MANIPULATION TROUBLESHOOTING

Solutions to common safe lock manipulation problems


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Cannot find the contacts

PROBLEM

Cannot locate contact points.

CAUSE

  • Gates are hidden by severe eccentricity in the wheels.
  • Driver is slightly smaller in diameter, contacts are barely touched by lever nose or fence.
  • You are dealing with a manipulation proof lock.

SOLUTION

  • Manipulate for the contact.
  • Try oscillating in other areas around the dial, maybe contact points are at another location.
  • Make positive lock identification and deal accordingly.

I only get flatliner graphs

PROBLEM

I only get flatliner, brain dead graphs.

CAUSE

  • Maybe what you feel is not really a contact point, but the inner workings of a manipulation proof lock.

SOLUTION

  • Make positive lock identification in order to be sure you are not dealing with a manipulation proof lock.

I only get high and low areas

PROBLEM

I only get high and low areas in my graphs.

CAUSE

  • Maybe you are dealing with a La Gard Group 2 combination lock with its distinctive wheels.

SOLUTION

  • Select center of lowest area and treat it as a combination number until the real one is found.

S&G lock reads like a La Gard

PROBLEM

I am manipulating a Sargent & Greenleaf combination lock and it is reading like if it were a La Gard.

CAUSE

  • It could be that the lock inside the safe its really a La Gard, this kind of Frankenstein is often seen.

SOLUTION

  • Keep an open mind and do not allow yourself to be influenced by the dial and dial ring brand or appearance, concentrate exclusively on what the combination lock is telling you.

Nothing found turning left

PROBLEM

Dialed all wheels left (AWL) and found no clear gate indications in the wheel pack.

CAUSE

  • Gates are shadowed by high areas in the wheels.

SOLUTION

  • Determine center of lowest area in the wheel pack and treat it as a real combination number.
  • Dial all wheels right (AWR) and see if you get better indications.

Nothing found turning right

PROBLEM

Dialed all wheels right (AWR) and found no clear gate indications in the wheel pack.

CAUSE

  • Gates are shadowed by high areas in the wheels.

SOLUTION

  • Determine center of lowest area in the wheel pack and treat it as a real combination number.
  • Dial all wheels left (AWL) and see if you get better indications.

Inconsistent readings

PROBLEM

Readings are inconsistent.

CAUSE

  • Loose spline key.
  • You have not practiced enough.
  • Trembling in the hand.

SOLUTION

  • Try oscillating in the contact area in order to settle the spline key before taking each contact reading.
  • Improve your touch by practicing with a cut away lock like the ones sold by Lockmasters.
  • Try feeling the contact point with your left hand, do the opposite if you are left handed.

Moderate to severe inconsistency

PROBLEM

Moderate to severe inconsistency in readings.

CAUSE

  • Sargent & Greenleaf Group 2M manipulation resistant combination lock.
  • Mosler CD-120 or CD-302 combination lock with manipulation resistant faceted wheels.

SOLUTION

  • Make positive lock identification and manipulate accordingly, this is advanced manipulation.

Lack of sensitivity in fingers

PROBLEM

Feel in the hand used to manipulate is rather insensitive.

CAUSE

  • Feel has been impaired because of a rough treatment of the hand in question.
  • Heavy handedness when feeling the contact point.

SOLUTION

  • Use other hand when feeling contact point.
  • Use some king of manipulation wonder tool such as the WASP, it truly works miracles in these cases.
  • Use a high quality audio amplifier.

Dial not turning smoothly

PROBLEM

Dial does not turn smoothly.

CAUSE

  • Excessive dirt accumulated between dial and dial ring.
  • Old grease on dial and dial ring has dried up.

SOLUTION

  • Use a bottle of compressed air to introduce air under pressure between the dial and dial ring.
  • Lubricate generously the gap between dial and dial ring with WD-40.

Dial binds when turning

PROBLEM

Dial binds at a given point in its rotation.

CAUSE

  • Dial may have been hit accidentally, pushing the dial ring to the side and taking dial out of its center.

SOLUTION

  • With the wooden handle of a hammer, tap the dial gently in the direction opposite the binding, in order to return dial to its center.

Excessive end play in dial

PROBLEM

Dial has excessive end play inside dial ring.

CAUSE

  • The person who installed the lock exceeded tolerance when screwing the drive cam to the spindle.

SOLUTION

  • On rear drive wheel retaining combination locks such as Sargent & Greenleaf, pull dial out when reading contacts.
  • On front drive wheel non retaining combination locks such as Mosler, push dial in when reading contacts.

Meilink with inconsistent readings

PROBLEM

The Meilink safe Sargent & Greenleaf lock I am manipulating is giving inconsistent readings.

CAUSE

  • Some of these Meilink safes use genuine Sargent & Greenleaf dials and dial rings on their doors but on the inside they use Center Manufacturing locks.
  • These locks do not have detent balls, the part that controls in and out bolt movement inside the lockcase.

SOLUTION

  • Determine contact point area and put lever nose at its center. For example, if your left contact is 5 and your right contact is 15, set the dial at 10.
  • Secure lower end of opening handle with an elastic band so that constant tension is maintained in the counterclockwise opening direction.
  • This will put constant pressure on bolt, preventing in and out movement and thus stabilizing readings.

Hairline opening index

PROBLEM

The hairline opening index I am manipulating with is of no use, I have it perfectly centered on the dial ring and covering the original index completely.

CAUSE

  • Maybe the hairline opening index is not crossing over into the dial itself and overlapping the combination numbers.

SOLUTION

  • Make sure the hairline index is exactly over the original index with its sides parallel with the individual combination number line markings.
  • Make sure the hairline opening index clears the gap between the dial and dial ring and crosses over into the dial and sets over the combination numbers.
  • In order not to affect readability, do not cover more than half a line with the hairline index.

Meilink with deformed wheels

PROBLEM

I am manipulating a Meilink fire safe equipped with a S&G lock, the graphs show horrible deformations in the wheels that have me totally confused.

CAUSE

  • It could be that in the interior there is not a S&G lock but one by Center Manufacturing.
  • These cheap locks use plastic hand change wheels. Sometimes during manufacture, molten plastic drips out of the mold, creating these crests in the wheels.

SOLUTION

  • Ignore these crests and concentrate as usual in locating the lowest parts of the wheels, dont let these anomalies confuse you.

Eyesight fatigue

PROBLEM

My eyesight gets tired reading the contact points.

CAUSE

  • Maybe you have a problem reading small print.
  • Maybe you need to increase the size of the indications.

SOLUTION

  • Take an eye examination.
  • Use a magnifying glass, preferably made of real glass, not plastic.
  • Use precision tools that dramatically amplify indications, such as the WASP.
  • Make sure the dial area is well illuminated.

Tend to get lost easily

PROBLEM

I tend to get lost easily when I do not find a number quickly, specially when all I find are high and low areas.

CAUSE

  • Maybe you are not using graphs to register your contact readings during the manipulations.

SOLUTION

  • Make a habit of using graphs, it is the only way you can see at a glance what is happening inside the lock.
  • The extra time invested will greatly increase your chances for successful openings.

La Gard: contacts no, snagging yes

PROBLEM

I am starting out a manipulation on what looks a La Gard lock, but cannot locate the contacts, only feel a slight snagging as the dial is turned.

CAUSE

  • There is a possibility that the drive cam bearing surface and the lever nose have become so worn, that feeling contacts is no longer possible.
  • There is a possibility that the fence is riding on the edges of the wheels.

SOLUTION

  • See if you can detect where the fence snags in the wheels. Try turning dial in both directions. In some cases, you may get lucky and find the gates.
  • This will only work if the snagging is slight, if severe it will prevent the dial from turning and you may be left with no other option but to drill. (AARGH!)

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