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Locksmithing/Major safe won't lock


QUESTION: I recently had the combination changed on my antique-looking mechanical-dial Major safe after a relative figured out my combination & helped himself to medication from my safe. Since the combination change the safe has been very difficult to lock.   I've owned the safe going on three years, using it daily to lock up medications with no problems until now.  I am able to work the combination and open the safe. When closing and trying to lock it up, I spin the dial to scramble the combination but can only spin a little over one full revolution, then the dial gets very stiff. If I turn it to the left about a half-turn I feel the lock release and I can pull the safe open again.  It takes about 15-20" of fiddling & wiggling the handle & dial to get it to lock and I feel half-confident it can't be randomly opened. I've repeatedly called Jim's Lock & Safe Service, the company from which I purchased the safe and paid to change the combination.  They said they've never heard of this before.  Now they don't return my calls. My meds are disappearing and I am very frustrated. There's a number I assume is the serial: A 611488.  Suggestions?

ANSWER: Hi Francie,

If you have a Major safe then it isn't an antique.    Major didn't begin building safes until the late 1950's or early 60's.

As far as the safe not working very well after the combination was changed, my first question is "Was the lock serviced?" or "was the combination only changed"?    It does make a big difference.

If you have an older lock and assuming the grease is pretty old, it could simply be a service issue.   Especially since you are telling me the dial gets very stiff.     Cold weather (winter) tends to exacerbate this problem, so it may simply be a service related issue.     Proper servicing SHOULD include setting or resetting the combination.

Also based on your comments about the lock "releasing" where you can pull the safe open again,  This would indicate a maintenance or lock issue that needs to be addressed.

Unfortunately the locks used on many of these safes were pot-metal or plastic (cheaply made locks), so assuming that this is still the original lock AND that service has not been done in years if at all, the lock may need to be replaced.

As for your locksmith indicating that they haven't heard of this before, indicates a lack of knowledge about safe locks, which is pretty standard with most locksmith shops.    Also, any company that won't return your calls is probably someone that I wouldn't recommend doing business with.

My recommendation would be for you to:    1.   Find a reputable SAFE company in your area, NOT a locksmith shop.     2.  Have the safe lock inspected to find out what the actual problems are, and to have it serviced correctly.     3.  possibly get a better safe to keep your meds in.

A properly operating safe and more importantly the safe lock will NOT simply pop open or allow access.    If the lock is working correctly and there is nothing wrong with the safe, then you may have problems that I can't help you with here.    At that point I would recommend that you contact the police to help determine who is stealing your meds.

If you can't find a local safe company, I'll need to know where you are located (zip code) and I'll see if I know of and/or can recommend someone in your area.

Hope this helps,

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

QUESTION: Thanks for the info. No need for police--I know who's stealing my meds--hence the safe. I've been dealing with a safe company highly recommended from the locksmith shop up the street. However, when the safe tech came out he only changed the combination-- "servicing" wasn't even mentioned, and I had no idea servicing was required. I feel so naive and  ripped off. I originally planned on getting my hair lightened for my birthday, but went the pragmatic route and spent my scrimped-and-saved-for birthday money on the new safe combination.  Now my hair's still mousey brown, my safe's still being raided, but I'm $120.00 poorer.  DAMN!   Do you know of anyone in the greater Kansas City area who's reputable but not outrageously expensive?  I'm located near the 64114 zip code, about a mile from the Missouri-Kansas state line, so safe companies either side of the state line would work.

Hi Francie,

The nearest safe companis would be:

McGuire Lock & Safe
816-454-2552          Justin Mcquire
4800 Ne Vivion Rd
Kansas City, MO 64119

Hearn Safe & Vault
314-481-2525          Ray Hearn
607 North Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Frank Zykan Safe & Vault
636-328-2929          Frank Zykan
St. Charles, MO 63301

note:   I don't personally know Justin, so I can't vouch for his work, but you can discuss the project with him.

Either Ray Hearn or Frank Zykan would be my preferred choices however they are both about 200 miles away.     I believe that I heard that Ray may have retire about a year ago or so, so he many no longer be available.

Sorry I don't know anyone closer that I can recommend.


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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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