Your Suitcase Won’t Open? Here’s how you can Pick the Lock!


Some of you might know the problem that our Travel Dealz founder Johannes ran into twice already. You’ve forgotten the combination that will unlock your suitcase, the note you’ve written down is lost or misplaced. And you just can’t open the built-in combination lock of your luggage.

Now, the first time this happened, Johannes tried to enter as many combinations as possible but ended up using a pen to force it through the zipper. This, of course, gave him access to the contents of his Rimova Salsa. But naturally, he wasn’t able to close his suitcase again and had to use duct tape and lashing straps to keep everything in place.

Rimowa Salsa Locker

If you’ve gone through this once, you’re probably thinking of more drastic ways to open the suitcase if it should ever happen again. But instead of ruining his luggage by opening it with an angle grinder, Johannes searched for (and found!) an easier and better solution. One that can help you find out the correct combination in just a few minutes if you’re in a quiet environment (an airport isn’t the best place). And here’s how:

Tools: Basically, you don’t need any tools. But a pair of pliers to hold the release lever is helpful.

Time needed: 3 minutes.

Crack the code to your combination lock

  1. Move the unlocking lever to the stop.

    Simply push the release lever upwards until you can’t move the individual number wheels anymore and hold the lever in this position.
    If you can’t move the lever at all, this manual is not the method you’re looking for.

  2. Reduce the pressure on the unlocking lever

    Now take the pressure away just enough so that the number wheels can be moved.

  3. Find out the first number

    Keep the reduced pressure upright and slowly turn the first or the three wheels. As soon as you hear a click that is much louder than the ones you’ve heard before, you’ve most likely found out the first number.

  4. The second and third number

    Now, repeat step 3 in order to find the other two numbers. Once you’ve found the last number, the lock should open.

  5. No success?

    If the lock cannot be opened using these instructions, you can try to start with the last wheel instead of the first one. Or check out the other options below.

Of course, this short manual doesn’t work with every combination lock (especially not with those used on bicycles). But it’s definitely worth a try because you don’t necessarily need tools, and you’ll open the suitcase in no time.

If all attempts fail, you still have the option of using a pen or pencil to at least get the contents of your luggage. This is if the case has zippers.

More Ways to Pick the Lock

Not every combination lock can really be opened with our instructions. Especially if there’s a way to see a notch in the disk (underneath the number wheels), it can help to pay attention to those. Once they’re all lined up, you can turn the wheels forward simultaneously until the lock opens.

  • Try the factory setting: The factory setting for suitcases is usually 000. Maybe that’s all it takes to open yours?
  • Are you looking at the right suitcase? Only very few suitcases are entirely unique. That’s why you should first make sure that you didn’t take a stranger’s bag off the luggage belt. Otherwise, you should return to the airport as soon as possible and report to the Lost & Found counter!
  • Change one number at a time: Sometimes, a number might have changed due to vibrations on the aircraft, for example. Most of the time, it’s only one number. But that’s enough to keep your suitcase from revealing your valuable content. Try changing one number wheel at a time. And leave the other numbers where they are.
  • Find the notch: If you can see some of the gearwheels (use a flashlight!), try to see the notches underneath the number wheels. Line them all up in the same position. Then turn all the wheels simultaneously until the lock opens.
  • Try all possible combinations: A three-digit combination lock has 1,000 possible combinations of numbers. If you can try one combination every two seconds, you will need a maximum of 33 minutes until the suitcase should open.
  • Your suitcase dealer: If you still haven’t found a solution, it’s a good idea to visit a retailer. Maybe they’ll know a trick or have a TSA key:
  • Get a TSA key: Almost all suitcases nowadays are equipped with so-called “TSA approved locks”. In addition to the number lock, these also have a lock that requires a key. Only the US Transportation Security Administration should have such. But for several years now, models for 3D printers have been circulating on the Internet. Those could allow you to print out the matching keys yourself.


Your suitcase is not a bank vault, and finding out a 3-digit code is not rocket science either. You should always keep this in mind when packing and keep valuable items in your carry-on.

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