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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

How To Change Combination Locks

by Ralph June 20, 2018
Safe Dial Close Up

For how to change a combination lock, you need to know some general information. From there you need to know what type of lock you are dealing with. Not just if it is mechanical or an electronic lock, but what type of device the combination lock is installed on, and how that affects what will need to be done to change the combination lock.

For example, to change a safe combination, digital, or otherwise, will be different than what you can do with a padlock or a door lock. Variation matters. It matters so much in fact that most of this information might not be specific enough to your situation. However, this is the best mix of general and specific information that can be blended together.

General advice when changing combination locks

  • Take your time.
  • Open the lock before you attempt to change the combination.
  • You may need a particular type of “reset tool” to change combination locks.
  • If you make a mistake anywhere in the process, wait, and try again from the beginning.
  • Do not re-lock the device until you are sure the new combination is set.
  • After changing a safe combination, unlock the safe 3 times with the new combination before closing the safe door.
  • Some safes will require a safe locksmith or another safe tech to change the lock and cannot be changed with simple DIY methods.
  • Find the name of your lock to find specific information on how to change lock combinations.

What is the combination lock installed on?

Combination locks are used on a variety of different devices. Where the lock is being used will actually tell you quite a bit about it. For instance, it can help you narrow down the proper method to change the combination. Here are some things that are important to how to change combination locks on the following devices.

1. Change Safe Combination

The most difficult method for how to change a combination lock is likely to be encountered when dealing with safe combinations. The determining factor for the difficulty will reside around whether or not the safe combination is digital or not.

Mechanical dial locks have combination change protocols that are more varied, and often significantly more intricate than those on electronic safe combinations. Unless the safe is already open, a lost safe combination means you will need assistance to open the safe. This is one of many situations where you will need a locksmith to open your safe.

Look in your user manual for a section such as “change combination” or “how to change combination lock”. If you do not have your user manual, you can find one online. For some good general/specific insight, read on.

1. Change Safe Combination: Manual Dial – If you have gotten your safe from one of the best safe companies, chances are you will have a Sargent and Greenleaf mechanical manual dial. The process for how to change a safe combination can be a little tricky, but you can do it yourself as long as you can locate your change key.

  1. Open your safe.
  2. With the safe door open, manipulate the dial using the existing combination. However, you will be moving the numbers to the change mark (the mark to the left of the 12 o’clock mark used for opening the safe).
  3. Leave the safe dial on the last number in your combination.
  4. Insert your change key into the keyhole on the interior side of the safe door.
  5. Turn the safe key and do not over torque the key in the keyway.
  6. Dial your new combination using the change mark, use the proper rotational process you would use to open the safe.
  7. Leave the safe dial on the last number of your new combination.
  8. Turn and remove the change key.
  9. Test the new combination several times while the door is still open.

You can read more about this type of lock, here. If you have an older or antique safe, it may require different protocols in order to change the safe combination. The combination change process is likely some variation of the process described above. However, be sure that you know what you are doing or consult a professional before attempting this process.

2. Change Safe Combination: Digital – For digital locks, they will have a reset button or dialing procedure, which moves the digital keypad into programming mode. Without changing the safe’s digital combination lock into programming mode, the lock will only be registering codes as attempts to open the safe.

If you do not know the particular protocol your digital safe combination lock uses to enter programming mode, call a locksmith or find the user guide. Once you have the safe in programming mode, most digital locks are going to need the existing code to be used before you can change the combination of the safe.

You are most likely going to have an S&G (Sargent and Greenleaf) lock because most safe manufacturers use this brand. The combination change protocol for S&G digital safe locks is as follows:

  1. When the door is open, press “7”, then “4”, then “*” (the asterisk button).
  2. The lock will be moved into programming mode, but you still need to insert the current safe combination, then press “#” (the pound button).
  3. Wait until you have heard five distinct beeps.
  4. Indicate you want to change the safe combination by pressing “1”, then “*” (the asterisk button).
  5. Insert the new code, then press “#” (the pound button).
  6. Wait until you have heard three distinct beeps.
  7. Insert the new code a second time, then press “#” (the pound button).
  8. Wait until you have heard three distinct beeps, this will indicate that both the first and second codes match.
  9. The digital lock will now be out of programming mode.
  10. Before closing your safe, check to see that the new combination is working as expected.

You can take a look at more of the available literature about Sargent and Greenleaf electronic locks, here. For other, less complicated electronic safe locks, to change a safe combination, you can open the safe, press “0” six times, input the current code, then input the new combination twice.

When none of these processes are working, call a locksmith.

2. Change Padlock Combination

Combination Cable Bike Lock

Not every combination padlock can have its combination changed. In the case of modern combination padlocks, many companies are building this feature into the new product designs, but for older combination padlocks, you are stuck with the combination it came with.

Again, this will vary. To find out if your lock is the exception to the rule, look up the brand and model number. If you don’t have the model number, you can find it online by searching through images or product listings of combination padlocks that have the same brand name.

When you can change the combination on your padlock, it is likely to be a rather straightforward process. Because these locks are made for the mass market, the designers want combination changes to be simple (because that is what most consumers want). This does harm the padlock’s security, which is why you don’t see combination locks on the list of the best padlocks of all time.

To find out whether or not you can change a combination on your padlock, let alone what the procedure is, use the following process.

  1. Open up your preferred search engine.
  2. Type in the information you have about your padlock.
    1. Manufacturer name.
    2. Style of combination.
    3. Model number.
    4. Any other information you have about the lock.
  3. Look for either a video or official documentation.
    1. Make sure that you can visually confirm that the lock being talked about is the same model as your own.
  4. Try the method.

Try not to break the lock while you are trying to change the combination. Chances are it will be cheap to replace, but you do not want to leave whatever you are protecting any more vulnerable than it already is.

3. Change Door Lock Combination

Digital Combination Lock

A door lock that has a combination will always have a way you can change the combination. How to change combination locks on a door lock (like all other locks) will have a particular process. You will see the most variance in these devices, even for modern keypad door locks.

When you are dealing with residential door locks, the combination changing process will be less complicated than those on commercial locks. To change door lock combinations on commercial locks, you are more likely to need a commercial locksmith. You might also need a home locksmith for a tricky situation where you cannot quite figure out how to change a combination lock.

1. Change Combination Lock: Mechanical – A mechanical combination door lock is not battery operated. It will still have buttons that must be depressed in a certain order, but it will function without a power supply. The standard door lock combination change protocol is as follows:

  1. Disassemble the lock, removing it from the door.
  2. Unlock the lock with the current code.
  3. Hold down the reset button during the rest of the steps.
  4. Remove the back cover from the combination pad.
  5. There will be two sets of pins with distinct features.
  6. Locate the pin types that are inserted in the slots for the existing combination numbers.
  7. Move the pins to change the combination on the lock.
  8. Reinstall the back cover.
  9. Release the reset button.
  10. Check to see that the new combination works.
  11. Reinstall the lock on the door.

How to change combination locks for doors is not restricted to this method. You will likely encounter this type of combination change protocol, but not necessarily. It is impossible to list out the exceptions to this rule, but if you find this is not how to change combination locks on your door, call a locksmith.

2. Change Combination Lock: Digital – If your digital combination door lock is a smart lock, there is likely a function on your app that allows you to change the combination. When you have a basic digital combination door lock, you need to find your reset protocol.

For many Schlage digital combination door locks, this will be a code that is found in the lock manual and/or the interior hardware of the lock. The programming code can also be reset. The complicated thing about these locks is how many programming features there are. It is easy to reprogram the lock in a way you did not intend.

Kwikset SmartCode Locks get a little trickier forcing you to remove the battery pack and hold the reset the button as you reinsert the battery packs. You have to wait for lights to flash. Press the program button again and then follow the installation protocol, because you have returned the lock to its factory settings.

If you are struggling with how to change combination locks for doors, try to find information for the manufacturer and model of lock. If you cannot, or are overwhelmed at any point during the process, reach out to a local locksmith.

4. Change Briefcase Lock Combination

Briefcase Combination Lock

Briefcases will often use wheel combination locks, where the numbered wheel will be independently rotated. If you do not have the current combination, don’t fret, because this style of combination lock only provides the illusion of security. You can worry about this type of lock being insecure once you get it back open.

Decode the combination by inserting a feeler gauge to discern the pattern, or keep the pressure on the release mechanism and turn each wheel to find which number is giving the most resistance. If these decoding methods are too new to you, it is probably best to call a locksmith.

When you get the briefcase combination follow these steps:

  1. Pull the lock release and hold the lock latch in the unlocked position.
  2. While maintaining pressure to keep the lock open, rotate the wheels to the new combination.
  3. Release pressure and allow the latch to spring back to the fully extended position.
  4. While the briefcase is open and the latch is extended, check to see if the new combination works.
  5. Close the case.

5. Change Locker Combination

Built-In Locker Locks

The mechanical dial combination locks that are built into lockers are designed to make changing combination locks simple and fast. Because these locks are used in schools and work environments, it is very important that you keep detailed records of these changes.

This information does not apply to locker locks where people bring their own locks. For information on changing detachable locker locks (which are padlocks), go to section 2 (Change Padlock Combination).

The most popular type of built-in combination locker lock are those made by Master Lock. It is true that Master Lock is one of the low-quality security brands, but they work well for the purposes of locking up lockers (which are insecure by their nature).

There are two main combination change process for Master Lock built-in locker locks. The first (for older models) requires you to:

  1. Insert the change key and turn clockwise (right), until it stops.
  2. Move the dial to “0”.
  3. Press a button on the back of the lock hardware.
  4. While pressing the button, move the dial to counterclockwise (left), two marks (to “48”).
  5. Release the button.
  6. Turn the key back so it can be removed.
  7. Turn the dial clockwise (right), until you hear a click.
  8. Check to see that the new combination is the next combination in the series.

For the more modern Master Lock built-in locker locks, it is much faster to change the combinations.

  1. Insert the change key and turn counterclockwise (left), ¼ turn.
  2. Turn the dial two clicks counterclockwise (left).
  3. Turn the key back.
  4. Rotate the dial until you hear a click.
  5. Remove the key and check to see if the combination has changed to the next one in the series.

If you do not have a change key, make sure to call a locksmith. This process should not be handled without a change key. Picking the lock cylinder is not a reliable way to continue to change these style of locks.

Change Combination Lock vs. Changing a Lock’s Combination

If you are looking for information on how to change a combination lock by removing it and using a different lock device, call a locksmith. This work is not always possible, and it is tricky in the instances where it is feasible. This extreme step can be taken if a combination dial is broken, or if you would like to switch out a manual dial for a digital combination lock.

When your safe won’t open, and you are hoping that changing the combination lock will solve this issue, check in with a safe locksmith. There might be a better solution for your combination lock.

Final Thoughts

Most combination padlocks are designed so that it is simple to change the combination. Door locks often have a similar intended ease of combination change. It is only when you get to items like safes that this work can become rather tricky. More specifically, mechanical dials on safes will be very difficult work with. How to change combination locks on a safe with mechanical dials will almost always involve a locksmith.

Category: Commercial, How To's, Residential, Safes

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