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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Safe Won’t Open? What To Do When You Are Locked Out Of Your Safe

by Ralph March 22, 2021
Safe Won't Open

When a safe won’t open, it could be for any number of reasons. But the goal is always the same. You need to know what to do to get back inside your locked safe. There are many things that people don’t know about safes, but what you can do when your safe won’t open always remains the same. There is a bit of information that you will need to gather so that you are better prepared to regain access to your locked safe. And at any point, you can choose to call a locksmith to assist you. But here is what you need to do when you are locked out of your safe.

Ways to open your safe:

  1. Safe Bouncing
  2. Lock Overrides
  3. Manipulation
  4. Violent Entry

Determine Your Type of Safe

Knowing what type of safe you have is incredibly important to find out what your next step is. In cases where you are looking to open your locked safe yourself, you can’t find the relevant information when all you know is, “my safe won’t open.” If you know the brand name, even this can help you when you’re locked out of your safe.

The brand name of the safe is often quite easy to find. Most likely there will be a company logo on the front door of the safe. However, sometimes the logo will not include the name of the manufacturer, instead, it may just have some form of decal or illustration. But most will have large painted letters spelling out the company’s name.

If your safe won’t open, and there is no clear brand name, the next step is to look for any type of purchasing information. If that cannot be found, you can take a look at the type of construction and size of the safe. There is a chance that a safe won’t open because it is not a safe at all, rather it is a lockbox. Lockboxes and safes are two different devices, but either can be accessed by a professional.

This leads me to the final bit of advice. If you do not know what type of safe you are dealing with, call a safe locksmith. Just tell them that, “my safe won’t open”, and your job is as good as done. They will diagnose the issue and make sure that you are not locked out of your safe a moment longer than necessary.

What can I do if my Sentry safe won’t open?

Most Sentry safes can be opened with quick and simple methods such as bouncing, magnet manipulation, and probing. Most safe models made by Sentry can be opened non-destructively. Continue reading for insights on bouncing and probing, but be sure to call a locksmith if you cannot get the method to work or do not have the appropriate tools.

How do I open a Winchester safe when I’m locked out?

Winchester Safes have a process you can follow to request your lost combination directly from the company. If you are locked out for any other reason, you will need a locksmith. Whether you have a gun safe or a home/office safe, Winchester uses Sargent and Greenleaf mechanical and digital locks. These are some of the most secure commercial safe locks that exist and cannot be opened with easily learned trick and bypass tactics. To protect the integrity of your Winchester safe, contact a safe locksmith.

Why Are You Locked Out?

Locked Out Of Safe

Sure, your safe won’t open, but that is the symptom, not the diagnosis. To get back into your locked safe, the precise nature of the safe lockout has to be uncovered. A professional will, of course, be able to tell you why your safe won’t open. However, if you are looking to find out for yourself, you may need to troubleshoot the issue.

The reason may be quite straightforward. If the safe uses a key, and you broke the key off in the lock, all you need to do is remove the broken key. After that, you will most likely need to have a new key made to see if the safe won’t open still. Or perhaps your electronic lock ran out of batteries and you cannot use the code to open it.

Similarly, if you know that you have forgotten the combination or code to the safe, then you know your safe won’t open. In cases like this, you can check the safe literature to see if there is a reset code that you can perform without opening the safe. The chances of this are slim, and if this method of entry works, you should look into getting a more secure safe. In the likely chance that your safe won’t open by these means, there will be more work to be done.

Other issues such as detached bolt work, or jammed internals, can be assessed when you try to move the safe handle to unlock the device. You know the safe won’t open, but if the handle spins as it should, then there is an issue with the bolt work of the door. The bolts may also be jammed if the handle will just not move far enough, but does still move.

What do I do if the batteries for my safe die?

For lower-end safes such as Sentry safes, the company has a list of all the ways to replace the batteries when they die. Most electronic locks for safes will have similar modes of replacing batteries. When it comes to higher-end safe manufacturers, they are likely to use SG (Sargent and Greenleaf) which has a removable battery compartment at the bottom of the dial.

What is lock-out mode on Cannon safe?

Lock-out mode for Cannon safes lasts for five minutes. During this time you cannot open the safe. This is a security feature that prevents unauthorized users from using brute force to guess the combination. Users experience this when they incorrectly input their combination several times.

1. Safe Bouncing

If you have made the mistake of purchasing a substandard safe from any of the companies that security experts don’t recommend, or invested in a product that is fire resistant but not burglary resistant, you may be able to bounce your safe. If your cheaply built safe won’t open by the proper means, it may still open this way. Look at the different types of safes, to get a better idea of what type of protection you have.

This method of entry is the most basic form of safe entry, but it can only be used on safes with functioning bolt work. If your safe won’t open, due to an issue with you forgetting or not having access to the combination, a broken key, or a battery that has died in your digital lock, then it can be assumed that your bolt construction is intact.

To bounce a safe:

  1. Strike the top of the vault while turning the handle simultaneously. 
  2. If the safe won’t open, repeat.

This act works similarly to a bump key. The internal components of the locking mechanism are temporarily oriented to their proper opening position, as the bolt work in the door jumps from the sudden impact. This is not a professional method of entry, but it does take some practice. However, if the safe won’t open, then it may be too heavy or too well made. This method not working is a good sign that you have a quality safe.

Safe bouncing tips:

  • Works only on cheap/light safes.
  • The safe does not need to be struck hard enough to be dented.
  • Though this is non-destructive, it can harm the lock assembly if done repeatedly.

2. Lock Overrides

Overrides are installed very frequently in smaller safes with electronic keypads. If your safe is the type of product that you would see used as a hotel safe, then there is a good chance that there is an override procedure. The reason for this is that these safes are intended to have their combinations reset. As a result, many motels and hotels have to be able to get inside when a safe won’t open because a guest forgot to leave the door ajar.

Often there is a factory code that comes standard to reset these types of safes without the need to open them. The most common combination is repetitive zeros, the number of which varies, but is often the same number as the safe’s standard combination length. With nothing more than the manufacturer, it is often easy to find this information. If the safe won’t open with the information you get, be sure that you have the right model number. If you do, then there is a chance that the override code has been changed on your device.

Other than code-based pre-installed overrides, there may also be openings on the bottom of the safe if it was not bolted down using every pre-drilled hole. With most electronic safes, there will be a switch on the inside of the door that when flipped, allows the combination to be reset. If you can flip this switch, you can simply reset the combination. Of course, this method can be a little difficult without locksmith tools, such as a borescope. If a safe won’t open due to a dead battery, this will not work.

Safe lock override tips:

  • Electronic keypads may have manufacturer reset codes.
  • If you are locked out of a hotel safe, staff will have reset codes.
  • Some safes have reset switches inside the safe, which can be flipped through pre-drilled holes using probes.

3. Manipulation

Safe manipulation is the type of safe cracking that you see in movies when a safe won’t open. Where a suave gentleman in a black turtleneck will hold his ear to a safe and spin the dial, opening the lock with nothing but his bare hands and a bit of finesse. Unlike in movies, it is less about having a stethoscope, and more about knowledge, practice, and natural talent. This is not a way that you can get back into your own safe unless you are highly trained. And chances are if you have read this far, you are not.

But don’t be discouraged. A professional locksmith can still open your safe this way (as long as there is a combination dial). Manual combination locks are the type of locking mechanism that can be manipulated without harming the safe. This will be necessary if you have purchased a safe or vault from any of the best safe companies. But there are forms of manipulation for when a safe won’t open and simple touch-based manipulation is not enough.

Some manipulation methods require forms of destructive entry, where damage may need to be patched or dial replaced. In cases that demand more serious techniques, a hole will have to be drilled in the safe. Tools and probes will then be inserted to manipulate the bolt work or locking mechanism of the safe door. Of course, a safe accessed in the following way (or by similar methods) will no longer be as secure as it was. But most people will still not be able to exploit the safe via this new hole. And the hole will almost be slightly obscured. If anyone was looking to open your safe illegally in this way, they have only been saved the time it would have taken to drill the hole.

Safe manipulation tips:

  • Digital combination locks cannot be opened with touch manipulation.
  • Holes may need to be drilled to assist safe manipulation.
  • Drilled holes can be patched and do not fully compromise your safe.

4. Violent Entry

In cases when you are saying, “My safe won’t open, and I need to get in now!”, you probably do not have time for the more delicate methods. In this case, you may need to subject your safe to violent entry. This is different from destructive entry, such as drilling a lock, because destructive entry is still less severe. Violent entry methods are for getting in when a safe won’t open, compromising the safe far too much to continue using it after the device is opened. 

Another reason that the safe may need a form of violent entry, is because the safe won’t open due to extensive damage. Boltwork may be jammed or entirely broken so that the safe cannot open properly. Said another way, sometimes a safe won’t open, and it is not going to open without being taken apart.

It is of the utmost importance that you do not attempt to use any form of violent entry yourself. These methods may appear to be rather basic, but the use of these tools can be dangerous if you do not understand the construction of your safe. People that try to break in when their safe won’t open by force can severely injure themselves. Leave this work to the professionals.

Safe destructive entry tips:

  • If a safe cannot be opened because it is broken, violent entry may be the only way to get inside it.
  • Do not try violent entry methods without a professional present.
  • A safe opened with violent entry cannot be used after service.

Final Considerations

Now that you know what you can do when you are locked out of your safe, you will never need to say, “My safe won’t open.” You will be able to go about fixing the issue. Never hesitate in any step of the process to reach out to a locksmith. If ever your safe won’t open, there is always someone ready to help. Feel free to call United Locksmith if you need any assistance with opening your safe. We’ll get the job done!

Category: Commercial, Residential, Safes, Safety & Security

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