How To Fix A TSA Lock Stuck In Open Position Or Jammed

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What do you do if your luggage lock is stuck? How do you open a jammed lock?

Often a “jammed” combination lock isn’t really jammed. It’s just that the code has changed when you didn’t want the code to change.

If you do get it your lock open follow the procedure to reset the combination number. Otherwise, you might be locked out when you close the lock again.

Fear not. This post will help you get your TSA lock working again. 

This post should help with all luggage brands from American Tourister to Samsonite. It’s also relevant for all types of popular 3rd party TSA locks like Travel More. 

If you have a padlock style TSA lock it usually will have 3 dials.

The combination code can be changed by opening the lock and turning the shackle 90 degrees then pushing the shackle down.

It doesn’t matter if you have a TSA002 lock or a TSA007 lock, sometimes this code changing mechanism gets jammed causing the lock to be stuck in an open position.

Essentially what has happened is your lock has managed to become locked while the shackle is open.

To unlock it you need to turn the dial to the correct combination code. But the combination code might have been nudged and now be different from what you think it is.

The question is how do you figure out what the code has changed to…

The way to fix the jam is to move the dials.

Let’s say your original code was 333. Often the code gets accidentally changed by just moving one of the digits up or down. So consider trying 334 or 332. Or 343 or 323. Or 433 or 233.

These could be the new codes that were accidentally created when the lock jammed up.

The trick to unjamming your lock is to move the dials while pulling on the shackle and find what the code has become.

In a worst-case scenario, you could just test every single possible code from 000 right through to 999. It won’t take as long as you think.

When Your In-Built Tsa Lock Jammed

Inbuilt luggage locks that grab hold of the zippers can become jammed too.

With these types of lock you’ll find that the lock won’t close.

Sometimes, this is because the reset button has become jammed. So check that it is not depressed. 

If your lock is closed and you can’t open it, it might be that the code you are using is wrong.

The lock isn’t jammed it’s locked!

And like the example above the combination mechanism has managed to be nudged to a different code. Try the method above to move the numbers to find the code that will open the case. It may take some time but it will be better than destroying the lock.

The Illusion Of Security

Luggage locks are one of those features that manufacturers put onto suitcases because they help to sell.

But in reality, they don’t make your belongings safe. 

You can open most suitcases using a ballpoint pen. You just need to jam the pen into the zip and it will open.

If I’m going to use a lock I much prefer to use a separate padlock rather than an in-built lock. If the lock was really broken you could always cut off the lock without damaging the suitcase.

This happens a lot so often staff on cruise ships or hotels have the tools to cut open luggage.

But these days I figure that if someone really wants to break into my luggage they will, and no dumb little tsa lock is going to stop them.

For checked luggage I just use a cable zip tie. This stops the zips from accidentally opening.

If the TSA decide they want to inspect the contents of the bag they can simply cut the zip tie.

I carry spare zip ties with me in case that happens.

And since I don’t bother with TSA locks on luggage I don’t have any problems with locks jamming or getting stuck anymore.

The Verdict

Jammed locks are fixed by finding the correct code.

What was the correct code is probably no longer the correct code.

This is because TSA locks on luggage generally suck. The combination numbers frequently get changed when you don’t intend to change them.

The best way to protect your belongings is not luggage locks.

That’s a fantasy. They don’t keep your belongings safe.

When you fly with checked luggage lots of people have the opportunity to steal from your suitcase.

A “bad egg” TSA officer could swipe something while doing an inspection.

And later a baggage handler could have a look in your bag too.

A set of TSA luggage keys that can open any suitcase can be bought on eBay for about $10.

So if you fly with valuables and you want to protect those valuables then it’s best to pack them in carry on luggage.

And, yes, unfortunately, thieves fly too and occasionally belongings get stolen from carry-on luggage but it happens much less frequently than with checked luggage. 

Traveling light, and keeping an eye on your suitcase, is a great way to stop anything being stolen.

My little bag is usually sitting right at my feet for most trips these days since I fit everything I pack in an under seater.

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