Safe Deposit Lock Servicing

Most safe deposit lock servicing boils down to opening and repairing a box when a key is not available.

Box opening procedures generally fall into two categories: pull the door or pull the renter’s nose. There are tools on the market to take care of both situations, but my favorite is the LKM1010KIT from Lockmasters, Inc. This kit contains a door puller and a nose puller along with all of the accessories needed to handle just about any job, plus volume three of my safe deposit lock servicing DVDs, which covers box opening.


Nose Pulling

In the photo of the S&G 4440 lock with the horn-plate and noses removed, you will see that without the renters post in place, the renter’s levers have all dropped down to the point where the fence could slide over them. This will happen on virtually any of the fixed lever locks if you are able to pull the renter’s nose and post out of the lock. A nose puller allows you to do just that. There are lots of ways to attach the nose puller to the nose, ranging from a hardened sheet-metal screw to a hardened machine screw, which requires you to drill and tap the nose, to specialty blades for some Mosler locks that just snap in behind the nose.

Regardless of how you get the nose out, once you have it out, you will still have to insert and turn the guard key and then find a way to move the bolt now that the renter’s post and foot are gone. My favorite tool for this is a Shrum tool. All you have to do is insert the tool into the lock where the foot used to be and flip the bolt back. Sometimes you may have to vibrate the door or use a screwdriver or ice pick to pull the levers down far enough for the fence to pass over them, but this is not usually too difficult.

If you ever have a case where there is no guard key, you can also pull the nose on the guard side of the lock in the same manner and the levers on that side will also drop low enough to pass under the fence.

The few times that I have had to do this was on a safe deposit lock outside of a bank. You will find safe deposit locks in use on some inner compartments in safes and very often on rotary-hopper drop-safes that are used by some trucking and delivery companies.

Door Pulling

Door pulling involves forcing the door open without retracting the lock bolt. This naturally ruins the lock, but in many cases, this is the best option. As a general rule, the banks don’t care about repairing a lock when the box has to be opened because the renter lost the key. They simply pass the cost of the opening and the replacement lock along to the customer who lost the key. In fact, banks usually stock locks for just this purpose.

The process of pulling a door starts with pulling the renter’s nose and inserting a hook-like “Puller Bolt” into the opening in the lock. Once the puller-bolt in securely hooked onto the inner surface of the door, a bracket is mounted across the frames of two or more boxes so that the puller bolt can be tightened, which will force the door out, breaking the lock in the process.

It is extremely important to place the supports for the puller bracket securely on the frame members of the nest. If the support slips, or you accidentally place the support against another box door, you can easily force the wrong door inward rather than pulling the door that you wanted to open outward. Opening the wrong safe deposit box or damaging another safe deposit box is about the worst thing you can do while working inside a bank vault. This will cause a huge headache and public relations problem for the bank, and it will probably be the last work you ever do for that bank.

On a related note, being told by the vault custodian to open the wrong box by mistake is always a danger. This is why I always have the bank custodian write down the number of the box that I am to open and verify it verbally before I ever touch the door with a tool. If you have written proof that you were told to open the wrong box, it’s much harder to blame you for the vault custodian’s error.


Resettable Safe Deposit Locks

While older resettable locks can be a royal pain to work on, the newer locks are generally well made and easy to service. The problems come in when unskilled people try to reset these locks, or when someone loses the key and the box has to opened.

Our current economic problems are causing everyone to cut expenses wherever they can and banks are no exception. More and more banks are resetting their own safe deposit locks when a renter relinquishes a box. Unfortunately, most vault custodians don’t really understand the mechanics of what they are doing, and they make mistakes. And when they make a mistake, it becomes our job to correct the problem.

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