Monday, January 5, 2009

Does my safe need to be serviced?

Safes and vaults, just like any other mechanical device, need to be serviced periodically to maintain proper functioning and to prevent the dreaded "lockout". How often this needs to happen depends on it's location and use factors.

Safes that are used (or abused) more frequently require more attention. Also, safes that haven't been opened on a regular basis (at least once a month) or unopened for several years may develop problems that are associated with lack of use, such as dried-up or solidified lubrication and other problems.

The most common problem and frequently the one that causes a lockout may be something as simple as a loose fastener, i.e. a small screw. That screw may only connect two parts, but it may be critical in your ability to open the safe or vault. Loose screws or other small parts may also become disconnected and fall into other moving parts causing a jam.

Although your safe or vault may sport an electronic (digital) safe lock which doesn't require as much service, maintenance on other parts are frequently ignored because the regular attention of a S&V technician (when he's there to reset a combination) may no longer be performed because users routinely set their own codes. Keypads, connectors, terminal strips and cables, i.e. "things that users may touch", may become damaged by rough or careless handling while replacing batteries. Inferior batteries may also leak, bulge or burst which can cause intermittent opening or even a complete failure of the lock.

Some of the things that a safe & vault technician will do on a routine service call are:

INSPECTION - disassemble bolt-works and lock(s) and check for loose fasteners, broken or worn parts, dried or congealed lubrication, slow time-lock movements, frayed cables, protective grommets and other wear or abuse factors. Inspection is the least time-consuming part of a service call, but it is also the most important part.

CLEANING & LUBRICATION - Although all internal parts must be clean and reassembled correctly in order to work properly, lubrication is a bit more complicated. The proper type, location and amount is very critical in the trouble-free operation of most mechanical safe locks and time-locks. Sloppy or amateur service is the second most common reason for an emergency lockout call.

ADJUSTMENTS - Many of the mechanisms inside a safe door need adjustment in order to function properly. Timing and balance are critical with some parts and the lack of adjustment may cause binds, door-running, handle disconnects and other problems that will make opening and closing the safe door more difficult, effect lock operation, as well as contribute to abuse factors that make other parts fail completely.

USER TRAINING - Bad habits and abuse factors that can cause lockouts may be minimized by training users in proper operation and battery replacements. A technician who services the safe or vault frequently and is familiar with normal operation and function may be able observe this behavior or see signs of it happening before it causes a lockout or other problem. A DOs & DON'Ts checklist is often recommended to help users correct the habits and factors that contribute to inconvenient and costly failures.

SERVICE INTERVALS - Safes or vaults that are in commercial use and have several busy users may need to be serviced on a bi-annual or annual basis, whereas a home safe that is used only infrequently by the owner may need service less than once every two or three years.

LESSON LEARNED? Routine service is convenient and inexpensive when compared to the inconvenience and expense of an emergency lockout and subsequent repairs.

Questions and comments are always appreciated. Use the email link provided, below.

© 2008-2017 by Ken Doyle - The Safecracker
ADVANCED Safe & Vault
San Francisco, Bay Area and Northern California
Telephone: +1 (415) 519-3401

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