Stuck Combination Padlock: How to Open a Combination Lock

Fatima Buzdar

November 14, 2022

A closed combination padlock, securely fastened to a latch on a white, metal door, invites the skill of any seasoned locksmith. The lock's silver body is rectangular with a grid of numbered buttons for the combination. The surrounding wall appears textured and painted in a light color.

An modern touch to the oldies but goldies keyed padlocks, combination padlocks are a popular lock type for a wide range of uses. Whether it is for lockers, suitcases, garage doors and sheds, their portability combined with sturdy build makes them an attractive choice to keep possessions and entries safe.

However, their robust build does not hold them back from giving out on you, especially if they are old or have went through rough usage. With their moving parts and rotating digits, they can be prone to catching issues which impede the lock from opening. There is never a convenient time to find out that your combination lock won’t open and that you are locked out of your possessions or property which you are very much authorized to enter, but it can be all the worse when you need to have the access urgently!

However, you do not have to panic as there are various ways you can utilize to regain access that is being impeded by a stubbornly closed combination lock. Try out these methods which can be highly handy in resolving the issue, but if nothing works, fret not! A locksmith can help you open the lock in a blink of an eye, so you can call for an expert locksmith’s services if neither of methods work out or you would rather save your time and efforts.

Apply Lubricant Into the Jammed Shackle and Dials

You would find it hard to find any moving machinery that would not give out upon lacking proper lubrication to run. If the shackles or dials severely need lubrication, then they can get stuck and hold you back from opening your lock. Hence, lubricating the lock is one of the common ways to open a combination lock stuck closed.

Now, you may be thinking of getting your handy WD-40 ready for this purpose, but it might not be the best solution. While WD-40 can be highly helpful with loosening the rust and build-up and can even temporarily deter moisture, it can also attract the accumulation of grime which would be counterintuitive. Hence, it might be better to use Teflon, graphite, silicon and dry lubricants, but WD-40 can be used if that is all you have on hand.

Once you have applied the lubricant, pull on the shackle while you turn the wheels. Try to do this with a moderate amount of force so that the lubricant spreads and the force frees the shackle or dials from the friction and lets you open the lock.

Clean Up Rust and Other Build-up

Rust is a mortal enemy of locking mechanisms, and combination locks are no exception to this. Moisture in the air is the catalyst for rust, and an environment that exposes the lock to water does not help either. Additionally, other build-ups like grime, dirt and dust do not stay behind in causing problems either. Over time, it is only natural for your combination lock to accumulate these elements in its dials. This can lead to a combination lock stuck closed.

The build-up may affect the dials, which would impede you from spinning the dials to insert the code and open the lock. They may turn very slowly or worse, they may get jammed in their place. Or the rust may affect the U-shaped shackles and they would be unable to retract, due to the locking pawl being unable to engage as a result of blockage in the shackle holes.

You can try blowing pressurized air into the dials and shackle holes to blow out dust. However, that would not help if there is rust accumulation causing the issue or if any other accumulation is persistent. This is where lubricants can help! Not only do they decrease dryness, but they are also quite handy with cleaning up rust, debris and grime build-up. Spray lubricant into the shackle holes and dials. Alternatively, you can apply a solution of vinegar and water into these parts, which can also serve as an effective solution.

Once you’ve applied either, give gentle blows with a hammer towards the location with the rust to break off the rust, grime and dust adhered to the parts. Be sure to not do it too hard, or you can risk breaking your lock! Doing so should hopefully take out all that annoying blockage and get your lock open. However, it is entirely possible that rust could have corroded your lock beyond repair and needs to be cut.

Defrost the Frozen Components

If you have a combination lock that’s situated outdoors in freezing temperatures, then it can be vulnerable to having its parts frozen due to them accumulating frost. Frozen parts can impede its functioning and not allow it to open. The ice inside the lock can even attract rust by accumulating moisture in it.  Your combination lock won’t open if it accumulates an excessive amount of such build-up.

You can try defrosting it by spraying a de-icer spray or a 3:1 white vinegar and water solution into the holes. Alternatively, even applying hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to it should do the trick! Make sure to dry off your lock thoroughly to prevent further freezing components or rust accumulation.

Recover or Reset the Combination if You Have Forgotten It

Is the problem of the lockout not stemming from the mechanical issues, but because you forgot it? Well, it can happen to the best of us! Fortunately, while it complicates the matter, there are still means to resolve the issue. Certain locks may come with a serial number which can be sent to the manufacturer to seek the code.

Obviously, in order to prevent exploits, the manufacturer would not give out the combination willy-nilly. The manufacturer may especially refuse to give the combination code if the lock is attached to anything, unless they allow a notarized lost combination form. These methods apply to master lock combination as well.

The above, however, only applies to the combination locks that are not set-your-own combination locks, as these locks tend to require the previous combination to set up a new combination. Unfortunately, manufacturers are commonly unlikely to be able to assist with recovering the set-your-own combinations.

Contact the Manufacturer to Claim Warranty

If you input the correct combination and you have ensured that there does not seem to be any aforementioned issue, and if the lock is relatively new, then chances are that you have faced a product defect. Your combination lock may be covered by warranty so do look into that. If the warranty indeed exists and it is valid, then you can get in touch with your manufacturer who can provide a free replacement. However, you still would need to have the lock cut.

Cut the Padlock

You have tried everything you can possibly think of… but your combination lock won’t open even with all the efforts! You are seething with frustration and the only next step seems to be cutting the lock. However, a secure lock makes it as hard as possible to break for anyone, and that includes you. But it is certainly not impossible either, though you have to be very, very careful to not hurt yourself in the process. Equip yourself with gloves to protect yourself.

A common tool to cut a padlock is a bolt cutter. You have to hold tightly to one side of the shackle with the bolt cutter blades. Then exert force into squeezing it until it is cut. This is certainly not easy to nail and it is possible for you to fail. Additionally, this procedure can risk hurting you or damaging the attached object while you struggle with it. It is best to leave work of this nature to a professional locksmith.

An opened combination lock lying on a surface

Call a Locksmith to Open the Combination Lock

A combination padlock stuck closed is incredibly inconvenient It holds you back from accessing your possessions or properties when you need it, which is distressing and disruptive. It is crucial for you to be able to find your way in as soon as possible. You can refer to your manual or manufacturer to see if you can sort it out or try out some easy DIY methods. However, if all these ways bear no fruit, then it is time to get in touch with a professional locksmith who can sort it out for you in no time!

Contact us to let our locksmiths in Oshawa get your combination lock troubles sorted and open your combination lock stuck closed. With our 5 years of experience of assisting Oshawa residents with any sort of lock troubles, you can be sure that we will help you regain access to your possessions or entry in no time, all without posing any damage to the attached object.

Safeguard your property with our expert locksmith solutions. Get in touch with our approachable, knowledgeable team.