Forgot the combination to your suitcase lock? You’re definitely in the right place then! This detailed guide will tell you all the tips and tricks you can use to open your luggage lock even if you don’t know the combination.
Luggage locks are easier to open than you think. There are several different ways to break them open, from hacking to just using force, and there’s even a foolproof trick that opens every single lock. Read on to learn all the different ways to open a luggage lock!
First thing’s first – you need to know exactly what type of lock you are dealing with. Is the lock built into the suitcase, or are we talking about a padlock? Is it TSA-friendly or not?
Some locks are easier to open than others, so identifying the lock is the first step towards getting your suitcase open. TSA-compliant locks are a bit trickier to break into, but most of them can be opened with TSA master keys. Some locks are pickable, others can be forced open, and there’s even a foolproof method that will open any combination lock out there.
Once you’ve identified exactly what type of your lock you’re dealing with, feel free to try out any of the methods below and see what works best for you!
If you’re 100% sure that you’re using the right combination for the lock but it won’t open, it’s possible that one of the numbers change. This can happen sometimes due to vibrations on the airplane and in most cases just one number changes. So, try using your combination but change one number each time.
There are 27 possible combinations, and it only takes a couple of seconds to input each one, so this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. If you tried all the possible combinations and the lock still won’t open, it’s time to turn to
Sometimes the simplest solution is the correct one. Before you try any other tip from this guide, just put in the factory combination. It’s usually 000 or 999, so just try to open your luggage with those two combinations. It will only take a few seconds, and if you manage to open your suitcase you’ve saved yourself a lot of time and effort!
Try every possible combination for the lock and you’re going to get it right eventually. I know it sounds tedious and time-consuming, but the maker of the locks (Travel Sentry) swears that it only takes about 30 minutes to get to 999. If you know one of the numbers or if the combination starts with 0,1, or 2, it will take significantly less than half an hour to guess the combination.
Start with 001, 002, 003, and then continue until you make it all the way to 999. One of the thousand different combinations has to be correct, so out of all the tips and tricks in this guide, this is the only thing that’s guaranteed to open the lock.
If you start guessing right now, your luggage will be open within the next half hour. But if it’s just too tedious for you, feel free to try out some other methods first. Maybe one of the quicker solutions will work better for you!
TSA locks are numbered from 001 to 007, and you can actually buy them with corresponding keys. The number of your lock should be written right next to the combination – if it’s a 002 lock, buy an 002 key.
These keys can’t open every single type of lock they’re meant for – what would be the purpose of locks if they could? But they can open most locks, so it’s certainly worth a try if you’re looking for an easy solution.
One person even printed a set of TSA master keys and it’s crazy to think they could open up any suitcase they want with that. It really makes you wonder what’s the purpose of these locks when it’s so easy to open them without the correct combination.
Some locks can be hacked and you can always try hacking the lock to get it open. You’ll need to turn the luggage so that you can see the back of the lock and rotate the dials until you can see the small open spaces. You need to align the holes, and then it’s time to try rotating them.
This is the trial and error part. It’s impossible to know exactly how many times you need to rotate the dials, but here’s the thing – it’s crucial that you rotate all the dials the same number of times. So, try rotating them all once, twice, three times, etc. until you can open the lock.
Don’t worry – I’m a visual learner, so here’s a video of what exactly you need to do to hack a combination lock:
If you tried every single position and you still can’t open the lock, it’s time to try something else. The good news is there are a lot more tricks you can try, so don’t give up just yet!
There’s another way you can try and hack a combination lock. This is supposed to be just for TSA locks, but it can’t hurt to try even if your luggage has a simple combination lock.
Depending on the type of lock, you’ll want to either push or pull the button like you’re unlocking it. This puts pressure on the mechanism, which is exactly what you want to hack the lock. When the mechanism is under pressure, there’s an audible click whenever you turn the dial to the correct number.
Keep the button pushed/pulled and rotate the first dial until you hear the click. Leave it in the place that clicked and repeat the process on the remaining two dials. When all three dials click into place, the lock should open immediately.
Some luggage manufacturers make it virtually impossible to open the TSA-compliant locks without their instructions. This is often the case with brands that make more expensive luggage. It makes sense that Samsonite would make it as difficult as possible to open up their luggage lock, and it makes you a bit more at ease. Until you get their instructions, that is.
Contact customer service of your luggage brand to get instructions on how to reset the lock. It’s worth noting that you can only reset locks that are unlocked at the moment you’re trying to reset them. Follow the instructions until you’ve managed to reset the lock and maybe email yourself the new combination so you don’t forget it again.
I also want to point out that this will only work with established brands. If you have a cheap suitcase made by a brand you’ve never heard of, the chances of getting in contact with a customer service rep are lower than the chances of the wind rotating the dials into their correct positions.
If you forgot the combination to the lock but it’s unlocked, you can easily reset the combination. However, keep in mind that this method works mostly on TSA padlocks, and not really on built-in luggage locks.
First, set the dial to 000. Then, turn the shackle to sit at a 90-degree angle from the lock position and push it down. Keep the shackle pushed down while you set a new code for the lock. When you’ve set the desired code, pull up the shackle and turn it to the lock position. If it worked, you should be able to unlock the padlock with the new combination you just set.
It’s surprisingly easy to buy a lock picking kit online, and you can find tutorials on lock picking all over YouTube. If you can’t get any other method to work and you’re still not ready to try and input 999 different combinations into a lock, you could always try to pick the lock.
If you ever played a detective video game, you probably have some idea how this works – you need to put pressure on the mechanism of a lock. A lock picking kit will give you all the different keys to try this with, and then it’s just trial and error until you get it right.
You can also try using items you have around your home like sim card ejectors or hairpins. You’ll need two items at the very least – one to push in the locking mechanism, and another one to turn the lock once the mechanism is under pressure.
This can take a while, and it can definitely take you more than 30 minutes to pick the lock. There’s also no guarantee that you’ll be able to do it, and that’s a good thing. Not all locks are pickable, and that’s the whole reason why we put them on our luggage.
If your luggage is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, it should be possible to get the manufacturer to open the lock for you. You need to ship the luggage to a repair center and then wait for an eternity to get it back, so I don’t really recommend this method.
It certainly takes longer than the 30 minutes necessary to try out all the different combinations, and it could cost you some serious money to ship the luggage back and forth.
But it’s something you can do in case you were wondering, and I like to cover all bases with these guides.
If you need to get inside your suitcase immediately and you don’t have the half-hour necessary to open the lock, you can try to bypass it. With standard zippered suitcases, all you need is a ballpoint pen. Insert the tip of the pen between the zipper teeth and press down. Pull the pen down the zipper until you’ve managed to separate all the teeth.
The suitcase will still be locked, but with an open zipper, you can access most of the items inside. I was horrified when I figured out I could do this with my luggage – it really made me stop and think what the whole point of locks was. Also, it was the moment I decided to look into zipperless luggage for overseas travel since you can’t break open a zipperless suitcase with a simple pen.
There’s another thing you can try, but it’s going to make the suitcase unusable until you send it for repairs. To open a locked suitcase, you just need to disconnect the zipper pullers from the sliders. And this is easier than you think – just get a screwdriver or a pair of pliers and get savage with the pullers.
Rip the pullers away from the sliders and you should be able to open and close your suitcase. The pullers will still stay in the lock, but the sliders can move up and down freely. And don’t stress too much about destroying your suitcase – in most cases, it’s super easy and affordable to replace a broken zipper.
You can also pry open a zipperless suitcase – you just need to break the latch. This will take a lot of force, and in some cases, you won’t be able to do it if the metal is too strong. But I’ve had luggage where the latches broke on their own, so I assume if you apply just the right amount of force you’ll get it to open in no time.
I don’t recommend trying this method on a zipperless suitcase if you aren’t ready to part ways with it. Breaking the latches will render the suitcase useless because there’s no way to close the packing compartments without them. If you’re still on a vacation, or if you paid a lot of money for your zipperless luggage, please take my advice and just spend thirty minutes trying to guess the lock.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.