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Locksmithing/On guard safe can't get it open


Hi Terry,

I have an On Guard safe, it is a cream grey coloured, and likely from the early 90's or late 80's.

It is similar in apperance to the safe in this picture

Please note, it is not that safe, it has the same style combination dial and swinging arm lever.

I have the combination, I follow the sequence L or couter clockwise 4 times stop on number, R or clockwise 3 times stop on number, L or counter clockwise 2 times stop on number and slowly turn R or clockwise till the dial is supposed to stop. turn arm lever clockwise and pull to open. My problem is..

when I turn the dial to the right after rolling the 3 combination numbers the dial doesn't stop... it will tighten.. but not come to a complete stop.

 If I turn the lever arm and pull whilst turning the dial waiting for the stop.. . it will stop on the same number every time, but will not open... when I had the safe open last it opened on a different number, yet would pull stop always on the same one.

I have had the safe open in the past, every time it is very tricky to open it takes me several attempts to open, growing increasingly frustrated each time.

can the arm fail, or is there perhaps something I can do to get it open without damaging the safe?.. the safe and door are locked and I have valueables inside I wish to get out.

Any help you can provide I would greatly apprecatiate, I am in Canada if that helps source the model of On Guard safe, it has no markings or identification. I do have the manufacturers combination and opening instructions sheet .

It is a On Guard safe, analog dial and lever arm only.

Thanks for your help, looking forward to your respose.



There are ONLY three reasons a safe lock will not open, they are:
1.  Incorrect Dialing sequence (operator errors),
2.  Incorrect combination (wrong numbers), and
3.  Mechanical problems.

First thing that I want to ensure is that you are dialing it correctly.  As you have indicated that you are turning the dial "X" revolutions and THEN stopping on the numbers.   DO NOT count the revolutions of the dial, count the INDIVIDUAL number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.   For example if your combination is 50-25-75 you would dial it as:

Dialing sequence is:
4 times left TO the first number (50)
3 times right TO the second number (25),
2 time left TO the third number (75),
1 time right until the dial stops (should be around 90).

NOTE:   Left is counter clockwise, Right is clockwise.  Do not count the revolutions of the dial, count the individual number as it arrives at the 12 o'clock index mark.  For instance on your first number you would turn the dial counter clockwise (left), stopping the FOURTH time the number 50 arrives at the index mark, then you would turn the dial clockwise (right) stopping the third time the number 25 arrives at the index.
Note:   From 50 to 25 is only twenty five numbers, this means that you ARE NOT turning the dial 3 full revolutions, you are actually ONLY turning the dial TWO revolutions plus the twenty five numbers.

Ok, as you have also indicated that this has given you trouble for a long time, the lock has probably needed service for a long time.   Any time that you have to dial your combination more than 3 times to open it (consistently), it is time to have the lock serviced.   The safe technician from a local safe company would take the lock and clean it, relube it correctly AND reset the combination so that it would accurately dial the combination.   Not having it serviced ensures that it will give you more problems in the future.

You can try adding and subtracting numbers from your combination to see if it will open, once you have it open - DO NOT close and lock it until you have had it inspected and serviced.
So if your combination is the 50-25-75 you would add and subtract as follows:

Add          Subtract
51-26-76          49-24-74
52-27-77          48-23-73
53-28-78          47-22-72
54-29-79          46-21-71
55-30-80          45-20-70

If the lock still won't open you need to have a safe technician from a local safe company check it out.   NOTE:  I NEVER recommend using locksmiths for safe work, as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes without causing excessive damage.

If your safe is small enough that you can take it to the safe company, then you can save the cost of a mobile service charge.

Sorry, but this is about as much help as I can offer at this time - mechanical problems require hands on diagnostics and solutions.   It may be something simple that just needs service, or it may be a failed lock which results in having the safe drilled.   ENSURE that you are dialing it correctly by following the instructions above to the letter, and by trying the (add/subtract) sequences.   If you still can't get it open, don't fool around any longer, take it to the pros.

Good luck,


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Terry V. Andreasen (Andy)


Safe and Vault related Questions; Antique Safe Repair and Restoration; With over 42 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. 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 Author of "The Coffee Table Guide to Antique Safes".

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association Safe & Vault Technicians Association (SAVTA)

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 Expert 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 and Western Nevada)

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