How To Decide Which Whale Tail Style Handle To Buy?

How To Decide Which Whale Tail Style Handle To Buy?

Choosing the right handles for your service body, 4WD canopy or work ute can be a time consuming affair. They'll all start looking a bit similar and you start to wonder, what really is the difference? This brief read will help break down some of the key components and what to look out for in your whale tail style handles.

Lock Type

Whale tail style handles do more than make it easy to close and open panels and doors. Most whale tail style handles provide security to keep people you don't want snooping around getting in. If you're looking for a locking whale tail style handle then your decision will be whether you want an automotive style or euro profile locking mechanism.


Whale tail style handles that contain no locking mechanism are, unsurprisingly, called Non-Locking.

Generic Letterbox Style

This is the most common locking style on the market and used by no-brand handles. It provides minimal security with the locking mechanism being mass produced and easily opened with a screwdriver by those who know how.

Automotive Style

Some whale tail style handles use automotive style or economy barrel locking mechanisms. These locking mechanisms may use keys and barrels similar to old cars. These mechanisms are perfectly fine, ensuring a good amount of security.

Euro Profile

If you want to ensure maximum security, a Euro profile mechanism is ideally what you want. These handles don't always come with a key and barrel, allowing you to buy whatever high security half euro profile locking mechanism you desire. For true high security you could even get a custom key made up. Many retailers will offer a high security key and barrel that can be added to your purchase.


If security is high on your agenda you should also make sure that the whale tail style handle can be padlocked as well. This is normally achieved by a hasp secured to the recessed portion of the handle that allows a padlock to pass through the folding section and the hasp. For general applications a padlockable automotive locking whale tail style handle will suit, for the security conscious, the padlockable Euro profile option will be the way to go.

Locking System

Whale tail style handles are designed to be used in a wide range of applications and varying strengths of security.

Single Point Locking

Many whale tail style handles come with an adjustable roller cam - this is a rolling piece of plastic that helps secure the locking plate against the inside cabinet - its adjustability allowing for varying door thicknesses. If this is the only part of the lock securing the door closed the handle is considered a Single Point Lock, as there is only one locking point.

Multi Point Locking

Rarely you will find two point locking systems. Instead of having one single main locking point, two rods extend off the locking plate, these run the length of the door and can slot into the frame. 3 Point Locking is the combination of both the cam and two rods. Depending on the size of the door 3 Point Locking is definitely recommended as it stops people being able to pry open the corners, will mean the panel sits more flush and creates a more solid & secure locking system.

Central Locking Modules

You might think to yourself, I want to have 4 or 5 handles on my work truck, it seems a bit silly that I'm going to have to constantly lock and unlock each one individually. And the answer to that is adding central locking modules. These inexpensive modules have an electronic actuator arm that will activate the locking mechanism. These central locking modules can be connected to your ute central locking system or a separate system allowing you to lock all your handles with the click of a button. Because these modules are on the inside it's important to protect the actuator from what you are storing knocking it. Many central locking units leave the actuator exposed which not only looks ugly but leaves it very susceptible to being dislodged and broken. This is where I spruik our handles (I think you should just be surprised it took this long!) and point out that our central locking units are fully enclosed, keeping it tidy and protecting the actuator in the long term.

Position & Orientation

Which Way Is The Right Way Up To Mount Your Handle?

Whale tail style handles are generally designed to have the lock keyway at the top and the roller cam at the bottom. They can be placed in all sorts of positions though, as long as the roller cam can easily slide onto the frame to latch the door in place. If the panel opens down (in the manner it might create a table surface), the handle will commonly be mounted 'upside down'.

Right Or Left Central Locking Module For Your Whale Tail Style Handle?

If you are considering getting the central locking modules for your whale tail style handles you will need to consider the orientation of the module. For most use cases, where the handle is fitted in the middle of decent sized panel, it won't really matter which side the module comes off of the handle. However, if you are wanting the handle on one side of the panel (you might want to have two handles at each corner of the panel), you will want to make sure the handle is placed near the panel edge and the module must go away from the panel edge. This is where the right or left side of door comes into play. The handle mounted with the keyhole at the top and on the left side of the door will need the actuator going to the right. This can be annoying to get your head around so I've drawn it up below and to repeat. Central locking handles placed correct way up at the left corner will need an actuator pointing to the right and are labelled as LEFT side of door. Left or right is NOT in regards to the actuator position, but the handle placement.

Sides for Central locking units on whale tail handles


Most handles are made from some sort of zinc alloy. There are two main ways of forming the handle which are die cast or stamped. Some Whale Tail style handles have a stamped base and a die cast handle. 

What Is Stamped?

Stamping is a cold formed process where a sheet of material is pushed into the desired shape. This method is cheaper and doesn't allow for complex geometry. It can also form stressors in the metal weakening it.

What Is Die Cast?

Die casting is a casting process where molten material is forced into a mould at high pressure. The molten material allows for complex geometry meaning areas likely to take more stressors can be made thicker. Die casting is the same technology used to create medical equipment, engines and other complex components. Depending on their design, most fully die cast handles will be longer lasting and sturdier than their stamped cousins.


Whale tail style handles are mostly either black or chrome. These finishing layers create an added layer of protection against corrosion. Whilst there are different types of chrome finishes, most handles do not specify the type of chrome finish used. When a handle is black they are generally either done through powder-coating or Electrophoretically Deposited Paint (EDP).

What Is EDP (Electrophoretically Deposited Paint)?

Electrophoretically Deposited Paint (EDP) uses charged paint particles that are suspended in a liquid that the metal component to be painted is fully submerged in. An electric charge is applied to the metal component and the paint particles are attracted the metal component. Then the component is heated or chemically treated to set the paint. Since the part is submerged in the paint solution it means the paint will adhere to the most complex geometry evenly. EDP is generally better than powder coating as it allows for much better coverage, control over paint thickness and less variation.

What Is Powder Coating?

Powder coating sprays the part with paint particles, the part is then heated or chemically treated to set the paint. Since the part is sprayed, it is more likely to produce uneven application and miss the crevices of complex geometry.

Extra Things To Think About

There are a few other factors that are worth thinking about that might affect your decision. If you are looking to use a padlock you should consider the quality and thickness of the hasp. You might want to find a handle with a stainless steel shaft - the main rotating pin through the handle - to ensure the handle is long lasting. You might consider the weight of the handle. You might look for what matches your fit out or what might stand out a bit. Maybe where they are designed matters? Many handles are no name brand which means they are Chinese designs copying old designs. Most of these Chinese handles are knock-offs of the original Whale Tail design by Eberhard who coined the term Whale Tail. Eberhard is an American company who designed these handles for the American market. We, at Selectlok, designed our handles in Melbourne for the Australian market.

Decision Time!

Well, that's easy! You're on the Selectlok website, we have a huge collection of central locking system to choose from.

An Australian designed Selectlok Midnight whale tail style handle is a fully zinc die cast handle available in Chrome plating or EDP Black. It's the long lasting, high-quality heavy duty security solution.

Click here to check out our Selectlok Midnight whale tail style handle

Click here to check out our Selectlok Central Locking Midnight whale tail style handle

Click here to check out our rods and rod guides

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