What is a Whale Tail Handle? - Your Comprehensive Guide.

What is a Whale Tail Handle? - Your Comprehensive Guide.

What is a Whale Tail Handle? - Your Comprehensive Guide.

Choosing the right handles when constructing your service body, 4WD canopy or work Ute can be a stressful and time-consuming affair. After a while, they'll all start looking a bit similar and you start to wonder, what really is the difference?

This brief yet comprehensive guide will help break down some of the key components and what to look out for when choosing a whale tail handle for your build.


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 a nicer overall aesthetic element to your build than many other types of latches and handles available. They will also generally provide a greater range of locking styles for added extra security. This will help ensure you keep people (that you don't want), from snooping around and getting in.

If you're looking for a locking whale tail style handle, then your decision will be whether you want one of the following locking mechanisms.



Whale tail style handles that contain no locking mechanism are, unsurprisingly, called Non-Locking. These are generally not very common however and would primarily be used on internal doors & drawers where security is not as much of a factor.


Economy Style Barrel

This is the most common locking style on the market and used by most "no-brand" or cheaper handles.

They are also found in a range of other products on the market (such as generic style folding-t's and compression latches etc.) and thus there can be a degree of overlap between similar key codes and product ranges. This means that there is a greater risk of someone having a key that may grant access your handles.

They also provide minimal security with the locking mechanism being mass produced and easily opened with a screwdriver by those who know how.


Automotive Key Style

Some whale tail style handles use automotive style barrel locking mechanisms. These locking mechanisms as the name suggests may use keys and barrels similar in appearance to older model car keys.

These mechanisms are perfectly fine, ensuring a good amount of security and providing a greater range of key codes that can be offered within a particular style of handle.


Euro Profile Cylinder

If you want to ensure maximum security, a Euro profile cylinder mechanism is ideally what you want. These handles don't always come with a key and barrel as part of the purchase price and may require to be purchased separately.

This, however, allows you the option to either purchase from the selected key codes offered by the retailer OR the ability to source whatever variant of high-grade security half euro profile locking mechanism you desire. For a truly unique and high security alternative you could even get a custom key made up by engaging with a reputable locksmith.

Don't stress if this seems all to overwhelming, most retailers will offer a high security key and barrel that can be added to your purchase and the added benefit of using a euro profile is that you can always retrofit one of the higher security locking solutions at a later date if you so change your mind.



If security is high on your agenda, then you should also make sure that the whale tail style handle can be padlocked alongside an integrated key barrel.

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 either a straight/flat or bent metal tongue (referred to as a cam) or an adjustable roller cam (this is a rolling piece of nylon or plastic that helps secure the locking plate against the inside cabinet) both are generally adjustable and allow 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 contact point retaining the doors position.


Multi Point Locking

In some instances, you will find these set up with multi or two-point locking systems. Instead of having one single main locking point, two locking rods extend off the locking plate or cam.

These run the length of the door via a rod guide and can use a rod and/or roller to either sit behind the frame gusset or slot into the frame itself. You can also possibly use a rod slam catch or rotary burst latch.

Three (3) Point Locking is the use of a combination of both the single-point cam as well as two locking rods. Depending on the size of the door, three-point locking is definitely recommended as it helps to re-enforce the door at both ends, as well as at the handle itself. This stops people being able to pry open the corners and will also mean the panel sits flusher and creates a more stable & secure locking system.

It can also mean that you only need to use one handle centrally on the door as opposed to having two handles at either end of a door facing opposite directions which can create additional nuances in the operation of the door itself.


Central Locking Modules

You might be thinking 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." The answer to this dilemma is to add a central locking element into the design.

These inexpensive modules have an electronic actuator arm that will "throw" to activate the locking mechanism. These central locking modules can be connected to your vehicles existing central locking system or a via separate system connected to a power source, allowing you to lock all your handles with the click of a button. (It is worth noting that the majority of these central locking module are purchased from retailers without the inclusion of a wiring harness/diagram or remote/fob due to the variety and complexity of most modern vehicle central locking systems and how they integrate with the vehicle's ECU.)

Because these modules are on the inside of the door, they are often exposed to the internal storage or and items being stored within. It's important to protect the actuators from being damaged or jammed by any loose items and excessive movement from drawers behind the unit coming free and knocking into it. Many central locking units leave the actuator exposed which not only looks ugly but leaves it very susceptible to being dislodged and broken.

It is suggested to look for a handle who's central locking units are fully enclosed, keeping it tidy and protecting the actuator from long term damage.


Position & Orientation

Which way is the "right way" to mount your handle?

Whale tail style handles are generally designed in such a way that when closed displays the paddle/handle & lock keyway facing upwards toward the top of the door and the cam or roller cam facing down at the bottom. This is intuitive of a door that is hinged at the top and latched at the bottom, "lifting up" when opened. Often with the aid of pressurized gas struts.

They can be placed in all sorts of positions though (such as sideways), as long as the cam can easily slide onto or behind 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 Handed' or 'Left Handed' Central Locking Modules. What to choose for your whale tail handle?

If you are considering incorporating central locking units into your whale tail locking system you will need to consider the orientation of the module itself.

For most use cases, where the handle is fitted in the middle of a decent sized door or 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 door), 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 having the handles mounted to either the right or left side of door comes into play. If a Selectlok Whale Tail is mounted in the standard orientation with the keyhole at the top and for example, "is mounted on the left-hand side of the door" it will need the actuator to sit off to the right of the handle, running back towards the doors centre (as viewed from the OUTSIDE of the door/enclosure).

This can be confusing to get your head around, so we have created the below diagram.


A Selectlok whale tail handle: If placed in the standard orientation (example) in the lower left corner of the door, it will require an actuator "running" back to the right (or center of the panel) and will be labelled as a LEFT-HAND unit.

Left or right is NOT in regard to the Actuator position on the whale tail itself, but rather how the Handle & CL Module sits in relation to its panel placement. Keeping in mind this is based as though it is being viewed from outside of the canopy or toolbox.

Orientation of central locking units on Selectlok whale tail handles


Most handles on the market are generally made from some sort of zinc alloy. There are two main ways of forming the handle - 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 (or "hot" formed) process where molten material is forced into a mould at an extremely high pressure. 

Using the molten material to form the shape of the mould allows for the use of more complex geometry designs, meaning that that the cast areas likely withstand more external stressors and can be made substantially thicker.

Die casting is the same technology often used to create medical equipment, engines and other complex components that require reliable consistency in their structural integrities. Depending on their design, most fully die cast handles will have a longer lasting lifespan and be sturdier than their stamped cousins.



Whale tail style handles are mostly available in either black or chrome finish, although some retailers have them available in a mixed finish, such as a black dish with a chrome handle.

It is worth keep in mind though if you are considering a mixed finish handle that this means these units can still take on the respective properties (whether they be positive or negative) of both finishes. Potentially leading to having a portion of the handle finish that can appear more weathered than the other. (For example, the black being subject to UV fade or the having the chrome tarnish, etc.)

These finishing layers help to create an added layer of protection against oxidization & corrosion. Whilst there are different types of chrome finishes available, most handles do not specify the type of chrome finish used.

When a handle finish is black, they are generally either done through powder-coating or Electrophoretically Deposited Paint (EDP).


What Is EDP (Electrophoretically Deposited Paint)?

Electrophoretically Deposited Paint or "EDP" as it is commonly referred to, 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 to the metal component.

Then the component is heated or chemically treated to 'set' the paint. Since the part is fully submerged in the paint solution it means that the finish will adhere evenly to even the most complex geometric designs.

EDP is a more desirable finish than powder coating as it allows for a more complete and even coverage, as well as additional control over paint thickness with less variation in the final finish.

It is also considered much sturdier, known for being potentially more resistant to scratching and markings as well as being regarded as less impervious to colour fade due to prolonged UV exposure.


What Is Powder Coating?

Powder coating is a type of finish that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder. Unlike conventional liquid paint, which is delivered via an evaporating solvent, powder coating is typically applied electrostatically and then cured using either heat or with the use of an ultraviolet light.

Powder coating is often the more economical solution for a range of products that are either commercially or mass-produced and is highly regarded as a viable, sturdy and blemish resistant alternative to conventional paints. It is frequently used in outdoor applications where the product is destined for use in areas where it may be 'left out in the elements.' 

Since the part is sprayed, there is always a chance that it can produce an uneven application or even miss certain areas of the product being coated. This is where other finish options may sometimes be more desirable.


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 with your handles, you should consider the quality and thickness of the hasp. You might also want to look for a whale tail that is designed with a stainless steel main shaft (this is the rotating pin through from the handle that connects to the cam/internals). This will help to ensure the handle is structurally strong and more resistant to attempted break-ins.

You might also consider the weight of the handle. You might be looking for something that matches what is already incorporated into your fit out or something eye catching that may visually stand out a bit, for example.

Maybe where the handle has been designed and manufactured matters? Many handles out there are of a "no name" brand. Which may mean they are being cheaply mass-produced by overseas factories that are only simply copying or appropriating older designs from more reputable companies and not going under any sort of testing or subject to any quality assurance procedures.

Most of these "foreign" handles are often just knock-offs of the original Whale Tail design by Eberhard who originally coined the term. Eberhard is an American company who first designed these handles for the American market.

At Selectlok, all of our whale tails have been designed in-house at our head office in Melbourne and have been heavily scrutinised and thoroughly tested by both our own team as well as key industry stakeholders to ensure that they are fit-for-use in the harshest of conditions to suit the Australian market.


Decision Time!

Well, that was easy!

You're on the Selectlok website, we have a huge collection of whale tails, central locking systems and complementary products to choose from.

In buying an Australian designed Selectlok Midnight whale tail style handle, you can rest assured that are buying a fully zinc die cast handle, available in either a Chrome plated or EDP Black finish. Our Midnight V3 & Midnight MINI V3 handles also incorporate a Stainless Steel shaft, threaded retaining studs (not simply cast or spot welded) and are also available in either an Automotive Barrel OR Half Euro Profile Cylinder.

It's the long lasting, high-quality, heavy duty security solution and the obvious choice. What are you waiting for?

Click here to shop our full range of Whale Tails, Folding T and Paddle Handles
Click here to shop our full range of Multi-Point Locking Systems
Click here to shop our full range of Gas Struts & Accessories
Click here to shop our full range of Ball Bearing Drawer Slides
Click here to shop our full range of Foam, PVC & Rubber Sealing
Click here to shop our full range of Hinges & Miscellaneous

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