How To Unlock And Reset 3-Digit Combination Lock?

The constant fear of someone potentially stealing your valuables from your suitcase or luggage bag can indeed be quite distracting and disturbing. Thankfully, reputed manufacturers like American Tourister, VIP, Safari, Skybags, and Aristocrat have been integrating 3-digit combination locks, often TSA-approved, into their trolley bags and suitcases for quite a long time now.

However, while these combination locks are easy and convenient to use, forgetting the code or password can put you in a trouble. Especially if you haven’t used the suitcase in a long time or have changed the code recently, you might forget the code.

In case your bag has a combination locking system, losing the key can also put you in a fix. Thankfully, several solutions can help you to unlock your 3-digit combination lock luggage even if you forget the password.

How To Unlock And Reset A 3-Digit Combination Lock Suitcase Or Bag

The Correct Way To Unlock 3-Digit Combination Lock Suitcase

Most suitcases and trolley bags are initially locked with the key code 0-0-0 in a 3-digit combination lock. It is recommended to change the default key when starting to use it. You won’t necessarily have to break open your bag’s lock or visit a locksmith if you have forgotten the combination or lost the key. There are multiple ways to open such a lock, out of which, we will describe the best method that worked for us.

Step 1: Inspect The Combination Lock

Inspecting The Combination Lock

Every modern suitcase and luggage by brands like American Tourister, VIP, Skybags, Samsonite, and Safari comes with a 3-digit combination lock. The TSA-approved locks are safer and more reliable.

However, all locks come with 3 thumb-wheels or disks with a marking from 0 to 9, as per the following picture.

Without a proper way, you have to try out all 120 combinations, which requires lots of patience. But there is a shortcut to reducing all the efforts.

Step 2: Rotate The Wheels/Disks To Find Out The Notches

Rotate The Wheels To Find Out The Notches

There is a notch or hole at the base of every wheel on the lock of the suitcase. If it is not visible to you, try spinning the wheels with your thumb until they appear.

This is a crucial step to unlock the suitcase as the notches at a certain degree angle (depending on the password) permit the lock to be opened.

Most travel bags and suitcases have such a facility that helps us unlock them easily, even if we forget the passcodes we set earlier.

Step 3: Align The Notches And Write Down The Initial Code

After finding out all the holes/notches, it’s time to align them in a straight line and note down the codes. In my case, the initial code is 5-4-3. However, this code will not unlock the bag. It is the primary pattern and angular combination on which the final password will unlock.

Step 4: Add 1 To The Code Of Each Wheel And Try All 10 Combinations

Trying All 10 Combinations

After noting down the initial code, add 1 to each digit and try pulling out the unlock button. You’ll have to follow a trial-and-error method and turn the dials until the lock opens. Make sure to keep the holes aligned by turning every dial precisely the same number of times. There will be 9 more such combinations for a 3-digit lock that you have to try out.

For example, when I added 1 to my initial code 5-4-3, it became 6-5-4. Keep trying all these combinations, and eventually, one combination will work. It will not take more than 2 minutes to solve this problem. In my case, I have found my forgotten combination password to be 3-2-1.

While around 70-80% of luggage like trolley bags and suitcases in the market will unlock with this method, some will not. In that case, you should try out other methods explained below.

Other Methods To Unlock The Bag

Apart from the above method, you can try out all possible combinations. Also, detecting the correct digits from the clicking noises works well on TSA locks. If none of these methods works, you may have to take your luggage bag to a locksmith or the brand store to get it unlocked. Locksmiths have the necessary tools to open a lock without damaging it.

Alternatively, you may use such tools yourself if you have access to them. Airport security personnel use TSA keys to open TSA-approved locks of the suitcases when checking luggage. You can buy these same keys or borrow one from someone to unlock a TSA-approved lock.

Do TSA locks Really Help?

The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) is an agency under the US Department of Homeland Security with authority over transport security in and connecting the US. A TSA-approved lock is globally accepted to allow passengers to lock their luggage and permit the security personnel to inspect it without causing damage. The ‘red diamond’ logo, along with a mark of ‘Travel Sentry’ ensures the lock is approved by TSA.

The main benefit of a TSA lock is improving the security standard. If you are planning for international travel, especially in the US, always pack a bag available with a TSA lock. As it allows the security personnel to inspect the bag more quickly, you won’t face any problems at the airport.

Is It Safe To Unlock Your Trolley Bag In This Way?

Hopefully, the above methods of unlocking your trolley bag work without its key or passcode. As you noticed, there are multiple ways to go about it, some of which are pretty simple and quick. Using trolley bag from brands like Safari, American Tourister and Mokobara will help you lock and unlock it securely.

However, this brings up another topic – if it is so easy to open a lock without its code or key, what’s the point of having a lock? This is a legit question, for your trolley bag isn’t safe if anyone aware of the tricks we described above can unlock it. So, besides using the inbuilt lock, it is better to use an additional lock like a padlock to keep your travel items safer.

Unlocking trolley bag safely

How Does A 3-Digit Combination Lock Work?

As the name implies, a 3-digit combination locks have 3 wheels with markings from 0 to 9 on its 360-degree face. The users need to align the numbers to a preset password by spinning the thumb wheels. With the right combination, the suitcase will unlock instantly.

As mentioned before, every thumb wheel on the suitcase lock has a notch or hole at its base, which is visible only when the right combination or variation is made. When all the 3 holes are aligned in a straight line, you only have to rotate it in 10 possible combinations to find the correct code. It allows the locking fence to retract, releasing the combination lock.

3 digit combination lock on suitcase

Can The Combination Change By Itself?

It might seem very odd if you clearly remember the code (and possibly have it recorded somewhere too) but still can’t open the lock. While it doesn’t happen often, vibrations during aeroplane travel can alter the lock combination. In this case, too, you’ll have to find a way to unlock the suitcase and reset the code.

How To Reset The Lock After Unlocking?

Resetting the 3-digit combination lock is quite a simple process. Once you have found the correct password combination for your suitcase, rotate the wheels to form a suitable code while pushing the unlock button. Once the right digits are set, you can release the unlock button to reset the lock of your bag. Test the new combination a few times and you are ready to go!

It is a pretty straightforward method; however, please note down the new password to a secure place. Otherwise, you may have to go through all the above processes again.

Photo of author


Author, NatureDiary
Soumya is an avid traveller, founder, photographer and chief editor of NatureDiary. A nature lover by heart, he writes and edits articles on various travel destinations, attractions, and gear on NatureDiary from his vast experience of travelling, trekking, and camping across India.

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