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Locksmithing/suddenly safe won't open


i have an older yale(yr unknown,just a number on handle starts with Y &4 didgets)it's approx 3'cube,has a 4 didget combination.been using everyday for past 4-5yrs,suddenly won't open.doesn't seem to be any visible tampering or damage,everything seems to be ok,no binding of handle or dail,the door move in & out a very little bit.however it seemed to be obnoxious the evening before but did open thought it was me.the following morning wouldn't open.hope u can help.
         thank you


While there were two companies manufacturing safes under a "Yale" name, generally Yale sold locks to many of the other safe manufacturers in business from the late 1800's through the mid 1900's, so having a Yale lock on the safe doesn't make it a Yale safe.

There are ONLY three reasons that a safe lock won't open, in order they are:

1.  Incorrect dialing sequence, operator errors.
2.  Incorrect combination, wrong numbers,
3.  mechanical problems.

As you have been using it consistently for the last 4-5 years, this would rule out the first two reasons, leaving mechanical problems.

Mechanical issues don't happen over night - they generally creep up on you over a period of time, with the safe getting more and more difficult to operate.   Usually getting ignored until the safe won't open.

The Rule of thumbs is:    If you are having a problem - ANY problem with the lock or door operation - DO NOT CLOSE AND LOCK THE DOOR until after the problem is fixed or the safe has been serviced.   Usually ignoring problems is the main cause of most lockouts.

Issues that happen "SUDDENLY", are usually caused by something happening during the last closing sequence.   Like a money bag or similar item getting caught in between the door and door jamb, or something getting lodged under one of the locking bolts.

Anything that creates pressure on the door or bolt work, will have that pressure transmitted BACK into the lock causing it to either jam up or fail.

First items to check - is the door loose?   Does it have a slight amount of play (in and out)?   Is the handle loose or hard to turn???

Press in on the door to relieve any pressure, and wiggle the handle back and forth to relieve lock binding.   While pressing in on the door, and wiggling the handle, try to redial the combination.

If the problem doesn't seem to be the door or handle binding, then it may be a lock issue.   If you haven't had the safe serviced (should be done every 3-5 years), then the issue could be with the wheel pack, the friction fence or the lock bolt.

You can try dialing your combination slightly "high and low" to see if that will get it open.   Try up to 5 numbers on either side of each number - together and individually.

If it still won't open, then it is time to call in a safe technician from a local safe company.   Note:   I never recommend locksmiths as they generally don't have the training, knowledge or tools to work on safes.   Just because they might advertise that they work on safes, doesn't mean that they are actually trained.   If you don't have a local safe company, let me know where you and/or the safe are located (zip code) and I'll see who I know in your area.

Sorry I can't be of more help, but mechanical problems usually require hands on diagnostics and problem solving.  


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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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