I have heard that there are ways to open a numeric locks commonly found in suitcases even when you have forgotten the code. This could be ways to open the lock (without breaking it obviously) and other ways of of solving the situation of the suitcase being locked.

Can you come up with hacks including e. take stuff out of a suitcase without opening the lock in such scenarios or such other hacks.

Suitcase with padlock

Image courtesy:http://www.maletasviaje.com/

  • 5
    So, robbery....
    – nicael
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 15:46
  • 2
    Please make sure to comment on the opening/closing of this question in the meta Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 7:56

4 Answers 4


Anaximander's answer to a question on travel.SE explains the biro technique:

If your suitcase closes with a zip, then it can be opened with a normal biro (the ubiquitous cheap Bic office biro works particularly well). Simply hold the biro so it points parallel to the zip, with the nib end pointing into the zip teeth (I find about 60 degrees works). Then press down. The pen disengages the teeth of the zip, and you can pull them apart by running the pen or your finger along the zip.

To reclose, simply pull the zipper over the opened part, and then back again. This works even on those suitcases with two zip pulls that lock together. Travel security like this method because it's fast, basically undetectable, and doesn't require any special tooling or any co-operation from the lock manufacturers.

This could be a solution if knowledge of the lock's code will be revealed later (e.g. when a travel companion returns from an outing) allowing the zip tabs to be released and the zip teeth to be re-interlocked for normal operation.

  • This is PERFECT. No fiddle-diddle with the lock itself...just thinking outsid eof the box. Why worry about the lock when the ZIPPER itself is the weak link in the chain...and a fixable link once "broken"
    – Phlume
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 15:39
  • Perfect!!! Great answer. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 16:00

Grab the lock with your left hand (so that opening lever points to the right.) in a way that your finger tips bring tension on the lock. You will need a high amount of tactile impressions on your fingers.

Now with your right hand rightmost finger (the small one) push that opening lever to the right, again to bring tension on the mechanism.

Then carefully twist the numbers. Start with the rightmost one. You will feel a slightly different impression when the opening slot for the correct number rolls into place. This procedure will take some time (most likely you will need 3 - 4 rotations of each wheel until you get the feel of it.

If tactile did not work place your ear close to the lock and repeat, you will hear a scratch when transitioning from a wrong to a wrong number but a more clicky sound when transitioning from a wrong to a correct number.

As a sidenote: Such locks are totally worthless if you want to prevent theft or anything like that. The only thing that they do is keep the zipper shut while its on board. See this video on how easy it is to break a zipper. The reason the locks are useless are that the zipper is so much easier to break into that nobody would bother to even try breaking that lock.

  • 3
    General security note: all locks can be broken, including safes, bank vaults etc. The only thing that changes is how much time/effort/money is required. Zip locks will prevent/deter opportunistic theft. No lock is safe against a determined attacker.
    – fredley
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:32
  • @TomMedley Not the lock, the zip. You can ignore the lock and open the zip in 3 seconds. And with "you" I mean everybody. Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:34

The lock you show us has three number rings. This gives us 1000 possible combinations. So in the worst case you could simply try all of them:

  • Start with one of the outer number rings.
  • increase its numbers and test if you can open the case for each
  • if you completed a round increase the next ring by one number
  • [rinse and repeat]

Another method is this:

  • put a little force on the opening mechanism as if you want to open it. Do this through all of the following
  • slowly turn the ring one by one
  • you might feel that the ring get a bit harder to move in certain positions. Leave it in that position and move on to the next one.

This method will not always work and is easier for low quality locks as rings might even lock into the correct position.

See also Wikipedia:Locksports

  • 3
    My solution was to offer a small reward to a young kid (my nephew) to brute force search. FWIW, the lock was closed and I wanted to use it on the suitcase, but had forgotten.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 8:19
  • 3
    I've done this once, took me about half an hour for 2 locks.
    – Hobbes
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 10:37

There is no cross-device hack for this situation. Some locks "can be opened by [US TSA] security officers using universal "master" keys", but you don't have one. So...

You can either cut through the lock or luggage to retrieve your belongings.

  • 2
    Thanks for the link. Now I know to avoid locks with a label that specifically says "this lock was designed to be openable by someone that's not me."
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:12
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    @Geobits Assuming the master keys don't fall into the wrong hands, and the TSA will cut other locks anyway...
    – Mooseman
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:17
  • 4
    Yea, I'm avoiding these special locks. Telling me that the TSA has the keys to my lock is definitely not the best way to get me to buy one :)
    – TIO Begs
    Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 21:19
  • @Geobits The TSA, or anyone who's managed to get their hands on such a key, or 3D printed one, etc. etc. etc...
    – fredley
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 12:11
  • 1
    Since a few days you can actually 3D-print your own TSA master key because pictures of them have leaked and some guy was able to create the 3D-model based on the pictures. #justinternetthings github.com/Xyl2k/TSA-Travel-Sentry-master-keys
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 13:56

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