off. Unlike the non-Pro Houdini, you don’t have to hold the button to keep the light lit.

When I accepted these tools for review, I had the greatest idea for how I would test it. Since I live very close to an auto salvage yard, I thought they would allow me to test the tool inside an actual car. Unfortunately for me, when I stopped by one day to talk to them, they shot me down and said no way. Come to find out, glass is a big thing for junkyards, and this one happens to sell windshields and side windows all over the world. To say that I was bummed is an understatement :(

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Luckily I did have a back up plan… Included with the tools was a 5 x 5 inch piece of glass. Although not as sexy and testing in a real vehicle, this would have to do…

The bubbles that you see in the image above are from the thin plastic cover that is affixed to both sides. It’s there to keep the tiny pieces of glass from making a mess when we test the tool.

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The Houdini Pro has a window breaking tip just like the non-Pro tool. The only difference is that the Pro tool is easier to handle since it is larger, and you don’t have to remove any parts to use it. To test the window breaker, you place the tip on the glass and push down. The spring loaded tip will depress and then a point inside it will pop out with enough force to shatter the glass. It’s very quick and easy to do. It does not require significant effort. I think even a child could probably do it if instructed properly.

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Here’s that same 5 x 5 piece of glass a few seconds later. It’s totally shattered. Even though I wasn’t able to test this on an actual car window, I think this tool would easily break it. When I talked to the guys at the auto salvage yard, they were familiar with similar tools and said that they work great. I am inclined to agree with them.

If I were going to buy one of these tools, I’d go for the Houdini Pro. Although it costs $15 more than the non-Pro version, it’s easier to use and feels like a better quality tool. I’m going to put this one in my glove box. Then the next time I see a news story about someone getting trapped in their vehicle as a result of an accident, I won’t have to wonder what I’d do in a similar situation.

 

Product Information

Price:$24.95 and $39.95
Manufacturer:Houdini Inc.
Pros:
  • Both tools have a cutting blade, glass breaker and LED flashlight
  • Easy to use glass breaking tool
Cons:
  • Changing the batteries on the non-Pro tool is not easy

Comments

  1. 1

    I saw this tested on an NBC affiliate in NY after my local news was up. Ann Curry (the news person) who tested it did it right on a new car driver side window. Shattered it completely. They do not recommend it for windshields, however, since they are constructed differently.

    The one they tested was smaller, and was a key-ring type of device – simple to carry around. I think everyone should spend the $20 and have it in their glove box or keyring. The power it packs will astound you. AND – I believe they are all self re-loading.

  2. 2
    lgreenberg says:

    As a firefighter I was psyched to see this review!

    Just an fyi. While they look like very nice, products items that do the similar, if not the same, job can be found much cheaper.

    Similar key chain version for $8.99 http://www.thefirestore.com/store/product.cfm/pid_695_res_q_me_personal_rescue_key_chain_size_tool/

    Knife, seat belt cutter and window punch combo for $19.99 http://www.thefirestore.com/store/product.cfm/pid_6068_boker_magnum_firefighter_39_s_folding_rescue_knife/

    Auto Rescue Kit for $19.99 http://www.thefirestore.com/store/product.cfm?pID=1354

    Rescue Set – $21.95 http://www.firefighter.com/Leases2/Home.cfm?Action=Webview&ProductID1=HST428&WebRet=Yes&StoreID=205

    Just to name a few.

  3. 3
    Julie says:

    @Anthony: Yes, they can be used again and again.

    @lgreenberg: Thanks for the additional links! Are there standard issue tools like these that you use as a firefighter?

  4. 4
    Bob Quinlan says:

    I’ve had the Pro version in both of my cars since back when they were named the ERT-1. I have not had to use them in an emergency, but the cutters have done a nice job as utility tools.

    My only complaint is that the lights on mine are both dead. Changing batteries and such has not revived either one. Since neither of them has been subjected to any more stress than just being in my car for a few years that is not impressive. Make sure you have another light source available.

    Despite the LED failures I like these tools. They handle better than the keychain versions I’ve tried and they seem to be tougher.

  5. 5
    lgreenberg says:

    @Julie – absolutely.

  6. 6
    Julie says:

    @lgreenberg: How do your tools differ from these?

  7. 7
    Scott Pennington says:

    Hey,lgreenberg:

    I am very familiar with the ResQMe, and take it from me, it is a total piece of cheap crap. The glass breaker only works 50% of the time, and the seatbelt cutter blade is so poorly designed that the seat belt just gets bunched up in the slot. It also has no LED light. I think it is worth it to pay a few dollars more to have a product that actually works in an emergency. Regarding the Houdini Pro, this is a professional rescue tool built to a whole other standard, and is used by fire fighters, police, and military all over the world.

  8. 8
    Julie says:

    @Scott: Are you a rescue worker too? Just curious…

  9. 9
    FubarGuy says:

    I’d be inclined to agree with Scott – this is one area where going cheap doesn’t sound like a very good idea. I only wish the Houdini site offered some kind of discount for multiple purchases, since I’d buy at least 2 for our family. Or even something off for Gadgeteer referrals!

    Oh, and the link on their site that prompts “Click here for your escape guide” doesn’t go any where. What’s that about?

  10. 10
    FatboyDimUK says:

    Hey! I think these tools are great ideas but I know of too many people who would have one for just plain old breakin and entering or robbing things out of peoples vehicles! The cheeky scamps…. do they monitor who these products are sold to?!

    Fatboy Dim

  11. 11
    lgreenberg says:

    FubarGuy, simply not the case. Take it from someone who actually uses these tools in “real life” situations. The ones I posted (okay the ResQMe tool excluded) do they same job at a cheaper price. Sort of like a Ford vs. a Benz. They both get you there but one just looks better doing so.

    If all you’re looking for is a window tool a simple spring loaded punch is the best thing out there and it’s way cheaper.

  12. 12
    Ronald says:

    over here in the netherlands we’ve got a little hammer like tool. at the top two sides with sharp metal points , at the bottom a reclined cutter.

    they advice you not to keep it in the glove compartment because when you’re upside down in your car (eg after a crash ) you might not get to it. the seat belt will keep you in your chair. (do wear the seat belt otherwise you might already be dead or unconscious ).
    they advice you to attach it somewhere in reach of you, preferably near the roof (wich will make it easier to grab upside down.

  13. 13
    Matthew Stevenson says:

    I noticed in the article that the tester had questioned the fact that the smaller tool’s key chain cap required removal before the glass breaker could be utilized. I myself wondered the same thing, but after talking with the company, it became clear to me that this was an intentional design detail and was a good one.

    As stated in the article, regarding the glass breaker, “I think even a child could probably do it” and this would surely be an unwanted event. So to prevent this, the cap serves multiple purposes, one of which is as a safety barrier.

    They told me that the cap must be removed before use because this is an item that is intended for key chain application and as such, could be readily accessible to children. So they designed the cap to block the use of the glass breaker, without removal, to prevent children from “testing” it’s usefulness and also to prevent children (and adults) from getting there fingers accidentally in and/or around the seat belt cutting blade.

  14. 14
    Mel Chen says:

    this is more a request than a comment. I dropped my non-pro Houdini and the cover over the light switch and battery broke. It also appears that the leads from the battery to the bulb have also broken. So the question is, is there a repair kit, or possibly a way to obtain repair parts?
    Thanks. I would appreciate a response because I feel that the tool is important to have available in the car. I actually keep it on my key ring.
    Mel

  15. 15
    Sam says:

    I find it interesting that the review said that the keychain version is unnecessarily burdensome because a cap needs to be removed. I actually find the Pro version more cumbersome since you have to get it out of the bag, and the cutter has to be swiveled out. One may argue that the bag is unnecessary, but then I can also say that the keychain’s cap is unnecessary. You can certainly carry it loose and uncapped in your pocket or secure it to your dashboard, i.e. with Velcro™.

    I also find the momentary switch of the keychain more functional since a likely use of the LED is for signaling. This is useful if the car has fallen in the water and you need to signal a search helicopter in the dark. The Lambertian distribution of an LED means that some can be seen from a mile away in total darkness. A flashing light is much more noticeable than a steady light. You can certainly make a steady light flash by constantly shifting the switch or swinging the light, but that takes effort and waste electricity (from batteries that have very little energy to begin with).

  16. 16
    chowgirl says:

    I have 4 of these, one on each window, each with its own mini fire extinguisher box with a mini hammer inside that says “in case of emergency break glass” …just in case!
    and one on the keychain so I can pull it away and punch in one motion. great conversation piece with valets and kids at home improvement stores.

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