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How a Locksmith Opens a Combination Safe Lock

Keeping important documents, cash and other valuable items in a combination safe is a smart idea in case of burglary, fire or natural disaster, but what happens when you can’t get the safe open to access those important things?

Despite the numerous types of modern locking devices for safes – including electronic keypads and biometric fingerprint readers – traditional combination locks continue to be a popular way to keep cash and valuables secure. They are effective and difficult to crack, but exactly because they’re effective, trying to open a safe when the combination has been forgotten or isn’t working can prove to be difficult and time-consuming.

It looks so easy to crack a safe in the movies; just put your ear to it and turn the dial slowly. Good luck using this method! In reality, whether you forgot the combination or are unable to open the safe because of mechanical problems, it’s best to call a trusted locksmith to avoid damaging the lock and making it more difficult to open or repair. There are a few techniques that a professional locksmith can employ to troubleshoot the problem and get the safe open. Learn about the reasons why a safe may not open and how a locksmith can work around these challenges.

Why is the Combination Safe Not Opening?

When a homeowner or business manager has problems opening a combination safe it can be stressful, but don’t panic or begin taking drastic measures that could damage the lock mechanism. The first step to getting the safe open is to identify the problem.

Forgotten Combination

If you simply can’t remember the combination for the safe, take a break. It may seem like useless advice, but sometimes, if you divert your attention to another task for a short period, the thing you are trying to remember will suddenly return. You should also check with anyone who has access to the safe to be sure they have not changed the combination.

When you have verified that the combination hasn’t been altered from the one it had when originally purchased, there may be a quick fix to the problem. Find the serial number, which is usually on the side or on the back panel of the safe, and contact the manufacturer. There is a good chance that they will be able to recover the combination for you.

If this isn’t; possible, a skillful locksmith should be able to manipulate the lock. Thanks to Hollywood films, this is the technique that we often associate with cracking safes. By listening for specific sounds and feeling the vibrations that a dial makes as it’s turned, a locksmith can find the right combination to unlock the safe. This is the best way to resolve the problem as it doesn’t harm the integrity of the safe and can usually be completed in less than an hour.

Safe Not Opening With the Correct Combination

If you are sure the combination you’re using to open the safe is correct, yet the door is not opening, this may indicate a problem with the lever or hinges rather than an issue with the locking mechanism. Often the first method for opening the safe is to pry the door. Applying grease to the hinges may increase success as you apply pressure and try to pry the door and bolt work out of the safe’s frame.

This is generally the least effective way to open a combination safe and should be used with caution as there is a high risk of damaging the safe beyond repair.

Make sure that you are using the proper method for opening the lock with the combination. Here is a video which can serve as a helpful reminder of how to do this.

Combination Dial Loose or Not Rotating Completely

When a dial seems to stick on a certain number or it stops rotating altogether, this is the sign of a more serious problem with the lock. Before taking further measures, check with the manufacturer. If it’s still under warranty, the manufacturer may be able to send a professional out to troubleshoot the problem at no extra cost.

For safes that are no longer under warranty, the next step should be to call a locksmith. It’s likely that the internal parts of the lock have broken or have been worn out to the point that they block the dial or that the dial has disconnected from the mechanical gears completely.

Related article: How Ethical Lock-Pickers Help Increase Security.

How Can a Locksmith Open a Safe?

It may seem impossible to open a locked safe, but locksmiths have a few tools of the trade they can use assess the problem, free the lock and repair it or, at the very least, allow the owner to access and retrieve the contents.


Although professional locksmiths rarely take this course of action, it’s possible to cut a locked safe open. Using either a torch or a saw, they simply cut into the safe. This process is messy, noisy, slow and destroys the safe. Depending on the material used to construct the safe, several sets of saw blades may be needed as they are dulled down.


A tiny hole can be drilled into the safe for the locksmith to pass a small instrument inside and see how to open the lock. Many manufacturers now equip safes with advanced interior technology which can make the job challenging, but this is often the preferred method because of the relative speed of the process and the minor repairs needed to render the safe usable again.


After drilling a small hole in the safe, a locksmith inserts a borescope into the hole to get an idea of how to open the lock. This is an effective and relatively inexpensive method to utilize when added security measures – such as glass re-lockers or manipulation-proof mechanical locks – are present.

Need a Locksmith?

Some issues are complex and will require the help of a locksmith. Before calling for assistance, it’s helpful to have the following information about the combination safe:

  1. Manufacturer
  2. Model number
  3. Approximate size of the lock
  4. Any tags mounted on the safe

Get more information on how to Choose the Right Safe for Your Home or Your Business.

For more information on how to troubleshoot a problematic combination safe lock or to call one of our professional, experienced locksmiths out to your home or business today, contact Great Valley Lockshop at (610) 644-5334 or fill out our online request a quote form.

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