You are here:

Locksmithing/lock on safe will not open with combo


i have a national security safe we are using the correct combo and it will not open

Hi Kendra,

As you used "combo" and not "code", I am assuming that you have a mechanical lock and not a digital lock.

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 or out of sequence numbers
3.   Mechanical or service issues.

1.   Ensure that you are dialing the combination correctly - doesn't matter how many years you have been doing it, it is easy to introduce an error and once done, mentally you tend to do it over and over thinking it is correct.

The dialing sequence for the S&G mechanical lock on your safe is:

4 times left to the first number,
3 times right to the second number,
2 times left to the third number,
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 if your first number is 50, you would turn the dial counter clockwise (left), stopping the FOURTH time the number 50 arrives at the index mark.   If the second number is 25, you would then turn the dial clockwise (right), stopping the third time the number 25 arrives at the index.    Please note that the distance from 50 to 25 is only twenty five numbers on the dial and NOT a full revolution - again, you are counting the INDIVIDUAL number and NOT the revolutions.

2.   Verify that you have the correct numbers and that they are in the correct order.   Regardless of how many times you have opened the safe using the same numbers, it is very easy to make a mental error and enter a wrong number or simply switch positions around.   For instance 20-40-60 becomes 20-60-40.
You should have received a card from the manufacturer when you received the safe with the correct combination written on it, or if you had it changed, the safe tech should have given you a card with the new numbers written on it.    Double check your card to ensure that YOU are using the correct numbers.

This is the second biggest reason for safe locks not opening, and regardless of how much a customer will swear to god that they have the correct numbers, after we open the safe and check the lock to find out what the actual combination is, the answer is always - "Oh, yeah, those are the numbers!"

DOUBLE CHECK to make sure you have the correct numbers and that they are in the correct order.

3.   Mechanical or Service issues.    Locks, like ALL mechanical objects, require regular maintenance so that they operate correctly.    You can buy the most expensive watch on the market, but you will STILL have to occasionally reset it to keep the time accurate.    Similarly, during normal maintenance (cleaning and new lubrication) combination locks are reset to keep the combination accurate.
There are numerous problems that can cause the lock to "shift" off its set combo.   Spinning or whirling the lock or dial, dirty or old grease, loose screws, and broken or damaged parts can all add up to combinations that don't work.

Generally if the problem is mechanical there is little you can do other than to call a local safe technician to service your safe.    Lock disassembly is NOT recommended as a DIY project for the same reason we don't normally recommend using locksmiths for safe work.   Lack of knowledge, training and tools can result in a very expensive lockout.

Unfortunately, if the problem isn't simply 1 or 2 above, then you are going to need to have the safe visited by a local safe tech.    Cost and/or work done will depend on what the actual problem is.   Many mechanical issues may require drilling to open the safe, though if done correctly it WILL NOT ruin your safe and the small hole can easily be repaired and the safe returned to proper operation.    
Mechanical issues tend to be a HANDS ON service, to diagnose and repair, so it isn't something that I can do "long distance" - sorry my wife broke my crystal ball about the same time she killed my money tree!

If you can't get the safe open, or if you do, but the problem isn't 1 or 2 above, then don't close or lock it until after you have had it serviced.

Check your local yellow pages under safes & vaults for a local safe company.   If you don't have one, let me know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see who I might know in your area.
You can also contact Liberty Safes (they make the National Security line) at 800-247-5625 for service or for a service company recommendation in your area.  They are available 8-5, M-F, MST

Hope this helps,  


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


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)

©2017 All rights reserved.