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Locksmithing/MOSLER SAFE S/N 842134


QUESTION: I have this old double door Mosler safe. When I bought it at an estate sale, I opened and closed it 3 times. The combination dial was kind of stiff. After I had it transported to my friends house, we were able to open and close it 4 different times. However now when I try to open it after dialing the combination, the handles will not open. This is a fairly large safe about 5' high x 4' wide x 2' deep. My friends son sprayed some wd40 on to the dial and some must have went down the shaft because now the dial turns freely. I am sure we are using the correct combination. I also went off each number a couple of digits just thinking that maybe that would do it but it doesn't. Can you suggest something? My friend knows a locksmith and he says it must be drilled so the mechanism can be adjusted to open the door.

ANSWER: Hi Richard,

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

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

At this point, while my first bet is that you are simply dialing it incorrectly, I would also suspect from your comments that there are service issues which definitely need addressing.

Generally when safes transfer owners, the combination dialing sequence gets passed along the way the previous owner understands it, and NOT necessarily the way the lock actually works.   So while you may have the correct numbers, if you are making a dialing error, it won't open.    As you indicated that you did manage to get it open several times, this would indicate that you do have the correct numbers, but you simply are not dialing it correctly.

Now on to some of the major problem areas that ARE correctable:

Your first mistake after acquiring it was not having it serviced.    After having difficulties after acquiring the safe, should have been a clue for you to have it checked out thoroughly.   Having it serviced by a trained safe tech would have eliminated the problems, ensured it was operational, and that you had the correct dialing sequence and were operating it correctly.

Second mistake was allowing WD-40 to be sprayed on it.    WD-40 causes more problems than it is worth.    It is NOT a lubricant.    If anything it is more of a penetrating fluid.

Third mistake, or perhaps actually the second one - was allowing your neighbor's son to work on the safe!!!     If I don't recommend using locksmiths for servicing of your safe because in general they do not have the training, education or tools, I sure wouldn't recommend allowing your neighbor's son to work on it.

While I'm sure that you and your neighbor are friends, so far he hasn't provided you with any useful help, so stay away from his locksmith before you wind up in "mistake number FOUR"!    Locksmiths that indicate that a safe HAS TO BE DRILLED generally have no idea what they are talking about, and have little technical skills.

You wouldn't take your car to an auto mechanic who would indicate that while he can change your oil, he is going to ruin the engine in the process - would you?????    Similarly you shouldn't use a locksmith or safeman who reaches for the drill without even inspecting or testing the safe.     If your friend is the one indicating that it needs to be drilled - you may want to start looking around for another friend cause this one doesn't have your best interests in mind!!!!!

What you need is an actual safe technician from a local safe company, who has some training in older safes.    They should be able to get it open and repaired without ruining it.    If you don't know of a local safe company, check your yellow pages under safes & vaults to see who is around.    If you still can't find a reputable company, let me know where you are located (zipcode) and I'll see who I might know in your area.

Sorry to beat you up over this one, unfortunately the theme of your story is an all to common one, and hopefully others will read this posting and check with a professional safe technician BEFORE they check with their neighbors!

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Hi and thank you for your reply.
Just a couple of comments to your above.
When I bought the safe, I stood there with the owner at his garage and he opened it - then closed it. I in turn took his combination and opened and closed it three times using his numbers - no problem except the dial was kind of stiff. My friend's son picked the safe up and transported it about 75 miles to his Father's house where it was put inside. They opened the safe using the combination I gave them which was what the former owner gave me. No problem so far. I went over to the house and opened the safe again 3 different times. No problems. Then one day my friend's son opened the safe and put some cash inside and closed it again. Then a few days later they tried to open the safe but it would not open. I went over and tried it at least 10 times but it will not open. I and they are using the exact same numbers in the exact same sequence that we used previously. By the way I was not correct - it was not WD40 - it was some kind of safe oil this locksmith sold my friend's son and it made the dial work smoothly. Now we have a dial that doesn't wear out our fingers and thumb when we try to open it. A guy at a safe store here in Houston showed me a little thing on the inside of the door that has something to do with being able to open it if it is drilled from the back and a scope with a screwdriver is put in the hole. I cannot remember if this safe has that - I do not think it does - as I remember it there is a cover the size of the door inside that comes off showing the entire interior of the door where the mechanism is. The guy at the store did say that these safes have an extra thick steel plate around the mechanism to discourage drilling and some kind of glass thing that breaks if you pound on the door. We have not done any pounding on the safe at all. I had an idea of laying the safe down on its back and squirting some kind of safe oil behind the dial thinking it might drain down to the inside and possibly lubricate the mechanism so it would work. I guess you are getting a good laugh out of that one. So I guess it would be best if you know of a safe technician that is either in Houston (77082) or one that is closer to the actual safe location which is Navasota,  Texas (77868). I look forward to your reply and thank you.

Hi Richard,

while I understand that you were able to use the combination as passed along, that doesn't change anything that I presented.    I try to cover ALL of the bases when offering suggestions, however as mentioned - IF IT STILL WON"T OPEN, then you WILL need to have it checked out by a safe technician who is trained, and proficient, especially in regards to older safes.

Regardless of the type of oil or WD-40 that you were using, AT MOST, it is ONLY going to get under the dial and not into the lock.    Unless you laid the safe on its back and built a dam around the dial and flooded it with lubricant, eventually it would drain through to the lock, however this would cause more problems than it would solve - so I don't recommend it.    As I noticed that this was a possible option that you mentioned also, I will repeat - "I DON'T recommend doing this as it will create more problems than it will solve."

Again, as far as the "Guy at the Store" goes, he doesn't know anything about this safe, which is illustrated by his indicating that it may have glass protecting it - sorry but not in this safe.    I'm not sure what kind of safe store you have gone to, but after hearing some of the comments he has made to you, I doubt I would ever recommend him to anyone.

Fortunately there is one company in the Houston, TX area that I would recommend:

K & S
281-481-8680          Ken Foo
9811 Sagemark Drive
Houston, Texas  77089

Ken is a second generation safe man, learning the business from his father in Hawaii.

Hope this helps.    Sorry, you have been through so much, with locksmiths who have no training.    I would have been much happier if they had simply stated that they don't have the training and don't know about your safe.


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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

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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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