Combination lock tricks

Written by aaron kopf
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Combination lock tricks
A classic combination lock (Combination Lock image by Mario Ragsac Jr. from

A combination lock is a type of lock that is opened with the correct alignment of specific symbols, usually numbers or letters. There are several varieties, including wordlock combination locks, rotating disk locks and the most common, single-dial locks. Single-dial locks are well known to almost anyone that possessed a personal locker in high school. It can be easy to forget the combination, but there are ways to open these mechanical contraptions without it.

Master Lock Shortcut

A master Lock combination lock requires three specific numbers to open, with 40 numbers from which to choose.

According to Master Unlocked, "For each of the 40 possible third (last) numbers, Master Lock only assigned 10 first numbers and 10 second numbers. The possible first numbers are the last number and 9 other numbers, spaced equally, 4 apart, on the lock dial. The possible second numbers are half way between the possible first numbers."

It turns out there are actually only 64 possible combinations for the 1500 series of locks, all of which can be entered sequentially in a matter of minutes. This makes it much easier to discover your lock's forgotten combination, and leaves the bolt cutters out of it.

Pepsi Can Key

If you don't feel up to using math to open your combination lock, a small piece of aluminium does the trick. Using a pair of scissors, cut a triangular piece of aluminium out of a soda can. It needs to be roughly the same size and shape as a guitar pick. Wrap the metal point-downwards around the left-hand shaft of the curved metal hoop on the combination lock. Push the point down into the lock. Get some pliers to push the metal a little farther, and then rotate the metal around the shaft towards the inside of the hoop. Pull the hoop and your lock is open.

This works because the aluminium slides between the piece of metal holding the hoop in place. This method works for most types of single-dial combination locks.

Rotation Reversal

Master Locks are opened with a right-left-right combination. This is to say, the user turns the dial right to arrive at the first number, left to arrive at the second number, and right to arrive at the final number. It is possible to use a left-right-left combination instead.

The combination numbers will be different, and the only way to discover the left-right-left combination is through trial-and-error. It is helpful to know that the first number will be larger by a few numbers, the second number will be smaller by a few, and the final number will be the same.

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