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I have an old safe and recently it would not open with the correct combo. do not hear the tumblers when turning the dial.Any ideas you have will be a help. thanks

Hi Tony,

The reason you don't hear the "Tumblers" in the safe lock - is that there aren't any!   There also aren't any clowns, jugglers or trapeze artists!

Safe locks use "wheels", which turn.    Similar to the story about keeping a man busy by asking him to stand in the corner of a round room, there is nothing on the wheel for you to "feel" as you turn the dial.

What you are normally feeling is the lever assembly trying to engage the drive wheel, to unlock or retract the lock bolt.   If there is pressure on the door, or bolt work, and/or something as possibly become caught in the edge of the door, this pressure can be transmitted BACK into the lock, jamming the lever assembly, so that it is no longer free to move and interact with the drive wheel.

If the lever assembly doesn't move, it won't engage the drive wheel and wheel pack to unlock - EVEN if you dial the combination correctly.

If you can't identify what the problem with the door and/or bolt work is, then you will need to contact a safe technician from a local safe company to check the safe out and assist you in opening the safe.

Safes with direct drive bolt work, which is connected to the lock bolt, can damage the lock bolt and/or lever assembly, if it is partially extended when the door locks.   If the lever assembly is damaged, then it won't engage the drive wheel correctly either.

Bottom line - if you can't feel anything inside the lock (as you have indicated) then you have some type of mechanical lock failure which needs addressing.   

Check your local yellow pages under safes & vaults to find 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 or recommend 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

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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