Types of Safe Locking Mechanisms – How to Choose

Which Safe Lock is Right for You?

When we sell a safe online (check out our safes for sale) of the choices given to customers is what type of lock they want on the safe. Interestingly, I was born in 1967 and home computers starting making their debut while I was in high school. People older than prefer electronic locks while people younger than me prefer the manual (usually citing failure as the main reason.

Let me clear it up. All types of safe locks fail. They’ve always failed and they’re always going to fail. It doesn’t matter which type of safe lock it is (electronic or dial), we see them fail, and we make a good part of our sales repairing them.

That said, there are many options available and when you learn what those are, you can make the best choice when buying a safe.

Mechanical Safe Dials

This is the tried and true mechanism that has been in place for over a hundred years. The main advantage to a safe dial is that if you have it regularly serviced (every 2-3 years) by a locksmith, you should never have an issue with it working. The main disadvantage is they are a pain in the rear to open. Several times left, several times right, back to the left, etc… If you are not use to opening the safe, you will always be looking at the safe dialing directions to get that dang thing open!

When a dial lock does fail, and we do see them fail when they are not regularly serviced, you are stuck. A locksmith will try to manipulate the dial open, when you have the combination, but when that doesn’t work, your safe will need to be drilled, and the dial will need to be replaced. This is expensive. Very expensive if it is a high-security safe.

So if you service it, it will last forever,but it will always be a pain to get into your safe.\

Basic Electronic Safe Locks (Digital Safe Locks)

basic digital safe lockI am talking about inexpensive, electronic safe locks for home safes here. These locks, most often, come with one user code, and they are very to access when you have the code. Simply input the PIN number, sometimes a few extra special characters like the # symbol, and you’re end. So they cannot be beat when it comes to getting into our safe quickly, especially in an emergency situation. Some of these inexpensive electronic safe locks come with two user codes.

We see these safe locks fail as well. But they normally, not always but most often, fail differently. When a dial fails, the problem is always on the inside mechanism to the safe, so that the safe must be drilled to get in. When an electronic safe lock fails, the failure is almost always in the exterior circuit board. Therefore, you can simply replace the exterior portion of the lock with a new one and access your safe (the memory for the safe’s code is on the interior of the safe and won’t be affected by this replacement).

As you can imagine, this is much less expensive than having to drill the safe and then install a new lock. Often, you can repair the safe yourself for right around $100.

Electronic Lock Upgrades

There have been a fury of new digital features that have come out in the past several years.
fingerprint biometric electronic safe lock

 

  • Finger scan / biometric safe locks

 

 

 

    • I’ve got to tell you, I don’t like bio metric locks. Primarily because they are made at such a cheap price point that false negative and false positive results happen. A false negative is when you are registered to open the lock but it doesn’t accept your scan. Annoying but not critical. False positives though are when the lock opens with someones scan that is not a registered user. One of our vendors came in and said that they has solved the false positive problem. My parts manager ran his finger over the scanner and the lock opened! I don’t trust them and with PIN code entry being so easy, they’re a bit silly.

 

  • Entry time delays from 0-99 minutes

 

 

 

    • This is a useful feature in the case of a robbery. Your employee simply says, “the safe is on a timer and it won’t open for 20 minutes.”

    • Multiple code to access requirement

This is a great feature for businesses. It requires two (or more) codes be entered for the safe to open. When two people are present to open the safe they can then verify that each of them are not doing anything that could harm the business.

    • Multiple user codes

Different managers accessing your safe? Give them each their own code. Should one leave the company, just delete there code and the other managers won’t need to remember a new code since their code was not changed.
digital safe lock with audit trial

    • Audit trail support

This feature works very well with multiple user codes. An audit trail is a tracking of which code opened the safe and at what time. If anyone ever accesses the safe and something goes missing, the audit trail should tell you who to suspect. The more affordable electronic safe lock options with audit trail have a small LED screen. You can step through the audit trail on the screen while at the lock.

    • Wireless internet support

he more expensive digital safe lock options with audit trail allow the lock to be connected to the internet and access from anywhere. They can be programmed, changed and audit trail reports run from any location with an internet connect.

    • Alert when door is open past a specified time window

Sometimes a manager can get busy and forget they’ve left the safe open! This alert is a reminder for them to go and close it.

    • Dual Electronic and Manual Lock

dual electronic safe lock with manual safe lock overrideDo you get an electronic lock for ease of use, or a mechanical lock for longevity? Why not both? Dual safe locks offer an emergency backup way to get into your safe should your electronic lock ever fail. They are now readily available on new safes and can be easily retrofitted to your existing safes. One of our favorites is the Prologic Xtreme from SecuRam. The Prologix takes the unique approach of combining both styles into one unit.

But whatever you do, don’t lock the manual combination to the dial in the safe! It happens. :))

You can buy digital safe locks on Amazon here. If all you need to do is replace a face plate, you’re all set. But if you are replacing from a dial to a digital lock, you will need your local locksmith to make sure it is installed and functioning correctly.

Keyed Lock Safe Entry

Keyed entry is usually only found on very inexpensive home safes. The types of safes meant only to protect you family from accidentally getting into your weapons or your children from getting into some important documentation. They do not do anything to prevent someone from breaking into the safe. They just make it easier.

There are two notable exceptions, both of which are in the business realm.
dual key safe entry1) Commercial safes with dual key options. Very similar to the multiple user code option, the safe with dual keys requires two keys to access the safe. One key usually stays with the manager. the other is usually provided to the armored car company. Both need to be present to access the content of the safe for security purposes.

2)Very high end high-security safes also incorporate this feature, but usually with another type of lock (a dial or electronic). It is for the same purpose, two people needed to enter the safe. But in this setup one of the locks dual entry for amvaultcan be setup to be kept open so only the code or the key can be used to get in, if that is desired. This really isn’t necessary any more because of the digital safe lock options, and more manufactures are eliminating this option.

 





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