Finding the Combination (basic technique)

The basic technique requires dialing as many as 340 combinations, although the lock should open about half the time in 170 combinations or less. We know that is a lot of combinations to try! However, don't be discouraged, we have a way to reduce that number. At the bottom of this page, there is a link to a page which describes an advanced method for locating the first number of the combination. Aftter the first number is located, the basic technique is used to locate the second and third numbers.

We suggest that you learn the basic technique first, but not try all 340 combinations. After you have tried several first numbers and feel that you are skilled with the basic technique, read the advanced technique and see if you can locate the first number to speed up the search.

The Basic Technique

Turn the dial at least two turns to the right, stopping very carefully on 0. Then turn left one turn, just passing 0, and stopping carefully at 2. Now turn right to the closest "test" sticking place. Try pulling the shackle. If the first two numbers are correct and the test sticking place is at the correct last number, the lock will open. If the lock doesn't open, pull hard on the shackle and try turning the dial.

If the dial doesn't turn freely, between the two stopping places, or the dial doesn't move too far, it means that you may have dialed the correct first two numbers. Do the following to locate the correct third number and open the lock: Turn the dial left to the second number you just tried, then turn right and stop at every sticking place in turn, check whether the lock opens, and, if it doesn't, pull hard on the shackle and and check how freely the dial turns. If the dial turns freely at any one of the sticking points, you don't have both the first and second numbers correct. If the first and second numbers are correct, the lock should open at one of the sticking places.

If the dial turns freely, between the two stopping places, release the shackle, turn left to 4, and turn right, to the closest "test" sticking point. Try the test again. As long as the dial turns freely, continue to try even second numbers until you reach 4 marks before the first number you are trying. (For 0 as the first number, you do not need to try 36, 38, or 0 as the second number.)

When you have tried all possible second numbers for 0 as the first number, try 2 as the first number. Turn the dial right two turns, stopping carefully at 2, and then left one turn, passing 2 and stopping carefully at 4. Right to a "test" sticking place. Go through each of the even second numbers in turn. (For 2, you skip 38, 0 and 2.) If the lock doesn't open after all second numbers have been tried, continue trying each of the even numbers 4, 6, 8 etc., ending with 38, as a first number. Always turn the dial right twice before dialing a new first number.

If the lock opens, of course, you have 3 numbers that will open the lock, but these numbers may not allow for sloppy dialing. You may be off by one from the best combination on the first, second or both numbers. Try adjacent numbers, dialing the normal way, to find the combination that works best (allows for sloppy dialing.) (Note that the best combination that you find may not be the same as the combination provided by the manufacturer.)

Correcting dialing errors: If, while turning right, you pass the "test sticking place" by a one or a few marks, just turn the dial left to the "test" sticking place and try the shackle. Continue from there, trying numbers as if nothing went wrong.

If, while turning left, you pass the second number, most of the time you can turn the dial right one turn to the second number, then left to the second number, and continue as if nothing had happened. The exception is when the dial has reached 6 or less marks before the first number. Example: you are trying 0 as the first number and 32 as the second number. You accidentally dial 33. Since 33 is 7 marks before 0, and 7 is more than 6, turn the dial right one turn to 32, then left to 32, and pick up where you left off. However, if you accidently dialed 35, which is 5 marks before 0, you would need to redial the first and second numbers normally (i. e. two turns right and stop at 0, one turn left and stop at 32, and pick up from there.).

If you aren't sure, just redial, normally, the first and second numbers, that you were trying when you made an error, and pick up where you left off.

Please note that the lock must allow tolerance for sloppy dialing for this method to work!

This method assumes that the lock will open with at least one of the four combinations where the first number, second number, or both, are off by one. Example: combination is 23-5-20. In the dialing process, we will not try the correct combination but will try all four combinations off by one on the first and second numbers: 22-4-20, 22-6-20, 24-4-20 and 24-6-20 (We assume that if we have the third number, 20, wrong, we will be able to determine if the first two numbers are correct and then locate the correct third number.) We assume that at least one of those four combinations will open the lock. If you check this out on locks where you know the combination, try all four combinations. Only one of them needs to open the lock.
On all the locks I have tried, at least one of the four combinations, that were off by one, opened the lock.

What if the lock hasn't opened?

If the lock hasn't opened, we have tried 340 combinations. We may have missed detecting the correct combination when we had it, or the lock may not have cooperated with us by opening without the exact numbers. We suggest taking a second pass with odd numbers for both the first and second numbers. If that doesn't work, you can try even numbers for the first number and odd for the second, than then vice versa. However, that is a lot of combinations to try!

Click here for an advanced technique for locating the first number of the combination.


Click here for advice on how to apply the same techniques to locks from other manufacturers.