What Should You Do if You Can't Open Your Safe?

Posted on: 22 July 2015

If you've recently cleaned out a deceased relative's house and happened upon a locked safe during the process, or simply forgot the combination to your own safe, you may be wondering whether you'll be able to crack this safe yourself. Movies and television shows can make this process look simple. However, the actual process can be a bit more daunting and complex. Read on for a few ways you may be able to open a locked safe, as well as when you'll need to consult a professional locksmith.

Can you open a safe without a combination?

There are several things you can do to open a combination safe when you don't know its combination. However, you will have to discover the correct combination before you can gain access if you wish to do so without severely damaging your tools, the safe, and its contents.

Fully examine the safe

Often, those who use a safe infrequently aren't able to memorize the combination, and must resort to "cheating" to gain access to the safe. It's possible you or your relative wrote the combination on a piece of masking tape or otherwise affixed it somewhere inconspicuous. Although this isn't a wise practice from a security standpoint, like those who consistently use the word "password" as their password, it happens.

Get a stethoscope

If you aren't sure how many numbers are in the combination, you'll need to find out before you'll be able to discern the combination itself. You'll need a high-quality stethoscope to allow you to hear the noises the tumblers and wheels make as they engage and disengage. Place the stethoscope as near the combination as you can, and move it around as you spin the lock clockwise to help find the best location for amplifying sound.

Once you've found your location, turn the lock counterclockwise very slowly. Keep your ears peeled for one "click" that is softer than the rest. Once you've heard this softer click, turn the lock clockwise a few times to reset it, then slowly turn it counterclockwise again, confirming the small area where the clicks were heard less loudly. You'll then want to turn the lock to the exact opposite position as the location where these clicks were heard.

After you've done this, you'll be able to count the number of wheels simply by listening to the number of times the lock clicks once you pass your original point. Each separate click is a wheel (and accompanying combination number).

Search for the combination numbers

This process can be tedious -- if you've already faced a great deal of trouble or frustration in discerning how many numbers were in the combination lock, you may want to consult a locksmith instead. You'll again want to slowly rotate the dial counterclockwise, carefully listening for two soft clicks very close together. These clicks will usually be only one or two numbers apart, so if you don't hear a subsequent click, go back and listen again. Write these two numbers down. You'll then want to reset the dial to 3 before 0 and repeat this process, writing these numbers down as well. Reset the dial another 3 in the same direction and repeat the process.

You'll be left with a series of numbers that indicate the distance between points—for example, 5, 28, and 49. This means that the correct combination could be 7, 30, and 51 or 15, 38, and 59. This process requires quite a bit of trial and error, but you should have enough information to get a good start.

When should you consult a locksmith?

If you have a Group 1 combination lock that uses more than a three number combination, you'll probably want to seek professional help in gaining access to the safe. This can be a difficult task even for trained professionals. Keyed safes that don't have a key will also need to be opened by a professional locksmith.

If you have any identification tying you to the safe (like a death certificate or probate documents), you'll want to provide this to the locksmith to show that you are entitled to request the safe be opened. If it's your own safe, you may need to identify the contents inside before viewing them so that the locksmith can confirm your identity. Click here for more info and to contact local locksmiths to help you out.