QUESTION: I have two gun safes which I purchased new from a big box store. One safe has begun unlocking intermittently. I've changed the battery. When it doesn't open, it beeps three times, the manual indicates this is an incorrect code entry. I need to open this safe 2-4 times a day. It is open now because I am afraid to close it and not be able to get back inside. I am using the correct code. My wife has the same problem opening the safe. (We don't have memory problems;-) The specs are:
Brand: First Alert
UL Listed: 3YE7
Purchased August 2013
I believe these are built by Tristar (Chinese perhaps)
I'm reasonably handy and hope to change the problem component myself. This is another reason I've elected to leave the door open.
Your advise is greatly appreciated.
ANSWER: Hi Mitchell,
If the lock seems to be unlocking intermittently, I'm assuming that you mean one of the following:
1. It is unlocking on it's own, or
2. It does NOT unlock every time.
While I have yet to see a digital lock that "unlocks" on it's own, my first assumption in this case is that there is either an alignment problem with the lock or a bolt work issue, so that the lock doesn't lock correctly every time. In either case this is a mechanical problem that needs to be checked out.
In the second case, this is more of a common problem. LaGard had membrane issues for a period of time and finally had to change manufactures of the membrane to eliminate the issue. I can tell by the "pin striped squares" around each number that your key pad MAY be from the ones that had this issue. The three beeps indicates either a wrong code or as I suspect, a bad key pad membrane.
If this is the case the key pad needs to be changed out to a newer version. As Manufacturers generally only have a one year warranty, yours would not be a covered issue.
Fortunately, you made the correct decision by leaving the safe unlocked so that repairs can easily be made.
While you can possibly make the repairs as a DIY project, I ALWAYS recommend that any repairs or disassembly of a safe, having to do with the locking mechanism, should be done by a trained safe technician to ensure that it is done correctly. It is up to you.
Two options if you decide to make it a DIY project. You can order a new key pad, LaGard part number 4715 and change it out. If the problem is a lock problem, then you may still have issues.
Second option would be to remove the lock and key pad and send them in to have it checked out. Then the correct replacement parts can be provided.
I guess option three would be to have a safe company check your safe out AND make the appropriate corrections on site during the visit.
Parts notice: There are two different LaGard Basic keypads. One is screwed on to the safe and it has a plastic "trap door" that pulls down to allow battery changing. The second one has key hole slots. You have to tap up on the bottom of the key pad to allow it to slightly slide UP the face of the safe to remove and change batteries.
Screw hole mounting patterns are slightly different between the two versions - one being at 6/12 o'clock, the other at the 3/9 o'clock positions. Some safes are pre drilled for both locations, though you may have to tap out the correct holes (8-32tpi).
If you are going to do it yourself, and need the key pad, if you can't get it locally, you can email a request directly to me to order a new one.
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: It seems you have expertly narrowed down my problem and considered all possibilities. The first possibility (1.) that the lock is unlocking itself is kind of funny and I should have done a better job describing the issue to save your time. I'm sure you did have a small chuckle as did I. Also your description of the replacement parts is especially appreciated.
My plan is to replace the keypad and see if this resolves the problem. If it doe solve the problem, I plan to replace the keypad on my other identical safe before it fails too. I'll look,locally for a replacement part and if I cannot locate one (or two) I'll contact you to order one for me.
QUESTION: Do you know if I could replace the electronic pads with traditional tumbler locks? Would you advise this or not?
Thank you for your awesome answers and advise!
Yes you can change the digital lock out with a mechanical one, HOWEVER, as the alignment and original set up of the mechanical lock is critical for its operation, I never recommend this as a DIY project for the same reason that I generally don't recommend using locksmiths for safe work. Lack of training, knowledge and tools CAN result in a very expensive lockout.
But you do have a lot of options still available.
First there are a number of VERY good digital locks available. While mechanical locks are going to be WAY more reliable in the long run, they will require routine maintenance to keep them accurate. Also, you don't have the ease of access to your "stuff".
Properly operating digital locks give you ease of use and quick access to items contained inside. However regardless of the quality of the digital lock - just like ALL OTHER electronic devices, they may fail - usually at the most inopportune time!
But wait there's more!!!!
You can have the best of both worlds. There are several lock makers that offer "REDUNDANT" locks, meaning they are BOTH digital and mechanical. You have the ease of use of a digital lock WITH the reliability of the mechanical lock.
Obviously your next questions is going to be about COST! Digital locks WILL go up in price depending on the options that you have or need. Your LaGard Basic is towards the bottom as it is what we term "single user access". Cost is in the $150-$165 range. Though there are cheaper locks - they are "CHEAPER"! Fortunately generally speaking, the LaGard Basic II is one of the more reliable locks on the market and one of the least expensive. There are numerous other manufacturers making very basic single user digital locks as well.
Upgrade options include: Multiple users, dual custody, time locks and time delay, audit capabilities and even remote capabilities. Upgrade options add $$$'s.
Average cost for a good quality mechanical lock is also about $150-$165. Mechanical locks do not provide ANY of the possible options above. You get ONE combination and EVERYONE who has access to the safe gets it. Time delay and Time lock capabilities could be added to the safe, but this generally requires an additional component or at minimum a complete lock change.
Upgrades are generally very expensive.
Redundant locks start at around $450, LaGard and Securam are a couple of the top companies offering these options. While the costs seem a bit excessive when compared to the LaGard Basic II at $165 - a VERY important concept needs to be addressed. "IF" you get locked out of your safe, and have to have a trained safe technician open and repair it, you could EASILY be looking at around $350 to $500 plus parts for the service.
Having a redundant lock is like cheap insurance - if you don't get locked out of the safe, you don't have to pay a big expensive service call to get your stuff out - ESPECIALLY when its your passport and you are on the way to the airport on a Sunday morning and you can't miss the plane and have to get a safe man out of bed at a cost of double or triple the normal rate! Whew, got to take a breath after that sentence!
All of that being said, what do I use??? I've got 13 safes at my house though 6 are antiques that I'm doing restoration on, so they don't count, but the other 7 = the ones that I need access to quickly have digital locks (LaGard Basic II's and AMSEC ESL-10), while the others have mechanical locks.
The mechanical locks generally take more time to get into, but I want to ensure reliability, however if someone is breaking into my house or car and I want a shotgun in my hands in 30 seconds flat, you can't beat a digital lock!
Bottom line YOU have to determine what your security needs are and THEN have the appropriate locks installed.
Hope that answers your question, or at least gives you some food for thought!
I'm not even going to get into the quality (or lack of quality) of your safes at this point. We will save that for a future conversation.