Last Updated on January 17, 2021
Got yourself into a bit of a pickle huh?
This post is about opening and resetting TSA locks when you have forgot the combination.
You’re going to need some time and patience to get this done.
So first relax and read this article it will only take a few minutes and should save you time in the long run.
TSA Locks Reset From The Open Position
I’m sure I don’t need to point out to you that the whole point of a combination lock is that you can’t unlock it without knowing the combination.
But I’m going to bold the next statement just in case…
You can only reset the TSA locks when they are in the open position.
So the correct question to ask yourself right now is how do you open a TSA lock when you don’t know the combination. You can worry about how to change the combination after you get it open!
There are a few options and the best choice depends on how much of a rush you are in.
Try The Factory Setting
Most luggage locks have a factory setting of 000.
So if you never set up your own code then try turning the dials to 000 and then press the button or pull on the shackle.
If you reset the factory code to a new combination when you bought the lock you’ll need to find another method.
Get Your Hands On A TSA Key Set
Of course, TSA approved locks are a special type of combination lock because there is a master key that opens the lock it’s just that only TSA security officers have the key…
You could go to the airport and ask a TSA officer if they can help you unlock your luggage.
Each TSA approved luggage lock has a code written on it – TSA001, TSA002, TSA003, TSA004, TSA005, TSA006, or TSA007.
These codes tell the TSA officer which key they need to use to open the lock.
The problem with this is it’s unless you happen to be very close to the airport it will take a long time to get there and there is no guarantee that anyone will help you. It’s not their job to open your suitcase for you although it does happen.
For most people, going to the airport and asking for help will not be the best option.
Picking The TSA Lock
A while back the Washington post was writing an article about luggage. They published a close-up photo with all the TSA master keys.
Someone then took that photo and used it to create 3D cad files that modeled the TSA master keys.
So if you happen to own a 3D printer or know someone that does you could try downloading and printing a key to unlock your luggage.
But while 3D printers are becoming more popular you probably don’t own one.
Another option would be to go on eBay and buy a master key. In theory, only TSA officers should have these keys. But in reality, you can find people selling the master keys online.
However, you’re locked out of your suitcase, and it will take days for keys to arrive. There are faster ways to open a TSA lock.
How To Open a Tsa Lock When You Don’t Know The Code
The Slow Method – Trying All The Possible Numbers
Most TSA locks will have 3 dials meaning that there are only 1000 different possible combinations.
The slow tedious way to open a TSA lock is often the fastest way to get the damn thing open.
To open a TSA lock when you have forgotten the code try all the codes from 000 through to 999. It won’t take as long as you think. Keep the open button pressed as you turn the dial.
Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes you to test 100 numbers then multiply by 10. This will be the longest amount of time it will take you to crack the code.
If you had just tried this method instead of looking on Google you might have the case open already!
You simply need to start at 000 and try all the numbers until you find the one that opens the case.
You might think that this will take forever but you can do this reasonably quickly. It will take you less time than going to the airport and searching for a TSA officer. And it will be quicker than printing keys or buying keys.
You need to be methodical and make sure that you try each possible combination code.
This is the surefire way to get your case open and then reset your code to something you won’t forget.
It might only take 30 minutes to work your way through all the numbers and if you can remember any of the digits it will be even faster.
If you have a lock with 4 dials then that’s a different ball game. The slow method will be really slow and it could take 5 – 10 hours to try all the different combinations.
That’s still achievable if you are not in a rush and spend 30 – 60 minutes each day for a number of days, but if you need to open your lock fast you’ll need a different method.
The Faster Method – Dialing & Listening
This method might work and is worth trying. If it doesn’t work then revert to the slow method.
You need to do this in a quiet place so the airport lobby isn’t a good place to try this.
- Step 1 – Push the unlock button and hold it down or apply constant pressure on the shackle if it’s a padlock
- Step 2 – Slowly turn one of the dials and listen for a click. If you hear a click this is the right number
- Step 3 – Repeat for all the dials.
- Step 4 – When all the dials are correct if you are still pushing the unlock button or pulling the shackle the lock should open.
This video is a great demonstration of the technique. It should work for combination locks or wordlocks. There is a knack to it so have patience and good luck.
And just or good measure here is another video demonstrating the same technique:
Hanging the padlock on the hook is an ingenious way to make it easy to apply constant pressure on the shackle!
How To Remember A Code That You Forgot – The ‘Have Faith’ Method
The mind works in mysterious ways. If you don’t need to reset your TSA lock today then try this method.
Take the suitcase out from the cupboard, spend 5 minutes looking at the lock, play around with the dials, maybe try going through 000 to 100 testing.
Then since you are not in a great rush just go to sleep and often the next day you will miraculously remember the code.
It’s like you set your brain a task to work on when you are sleeping.
If you are not in a rush to reset your lock today then this is usually the best way. Have faith, you will remember the code eventually.
Instructions To Reset A TSA Lock
Now that you’ve got your case open you will be able to reset the combination code.
The best way to do this is to find the instructions from your luggage manufacturer or luggage lock maker.
But I’ll have an attempt at writing some generic instructions:
- Step 1 – Enter the current combination and open the lock.
- Step 2 – Turn the shackle and to a 90 degree angle
- Step 3 – Push the shackle down
- Step 4 – Change the combination.
- Step 5 – Pull the shackle up and return to the lock position
- Step 6 – Enter the new combination to check that you changed it correctly
- Step 7 – Better write down your new combination code this time!
If you have a built-in integral TSA lock rather than a padlock the steps are the same but use the reset button rather than pushing and pulling on the shackle in steps 2 and 3. You might need to use a mini screwdriver to push in the reset button.
This is a great video about resetting using by pushing and pulling on the shackle:
Samsonite Luggage Locks
Travelmore Luggage Locks
If you are don’t need access to your suitcase soon then sometimes the simplest thing to do is just to wait.
Before you go to sleep at night visualize the lock with its dial in your mind’s eye. Ask yourself what the code is? You might just find that you know the answer in the morning.
If you need to get your open today then stop reading this post and go start trying all the combinations right now. You’ll find the code soon enough.
Luggage locks don’t really keep your belongings safe anyway. Any determined thief will get into a suitcase if they want. They are usually very easy to cut open. Or a ballpoint pen rammed into the zip will burst it open. If you have a soft case a knife could be used to cut into the fabric.
Luggage locks are more of a marketing gimmick that brands use to get you to buy their suitcase. They are more a deterrent than a true way to secure your travel bag.
The best way to keep your belongings safe is to pack them in carry-on luggage rather than checked luggage and then keep an eye on your case.
This is another of the benefits of traveling light!
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