A customer calls, asking you to open their safe. The combination on the manual dial lock has been forgotten, and a quick call to the manufacturer confirms that the original combination has been changed. What do you do?
You always can drill the lock, but if the customer wants to reuse the safe and lock, you might have to use an autodialer to “break the code.”
An autodialer, essentially, is a robot that’s attached to the safe and spins the dial as it runs through possible combinations until it finds the right one and opens the safe.
These so-called brute-force devices can cause a lot of wear to a safe lock because of the number of turns. Also, to mount an autodialer, you typically have to drill into the safe anyway for the device to stay in place as it runs through its combinations. If the goal is to minimize the damage to the safe, an autodialer isn’t necessarily a good choice.
However, a new autodialer by a company from the Czech Republic has changed the opinion of at least one locksmith.
“I was actually against autodialers,” said Wayne Winton during the latest meeting of Locksmiths United. “I would never buy one of these things and never put it on after I saw what it did on two different locks that I did. [The] product completely changed my view.”
In fact, during the meeting, Winton said he now would recommend the new autodialer to someone getting into the safe business.
The Right Combination
The product in question is the JACK PRO, and it was presented by Marek Pederzoli of MPM Lock Decoders, which makes the autodialer. Pederzoli, who was quick to note that he isn’t a locksmith but a computer programmer who created the machine’s algorithms, said the company’s autodialer has been in the works for five years. It came about because of a locksmithing colleague’s frustration with current options.
One of the things was the nature of an autodialer — using “brute force” dialing of every possible combination. This process could take days before reaching the correct combination, depending on the first number.
“If you are using an autodialer and using all the combinations, I think you’re using it wrong,” he said. “My approach is trying all the combinations should be the last thing you should try.”
To avoid that, the JACK PRO has “smart modes” that run through several lists of common codes. These include:
- A list of about 10 combinations that manufacturers commonly set for their safes when they leave the plant
- Combinations that cycle through 10s and 5s on the dial
- Single-number combinations, which Pederzoli said are common in Europe.
- Birthday codes. Winton said birthday codes generally aren’t recommended by safe techs, but they end up being a common change.
The JACK PRO also will search 11s. “Some people want to set something simple they can remember,” Pederzoli explained. “But maybe in the manual, it was written ‘don’t use 10s,’ so instead of 10s, they set maybe 11, 22, 33, so [the autodialer] checks 11s.”
If all else fails, the JACK PRO will run through all the other combinations as a last resort.
The JACK PRO has several additional noteworthy high-tech features, including a diagnostics mode that checks the lock for structural failure before it begins any dialing combinations.
“Safe guys who do a lot of safe work know what dialing diagnostics is,” Winton said. “It’s the first thing that we do when we come out to the safe. You want all the information you can get from that lock to know what your plan of attack is.” He added that he uses the JACK PRO to run diagnostics for him while he brings in tools from his work van.
In addition, the JACK PRO includes a relocking function that relocks the safe after it discovers the correct combination. This is important, because an autodialer could be on a safe for hours and could open that safe during off hours, when the contents might be vulnerable.
The JACK PRO also has the option to send a text when it finds the right combination, and Winton noted that the combination is password-protected, so it will remain with the locksmith, which negates the potential scenario of failure to pay after a safe is opened. The machine itself is password-protected, too, which means if it’s stolen, it can’t be used without entering the password.
“There were many things we wanted to improve and do differently,” Pederzoli said. “One of the best ideas that we came up with was using magnets [to hold the autodialer on the safe]. That makes it easy.”
“So easy,” Winton agreed. “It’s the easiest to set up.”
Pederzoli said the JACK PRO will work on most mechanical combination locks, including models by Sargent and Greenleaf, Chubb and LA GARD.
But keep in mind: The JACK PRO isn’t for the dabbler. Autodialers are expensive pieces of equipment, costing in the thousands of dollars, although Pederzoli says his company offers a 25% discount on both its models. (The JACK PLUS doesn’t include the smart modes or text capability, among a few other differences.)
“It’s not for everybody; it is a heavy investment,” Winton cautioned, while adding, however, that any specialty equipment can be pricey. “Look at auto programmers. Those things are thousands and thousands of dollars as well. It just depends on what your work is suited for and how much work you’re getting in that field.”
For more information, go to autodialerjack.com.
Better Shop Around
In addition to the autodialer presentation, the meeting featured a quick tour of the revamped Banner Solutions e-commerce site, conducted by Travis Howell, content marketing manager of Banner.
“We put search front and center,” he said, with two primary tabs, one for everything and one particularly for automotive products, on the home page. He added that Banner also beefed up the amount of information included for each product in its inventory.
Additions to the site, which Howell said was “redesigned from the ground up,” include multiple logins for one account and the ability as an admin to determine which logins can see what material. Another notable feature is that you can filter out products that aren’t in stock when you shop.
“I like that it has list pricing, too,” Winton said. “It shows you your pricing and list pricing, so if somebody’s asking you for a price quote, you don’t have to flick back and forth.”
For more information, go to bannersolutions.com
Go here for a video of the meeting.
Locksmiths United is a monthly Zoom presentation to discuss locksmithing and provide information to others in the industry. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, typically the first Monday of each month. All locksmiths are invited. Contact Winton via Locksmith Nation’s group page on Facebook for the Zoom link.