How to Reset a Combination Padlock

combination locks on lockers
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 10-20

Combination padlocks are made to be highly durable so that you can safely keep things locked, from doors to trunks to safes to fences to whatever you've got. But if you're wondering how to reset a combination padlock, you definitely have a bit of a problem on your hands.

Combination locks on padlocks can be reset using a special tool, but there are methods to retrieve the existing code to the lock instead. One method that will never work is randomly trying to guess the combination, because there are way too many possibilities for this to work.

Doing the Math

If you forget and lose the combination to your combination padlock, the odds are quite literally against you. The chance of actually guessing the right combination is actually pretty low…like, very low.

With a three-digit lock, there are more than 1,000 possible combinations. With a 4-digit lock, you're looking at a minimum of 10,000 combinations.

This means you could be standing around trying to guess numbers for a really long time.

That is some serious math. So why use combination padlocks at all?

Why Use a Combination Padlock?

Combination padlocks have become more prevalent over the years because they provide secure protection for everything from luggage to storage buildings. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, and because they don’t involve the use of a key, they offer peace of mind.

Choosing a lock type depends upon the level of security you're trying to achieve. In general, the more numbers or wheels on the padlock, the harder it is to crack the code, which affords more assurance that your property is kept safe.

Not needing to keep track of a key is very attractive, because you have enough things to keep track of. It’s all perfect…until you forget the combination.

Hundreds or even thousands of possible combinations for a locked padlock?

No problem. There's an easier way to reset a combination padlock when you've lost the correct numbers.

Many manufacturers provide a secure website that stores combinations, so it's a good idea to register your code with the site in order to have a backup if you forget or lose it. But this is one of those things that you probably don't find out about until after the code is lost.

It's easy to forget, so don't worry if you've lost your combination and never registered it anywhere. There is a way to get the lock open without guessing thousands of different number combinations.

Learning How to Reset a Combination Padlock

When you lose the combination to a combination lock and you know you haven't got it written down somewhere or stored in your phone, you might just call it a day on the lock and give up on it entirely. Those things can be cut off in an emergency, after all.

It's not necessary. You can learn how to reset a combination lock, and it's actually not as difficult as you might think.

Serial Number

Look on the edges and back side of your combination padlock in search of a serial number. All Master Lock padlocks, for example, have serial numbers on them and Master Lock combination reset is a fairly straightforward step-by-step process.

Once you locate the serial number, go to the lock manufacturer's website. You can use the number to locate the lock you have and use the site’s help section to report that you’ve forgotten the combination for the lock.

If you're not sure about the manufacturer, try plugging the serial number into the search engine and specify that it's a padlock. This might lead you to the right manufacturer.

In some cases, you will be able to find the combination through the manufacturer using this serial number. However, this can be a lengthy process that takes several weeks, as some companies ask you to fill out a notarized form to prove you are the one who owns the lock.

If you can wait to access your locked away belongings for several weeks and if you can locate the lock's manufacturer, this is one fairly simple way to retrieve your lock's combination.

Once you fill out the required form and follow the steps required by the manufacturer, the code you need for the lock will be sent to you. The lock can be used as normal, and hopefully, you’ll record the combination to the lock somewhere this time!

Use a Reset Tool

Many combination padlocks come with a small reset tool, which you may or may not be able to find because it may or may not have been thrown away after you put the lock where it goes. Lots of people don't hang onto these little tools, so worry not if you can't find them.

You can go to the lock manufacturer's website to see if a reset tool is available here. Often, you can simply purchase a reset tool that will work with the lock you have.

You can also find generic reset tools that are designed to work with a variety of combination locks. Home improvement stores and general etailers carry these tools, which may work with the padlock you have but not always.

To see if your padlock can be opened with one of these tools, examine the bottom and sides of the lock. You are looking for a small hole.

Insert the reset tool into the hole. Push the reset tool in and turn the tool 90 degrees in either direction.

That’s all you have to do to learn how to reset a combination lock. Now, you’re ready to set your new code.

Arrange the wheels to the new combination of your choice and complete the process of resetting the combination lock. Choose something you're sure you will remember or make a note of the combination in your phone or somewhere else where the information will be secure.

Turn and remove the reset tool from the lock. The new code should now be set.

Trying to Crack the Code

What if the steps for learning how to reset combination lock padlocks aren’t working?

You can try several different ways to figure out the existing combination to the lock if you can’t get your hands on the right reset tool or you don’t want to wait weeks for the manufacturer to give you the code.

The best way to attempt to do this is with a YouTube video that can walk you through the process and give you an idea of the sounds and feelings you can expect while you try to find the code. Listen carefully to the combination lock instructions in the video as well.

Essentially, you will set all the dials of the lock to 0 and work very slowly to turn the dials, one at a time, to go through all the numbers. Going by quiet clicks and feel, sometimes it is possible to figure out the numbers that will unlock the combination.

However, this can be a tedious and difficult thing to do, and it doesn't always work. It’s worth a shot if your other two options didn’t yield any results.

This is a method you will often see in movies and on TV shows, and there, it always looks easy, and it always works pretty quickly. This is not the reality of trying to figure out the code to a combination lock, so be prepared for a rather slow and fairly aggravating experience.

The Last Resort

If you're in an emergency situation and you can't wait for the combination from the manufacturer or even get your hands on a reset tool, there is a simple way to open any combination padlock when you haven't got the combination: bolt cutters.

This will obviously destroy your lock, but this is a failsafe option you can use. You will be able to get to your locked valuables as long as you have bolt cutters, so when the other options don’t work, you still have this method to fall back on.

How to Reset a Combination Padlock

Few things are quite as distressing as being locked out of your own possessions, particularly when it comes to items that are so valuable you felt the need to lock them up in the first place. If you need something that's on the other side of a lock you can't open, this is an extremely frustrating and upsetting experience.

Don't panic. There are ways to learn how to reset a combination lock if you've forgotten the combination.

You can try the recommended methods for getting past a lock, and how to reset a padlock when the combination is lost, but when all else fails, you have a backup plan to destroy the lock and get to your stuff.

A locked combination lock is a frustrating problem, but as a DIYer, you always have options and methods that you can use to do what needs to be done.

Combination Padlock FAQs

How do you reset a padlock if you forgot the combination?

There are a few different things you can do if you have forgotten the lock to a combination padlock. The easiest and quickest method is to use a specialty reset tool that's made to change the combination on a lock when needed.

With a reset tool, you can set a new combination of your choosing and continue using your padlock. The tool will cause no damage to the lock as long as you’re using the tool the right way.

How do you reset a 4-digit combination lock if you forgot the code?

If you forgot the code to your combination lock, you can use a special reset tool to change the combination to a series of four digits you can remember.

Reset tools often come included with the padlock itself, but if you haven't got this, you can purchase a standard all-purpose reset tool from an online retailer like Amazon, or you can go to the lock manufacturer and purchase this tool directly from them.

Reset tools often look like small, thin rods or even strange little keys that have one protrusion on the side and no grooves. Some reset tools will give you information about which types of combination padlocks they can be used with.

How do you reset a 3-digit combination lock?

A three-digit combination lock can be manually reset with a special tool that is inserted into the lock. Once the tool is in place and turned a certain way, you will manually enter a new code and this will reset the lock so that it responds to the code you set.

How do you open a number lock if you forgot the code?

If you forgot the code to a combination lock, you can search for the lock's serial number and use this information to contact the manufacturer and retrieve the original combination to the lock.

This process does take a few weeks, and you have to fill out and notarize a form, but if you follow the steps, you will get the code you need.

What is the default combination for a Master Lock?

The factory set combination for some Master Locks models is 0-0-0-0. This is the combination that some models of locks are set to before you remove them from the packaging and use them for the first time.

You will change this combination when you use the lock, however, so if the lock has been used, it probably has a different code.

You should always try the code 0-0-0-0 if you find yourself locked out of a combination padlock, along with 1-2-3-4, but if these guesses don’t work, you’ll have to reset the code or cut open the lock.

A Master Lock combination reset is actually not as difficult as working with padlocks from other manufacturers, as this company offers an easy online form to help you retrieve your combination and sets reset tools for their locks.

Further Reading

Changing Locks on Doors

Choose the Best Home Door Lock

Different Types of Door Locks

Door Lock Parts: How to Identify and Replace

Four Ways You Might Be Compromising Your Own Home Security

Home Door Security: How To Prevent Break-Ins

How to Rekey Locks

Remove a Door Lock in 3 Steps

Tired Of Keys? Install A Digital Door Lock

Unlocking a Bedroom Door in an Emergency