Locksmithing/Safe Won't Open


My in floor adesco safe has a dial lock which is not working.  I have tried the combination at least 2 dozen times but with no results.  When turning the dial, more revolutions make it more difficult to turn.  When turning the opposite direction the dial seems to loosen a bit.  At the end of the combination cycle the dial doesn't stop and the safe remails locked.  May I use WD-40 or something else to maybe help?  I tapped the dial with a hammer but nothing changed.  Any help you can provide will be appreciated.




There are only three reasons a safe lock will not open, in order, they are:

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, (operator errors)
2.  Incorrect combination, (wrong numbers)
3.  Mechanical problems.

Based on your description, yours sounds like #3.   Mechanical problems require hands on diagnostics, solutions and repairs.   This isn't something that can be dealt with remotely as there are too many possible problems, ESPECIALLY with the door locked up.

1.  WD-40 is a no-no!   This is a penetrating fluid and water dispersing chemical.   while it may seem to provide a "quick" result, if the lock isn't cleaned and relubricated correctly, you are looking at a way of causing a major lockout.  Second problem is the lock design, while you may get some of the WD-40 (or other lubricant) under the dial, even if it makes its way to the lock, it WILL NOT get inside the lock, to the wheel pack, which is probably where the problem lies.
2.  tapping on the lock, may seem like a good idea, but the lock doesn't know the difference between your attempts to "free it up", and a burglar trying to break in.   You chance setting off either the relock trigger (internal), or the relocking device (external), either of which WILL lock your safe down - requiring drilling to open.
I don't know how many times I've heard someone indicate that they "ONLY" tapped on the dial with a hammer, and when I arrive I either find hammer dings all over the face of the door, or the dial has been broken off.   Tapping on the dial with a hammer isn't a good idea.

The stiffness you are feeling is due to the wheels binding on the wheel post.  The lock has three wheels and a drive cam.   The drive cam is directly attached to the dial, so that any movement that you apply to the dial is exactly transmitted to the drive wheel.   If you can move the dial back and forth freely, then the problem is NOT between the dial, spindle or drive wheel.   Binding inside the lock can be due to a number of different reasons including:  Lack of lubrication (metal on metal), old lubrication (dried up), broken wheel post, loose mounting screws, dirt and/or debris, etc.
As you progressively pick up each subsequent wheel, you notice the dialing seems also progressively harder.   Binding on the wheel post is like trying to push your car with the brakes on - you meet resistance.   As you add each wheel, the resistance is added until you basically have 3x the initial resistance (possibly more).
As each wheel is basically two parts, the inner hub and outer wheel, it is possible to shift the combination which was set on any particular wheel, slightly, due to what ever is causing the binding.

Basically your continued efforts may simply add to the problems the lock is facing - when a lock gets to this point it needs to be serviced by a trained safe technician.   If they can't get the lock to open with the combination, it may have to be drilled.   After opening the safe, it can either be cleaned, lubed and serviced or replaced depending on the problem.

Sorry, but mechanical issues like this REQUIRE hands on diagnostics, solutions and service.

Contact a local safe company to schedule there safe technician.   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 or charging exhorbant fees.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I know in your area.


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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 AllExperts.com

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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