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Locksmithing/Suddenly locked out of my own safe



Can you tell, from the below info, whether the suddenly non-working lock on my old but well-working safe: probably died of old age? probably was tampered with? other? and how to open it and/or fix what's broken, if something is?  

I have a "Yale Home Safe" (in the wall). It has worked like a charm for at least 30 years. It could possibly have been in the house for another 20 before I moved in.

I dont have a photo, but the instructions refer to No. 0701 and 0702, so it's one or the other model.

The door is approx 12" wide by 15" long. In the center of the door is a knob for pulling the door open. Halfway down the left edge of the door is a black Yale combination lock/dial type (left 4 times, right 3 times, left two times, then turn right until it clicks open).

Usually the safe (well hidden from view) has not been locked. The dial has usually been left slightly to the left of the "click open" position, for easy opening.

Out of the blue last week, that method stopped working. I tried several times to open it by the full L-R-L procedure, but failed. Also, I noticed some "tight" spots when turning the dial that I dont recall being there before (none correspond to the combination)--but as I said, it was usually left closed but unlocked.

--Is there any way to open the safe? Might oiling help?
--If it has to be drilled, is it possible to do it myself? I dont prefer a stranger see that I have a safe, etc. If drilling is the only option, can the safe be taken out of the wall? Do you have any idea what it might weigh???
--Also, if it has to be drilled, is there any way to repair and still use it again? Or would costs be prohibitive?

I also wonder if it was tampered with, since the problem happened just after someone observed where the safe is hidden. Or could it be just coincidence that it went kaput without warning???

Thanks so much for your expert knowledge. I realize you're mostly interested in more ancient rare finds, etc, but would greatly appreciate any guidance.  



there are ONLY three reasons that a safe lock will not open, they are (in order),
1.  Incorrect dialing squence (operator errors),
2.  Incorrect combination (wrong numbers),
3.  Mechanical problems.

Just like you occasionally have to reset your watch, so it will keep accurate time, locks and safe bolt work occasionally need maintenance to keep them working correctly.

As you have indicated that the safe is probably 30-50 years old, it probably has never been serviced during that period.   If that's the case, the problem could be any number of things.  Generally problems like this require hands on diagnostics and solutions.

Tampering usually won't cause the problems that you are describing unless there are signs of attempted forced entry.

First things to check are that you have the correct combination, next is that you are dialing it correctly.   If you have the correct combo and are dialing it correctly, that pretty much leaves mechanical problems.

Concerning your questions as to having the safe opened, while I understand your concerns about having a stranger in your house, and worse yet someone working on your safe, you should be able to trust your local safe company and their safe tech.   Most safe companies are required to have back ground checks and some sort of state registration.   Most of us don't care what you have in the safe, and we don't keep records of your combinations or other security information for obvious security and liability reasons.   You have to remember that this business is our life and we take it more seriously than most people think.   If you can't trust your local safe company, then you should probably look around to find one that you can trust.

As far as drilling the safe, without seeing the safe, and having hands on diagnostics I can't say whether or not it will need to be drilled.   Generally when I work on a safe I never do any damage that can't be easily repaired, and I also consider the equipment.   Older parts may not be replaceable, so damage is not usually an option.   Anyone who starts a conversation with "I can open your safe, but will ruin it in the process" should be avoided.

bottom line, if you can't get it open, you will need a safe technician.  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.

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


Guess what? I did get the above safe open, after many tries and some tampering with it--but I don't trust it anymore. I believe there's a mechanical problem, as you said.

Now that it's open, is there a "simple" way to completely replace the lock?

If not, is there a way to dismantle the lock setup to avoid all possibility of accidental locking?

What would you do in a case like this?

Thanks for much for all your help.



before worrying about replacing the lock, have it serviced by a trained safe safe technician.   Possibly all it needs is some tender loving care.

As far as replacement locks, it WILL depend on the actual mounting foot print of the lock.  Over the years, the mounting pattern has been fairly standardized so safe manufacturers can use any lock they deem necessary for their particular application.
Older locks may not utilize this mounting foot print, and modifications may be necessary.

First thing I would recommend is service.   If the lock IS bad, then the service tech can recommend an appropriate replacement or option.

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 40 years in the Safe & Vault industry, if I can't answer your question I know where to get the answer. Current Project: Restoration of two Tilton & McFarland safes from the 1860'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.


40 years in the Safe & Vault Industry. 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

SafeCrackers International and the National Antique Safe Association

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 - 2014 - 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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