A stuck combination lock can be very frustrating. These locks always seem to get stuck at the most inopportune times. With a little knowledge and planning, combination locks “gone bad” can be dealt with relatively easily.
It is important to first understand how a lock works. A lock is a mechanical device with movable internal parts. If these parts are somehow rendered immobile, the lock will not open. Locks are susceptible to the same environmental wear and tear as any other mechanical device. The two most common problems that cause combination locks to get stuck are freezing and corrosion.
A frozen lock can be dealt with in a variety of ways. The first method that is always worth a try is to apply shock, or in other words, to hit it. Simply hitting the lock will sometimes loosen the frozen parts. Although this is the simplest method, it usually is not the most effective. The most effective way to free the parts is to apply heat. I highly recommend using an electric heat gun, or hairdryer. This will melt away any ice that may be inside the lock and allow you to open it.
It is also possible to use a cigarette lighter or torch, but this can damage the lock’s internal mechanisms or crack the outer case. Therefore use flame heat devices with care. If you find yourself in a situation with a frozen lock and are without a way to apply dry heat, the only other option is hot water. Obtain a glass full of steaming hot water, and either immerse the lock or pour the water over the lock. Quickly work the lock before the water has a chance to refreeze.
If you were forced to use the water method, I recommend buying a new combination lock and discarding the old one. Even if the old lock could be dried sufficiently, the internal parts will very likely corrode and cause you more trouble in the future. Whenever a frozen lock is thawed, it is important to allow the lock to warm up and dry sufficiently. This will help reduce the chances of the lock will freezing again.
When it comes to removing a corroded combination lock, the method with which I have had the most success involves using WD-40 or other similar lubricants. Aim the flow of the lubricant underneath the dial on the front of the lock, and soak the inside as thoroughly as possible. Once the lubricant has been applied, wait 10-15 minutes.
This gives the lubricant enough time to get in and start breaking up the corrosion. Another alternative is to apply heat with a torch. I would not recommend using a torch after the lubricant has been applied, due to the fact that most lubricants are flammable. Regardless of the method used to remove the corroded lock, a new lock should be purchased as soon as possible. A corroded lock is an unreliable lock, and hence, ruined.
If all else fails, one last method for removing a stuck combination lock is to obtain a pair of lock cutters from your local hardware store and cut the lock off. While this is the easiest method, it is also the most expensive and is therefore only recommended as a last resort.If all else fails