Can Locksmiths Open Safes?

Can Locksmiths Open Safes?

Professionally Opening a Safe via Drilling
There are several situations where an owner can become locked out of a safe.

In this article, I am addressing good, quality safes that need to be opened in a professional manner so that the safe can be reused in as-good-as-new condition.

For cheap, big box store safes, almost anyone with tin cutters, and in some cases just a magnet (article Sentry Safe Security Fail) can gain access in a short time frame.

But for quality safes, you’ll want to hire a professional. After using a knowledgeable safe locksmith, you’ll be able to maintain your investment and continue to use the safe for many more years to come.

Locksmiths open safes when the safe combination has stopped working, the combination has been lost, the safe dial / keypad has failed, or linkage in the door has broken. Locksmiths will use replacement parts, dial manipulation, or drill points in order to gain access to a safe.

This is one of the most advanced locksmithing skills, and many locksmiths never learn it. It takes time, and mastery only comes from years of experience.

How Locksmiths Open Safes When the Combination Has Stopped Working

Safe’s Electronic Combination Has Stopped Working

Here the safe locksmith must diagnose the issue causing of the problem. There could be several reasons the combination no longer works.

  1. The batteries are low. Often, batteries have enough power to light up and hear when pressing a key on the keypad. But they lack the power to pull the solenoid so the safe can be opened. You can start by replacing the batteries before calling a locksmith.
  2. Something on the keypad has failed. Maybe one of the numbers no longer registers. For many new electronic safe locks the face plate can be replaced to solve this issue. Your local locksmith will know which part you need.
  3. If the electronic lock has failed in some other fashion, the safe will need to be drilled (see How Locksmiths Drill Safes below)

Safe’s Dial Combination Has Stopped Working

Safe Dial Manipulation

Combination dial locks can fall into disrepair over time. Lubrication wears out, dust and dirt are introduced, and the numbers used to open that safe will drift away from their center points on the dial.

This stops the lock body gates from aligning, and prevents the safe from opening.

For this reason, you should have your combination lock serviced every few years by a local locksmith, to keep it in good functioning order.

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Often times when presented with a dial safe, the safe cracker will make attempts to open the safe by using this information to drift-dial the combination in.

So, if the combination was supposed to be 10 – 20 – 30, they may start by trying values near those values, and then incrementally expand those to larger offsets

When it works, it’s much faster than drilling a safe, although it is not certain to work as the issue may not be drifting at all.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s something you can try yourself without danger of further harming the safe. Checkout our Article, What to Try When a Safe Combination Stops Working for details on the technique.

If you do gain access, though, be sure to have your safe serviced (link) so the problem doesn’t recur again soon.

How Locksmiths Open Safes When the Lock Has Failed or There is No Combination

We wrote a very detailed article on How Locksmiths Open Locked Safes Without a Combination.

Using a Drill Rig to Drill Through the Safe’s Drill Point
At a high level, locksmiths will typically, but not always, drill the safe when the combination has been lost, the lock has completely failed or the internal door linkage has malfunctioned.

If the combination has been lost there area number of other things the locksmith will try before drilling. See our article I Lost My Safe Combination – How Do I Get In? for details.

There are some situations where a safe company has an override or reset capability for an electronic lock. To get the safe company to provide the information usually requires the use of a locksmith in order to verify you are the owner verify ownership of the safe. Locksmiths will try to obtain an override code for electronic locks or the dial combination before drilling.

Barring these few instances, the locksmith will drill the safe open. This also applies to combination locks where manipulation has failed.

Locksmiths with the proper certifications and training can usually obtain specific drill points for a given safe.

Drill points are the location by which upon drilling the safe, the safe technician can gain access to the inner workings of the safe through a very small hole of around 1/4 inch. These locations are heavily guarded secrets and are not provided without verification of the locksmith.

From that drill point, the technician can us a lighted scope or video camera scope to see the mechanicals of the lock and bypass it to get the door open. The photo at the top of this page shows one of our safe locksmiths using a scope to see and thus manipulate the dial wheels.

The drill point can then be filled with a steel rod and cut flush. The lock body or dial replaced, and the safe can be returned to protecting your valuables as it was intended.

When drill points cannot be found, the safe locksmith can still access the safe, but it will take longer. The locksmith must use his knowledge, and drill the safe (potentially several times) in an attempt to find a spot where scope can be used to see the mechanicals so that the safe can be open.

Because of the expertise and training and often licensing or tradesman membership being required, you can expect to pay more for a safe cracking locksmith compared to other locksmith services.

As such, we often have people locked out of low-end safes who find the cost to open the safe to be more than the safe is worth.

This is especially true for big box store junk safes that are constructed using plastic walls instead of metal. They aren’t built to be repaired.

In these cases, a locksmith may just use brute force to gain entry at a much lower cost to you. After which you can buy another low-price-point safe or possible upgrade to one that is much harder to get into.