Antique Safes/LaGard


Why does the LaGard 3330 become difficult to turn while changing the combination. It seems to put a lot of tension on the keyway and key for the cam causing it to loosen up a little after a few combo changes. Such a great lock but it seems to be a weak point or design flaw. By the time it picks up the 1st wheel it is flexing the spindle about 1 to 1 1/2 numbers. My newest one is the worst one.Is there a way to correct this problem? Thanks for what ever info you can give me

ANSWER: Hi Dave,

Indicating that the lock has a design flaw is like our politicians indicating that our laws concerning the border are "broken" - they aren't the politicians simply don't want to follow the laws.

Similarly, there is no design flaw in the 3330 lock - it is what it is.

If you are going to compare it to say an S&G 6730, you are basically making an apples and oranges comparison.    While they are both fruit and both provide nutrients, they are not the same.

Both the 6730 and the 3330 are combination locks, they are simply different manufacturers versions of combination locks - no different than comparing a Hall's lock to a Yale or to a Diebold, etc. etc. etc.

If you are comparing the "quality" of the two locks, yes the S&G is a much better quality lock, but again, they are different locks.   LaGard was trying to give people exactly what they wanted a cheaper ALTERNATIVE to the S&G 6730.    At about 1/3 the price they accomplished that.

I noticed that you mentioned that "your newest one is the worst one".    If your lock is less than 10 years old, then it isn't a "LaGard 3330", it would be a 3390.    If you have a new 3330 then it may be one of the Chinese versions.   
Note:   While the Chinese were given permission to make copies of this lock, they were NEVER suppose to come to the US - what happened is that many of the Asian SAFE manufacturers used the locks and imported safes with them on.    While these may have the LaGard name on them, they were not made by LaGard, nor were they ever intended on being released in this country.

On to the "Hub / Wheel" release issue.    As the locking lever is NOT a separate piece, like the S&G levers, sometime this lever becomes damaged or does not grip the changing key as it is suppose to.   This can be caused by damage to that individual wheel, damage or wear to the hub locking lever, or by wear to the changing key, so that it does not engage correctly.

You will have to inspect each wheel to determine if it is releasing the hub correctly or not.   if you have extra LaGard pieces and parts laying around, changing out the bad wheel will more than likely correct the problem, however EACH wheel will need to be inspected.

Note:  In general as these locks are NOT that expensive, and as the wheels really have no serviceable parts, if you can't easily correct the problem with an individual wheel, or replace it, my recommendation would always be CHANGE THE LOCK OUT!

These locks were never intended to last forever, and generally the life of the lock is considered to be three years under normal commercial use.   if your lock is older than this or has seen much use, it may simply be worn out or damaged.    

Next item - If you are having to apply so much pressure that you are "TWISTING" - not flexing the dial spindle AT ALL!!!!!   Then something is seriously wrong with the lock!!!!   


While you are more than welcome to disassemble the lock to determine what the actual problem is and to correct it.   If it were me and if this lock was on a customers safe, I would not hesitate to replace it.    It would be way cheaper to replace the lock, than to have to make an emergency warranty service call to open and repair a customer safe, because of a lock failure.    This basic rule should apply to ANY lock, regardless of the manufacturer.   

Anyway, pull the lock apart and inspect the wheels one at a time to determine what the problem or issue with THAT wheel is.    Using the change key to unlock the wheel and hub, should allow them to rotate independently of each other fairly easily.
You might try spraying some lubricant like Tri-Flow on to the wheel, and manually rotating the wheel and hub.    

Again, if the wheel and hub won't release and/or won't easily rotate independently, then that wheel needs to be replaced.    Don't waste any time trying to disassemble them to repair them.    This is simply asking for problems later on.    If you don't have spare wheels, then replace the lock.

Also while you have the lock disassembled, inspect the wave washer (clean & lube it), and inspect the wheel post.   Make sure that it is cleaned and lubricated.    Don't apply too much lube thinking if a little is good, a lot must be better - its not!    Tiny amounts wiped almost dry are much better.    

Hope this helps, but remember if you can't get the wheels to work correctly - replace it or the lock and get on to the next job!

good luck.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

RE: My last question of LaGard wheels draging while changing combo; I did some checking on both of these LaGard Locks. And I guess I shouldn't have been suprised when I found that the lock I was talking to you about was the Chinese duplicate version as you said could be the case. I never noticed that before.  So I checked the one on the safe (the one that works much smoother) and it was made in USA.

Hi Dave,

Doesn't surprise me.    LaGard products in general (while they have had their share of problems) have always been a fairly reliable lock.

Again as to the issue of design flaws - you can't simply take a look at the "product" and compare it to other products, you have to take the bigger picture into account.    And of course the first and most important item on ANY companies list is THEIR bottom line - how much of the market share can they get.   They all look at percentages, for instance if S&G is going to control 40% of the market, that leaves 60% up for grabs for Kaba (LaGard), LockOne, SecureRam, etc. etc. etc.     While some of the smaller companies might be content and even happy grabbing a 10% share of the market, others want a larger share.

There are a couple of ways of doing this.   You could accomplish this in a couple of ways, though we in the service end of the business would always hope that the manufacturers would make a superior product at a minimum price.    This is kind of like the "Lock Unicorn", a mythical lock that doesn't exist.

In reality, what some companies do is to simply acquire a larger market share by buying up all of the competition.   This is what KABA has done, what FireKing International did, what Mosler did, etc. etc. etc.    Why make a better product, simply buy up the market.

I'm not sure what Sentry was thinking though, when they bought up Schwab and cheapened that product,    Other than there is always going to be a percentage of the market that doesn't give a hoot about quality.    Sorry Sentry, just MHO!

Even AMSEC has gotten into the fight over "lock market shares"!    While they have a lock on the portion of the market buying their safes, which comes with their locks, they are looking to force the fight even further by producing a quality cheap lock, hoping to either drag more market shares from the big boys (S&G, Kaba (LaGard)).    Problem is The cheaper ESL5 & ESL15 are having their own share of problems.

Bottom line, REGARDLESS of what the customer wants (minimum price & maximum quality), and what the manufacturers want (market shares and large profits),  QUALITY and CHEAP are simply never going to happen.    There is a fine line that manufacturers try to maintain in making and selling their product, and obviously this line is going to be slightly different for every maker - this is making the lock as cheaply as possible yet still keeping the quality as good as you can.

The other invisible problem that we see in the service end of the business that unfortunately doesn't make it back to the top is what we consider "FAILURE RATE".    The question is "WHY" do we see a higher failure rate than the manufacturer's indicate - EASY - they ONLY look at locks which are returned under warranty conditions, while we look at EVERY SINGLE lock failure!

The problem is that manufacturer's artificially HIDE the failure rates by making it difficult for the consumer to obtain warranties.    Locks are sold through distributors or safe makers, who wind up having to deal with the majority of the lock failures.    In many cases it is simply easier to replace the lock than to go through the headache of dealing with ANY of the lock makers to get a repair or replacement.    Bottom line a large majority of lock failures simply fall outside of the 1 year policy, or go unreported!

At any rate, the lock makers look at numbers of locks sold vs number of units returned.    This is kind of like the school lunch program.    If you look at the number of kids served and ONLY the number of lunches returned to the counter as inedible, the numbers are small.    If you INCLUDED the number of lunches which make it into the garbage can as well, it would give you an idea of how the program is actually doing.    Just as the school lunch programs don't want to include this part of the statistics, the lock manufacturers don't care about ANY failures which fall outside of their warranty period.

Sorry,  I've gone on about this, and hopefully I've beat this horse to death, but after several discussions with manufacturers the bottom line is they don't really care about anything other than "THEIR MARKET SHARE"!

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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 44 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of an Ely Norris Cannonball Safe from the early 1900's. Will answer Safe & Vault related questions concerning age, value, restoration, moving, opening & repairing, parts, operation and history. Note: It is not my intention to teach you to open safes or to provide information which may aid in the unlawful opening of a safe. I will not give out drill points or information which I deem inappropriate.


44 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. Owner and Service Manager for one of the largest Safe & Vault companies on the West Coast. Graduate of Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing, Safe lock Manipulation and Safe Deposit Lock Courses. Graduate of Locksmith Institute. Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes". Certified Instructor for the California Locksmith Association teaching Basic and Advanced Lock Servicing, Basic Safe opening and Repairing. Factory Trained by AMSEC, LORD Safes, LeFebure, Mosler, KabaMas, LaGard and Sargent & Greenleaf

Safecrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association

The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes

Graduate of Locksmith Institute 1972 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Servicing 1974 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Lock Manipulation 1975 Graduate Lockmasters Safe Deposit Lock Servicing 1985 Instructor Certified - California Locksmith Association - 1985 Factory trained by AMSEC, MAJOR, STAR, Johnson-Pacific, Kaba-MAS, Allied-Gary, ISM, Lord, Brown Safe, EXL, Mosler, Diebold.

Awards and Honors
2009 - 2015 Listed in AllExperts top 50 Experts. All Experts Categories - Safes & Security Containers, Locksmithing, Antique Safes. Retired US Army Chief Warrant Officer (CW4), with 39 years of total service. With numerous awards from Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Navy - 1971-1981 US Army Reserve 1984-2013 US Army Retired

Past/Present Clients
US Secret Service, FBI, BATF, Local Law enforcment agencies, Diebold, Hamilton Pacific, Red Hawk Int., Chubb International, Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, Mechanics Bank, El Dorado Savings Bank, many Credit unions and smaller banks. McDonalds, Togos, BurgerKing, TacoBell, Carls Jr. FoodMaxx, SaveMart, Lucky's, Albertson's, Raley's, Safeway, NobHill, Bell Markets, PW Markets. Great America, Century Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, UA Cinemas, and many homeowners and small businesses. Provide warranty service for lock and safe manufactures. Service area is Northern California - Fresno to Oregon, including western Nevada

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