Here’s How Luggage Locks Works And How To Reset Luggage Lock + TSA Lock

TSA approved luggage lock on a bag

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I was wondering this before buying my traveling gear and you probably wondering the same when thinking of buying a luggagehow do luggage locks work?

A luggage lock works by you set a 3 or 4 digit password to lock your zipper’s together. You can buy a luggage lock yourself then attach or some expensive suitcases already have them built in. Popular locks are so-called TSA locks, which means the airport staff has a master TSA key they can open and close your lock without having to cut open the lock in order to inspect your luggage. 

How to set a TSA combination luggage lock

If you have bought a new luggage and want to set your own combination password this is how you do it. Remember the lock needs to be unlocked before setting new combination.

  1. Press the reset button which means you need to flick the locking mechanism or press the black reset button with a pen and you hear a click.
  2. Enter the new combination that will be used to open the lock and note this down.
  3. Push the tab with an arrow on it or flip the locking mechanism back to confirm the new combination.

reset tsa lock switch
reset button suitcase tsa lock

push the tab reset tsa lock


How to reset luggage lock if you forgot the combination?

Since you need the lock to be unlocked to be able to change the combination there aren’t many ways to solve it, but there are two ways you can do it.

  1. Bruteforce it, if there are three numbers it’s 1000 combinations so if you do 100 combinations each time then take a little break you will solve it eventually. For each try, you just have to move the wheel one time so it doesn’t take that long if you really want to unlock it.
  2. The trick is to look closely under every number you can see a tiny hole (if you don’t see a hole rotate a number until you see one), rotate each number so the hole is pointing upwards 12 o’clock. Then try pushing the button to unlock, if it’s not working then keep rotating each number one time then try again and repeat until it works. Only do this on own luggage (video below).
  3. Not sure if this work but might be worth a try if you are at the airport ask a TSA agent to open it with a TSA key then you can reset the combination when it’s opened.
  4. Take the bag to a locksmith they can surely open it without a problem, probably cost some though.
  5. Also, try if the factory standard code is three or four zeros if you haven’t changed the combination before.


How to unlock the luggage lock without a key

If you lock yourself out and really need to get in to get your luggage then you can try this, only do this on your own luggage.

You can open the zippers with just a pen. Grab the sharp point of the pen and just push it in the zipper until the pen breaks the zipper connection, then just drag the pen around the suitcase back n forth and it’s open. Then you can simply close the original zippers again like usual, what’s scary about this is if a thief did this to your suitcase you wouldn’t notice because you can reseal it so easily.

There’s no really good way to prevent, you could travel with a suitcase protector like this one over it to not make it as easy to access the zippers. Either way it’ good to be aware of it.

Why do you need a luggage lock?

A luggage lock is good if you want to have that extra safety measure for your valuables, but let’s be real if a thief has your bags and want’s to get inside nothing is gonna stop him. But what its gonna help for is to buy you time and make someone thinking of stealing something think twice.

If that person sees’s it’s well locked up he/she maybe will not commit to it, so a lock makes it so the luggage is not so easy to access like just drag the zippers but it makes inconvenient and so accessible. They rather choose an unlocked one than a locked one.

I would personally go for one lock and a luggage strap that makes it stay close.

If you really want it tightly secured you should go for a hard shell aluminum frame luggage like this one that has hatches you lock with instead of zippers.

What lock to use on luggage?

Some locks to use on luggage are definitely a TSA approved lock since it helps the TSA agent to open the lock with their TSA key and not having to cut it open when inspecting the bags.

The sturdiest one is to go with a zinc alloy body and steel shackles but the issue with those is that they are not that flexible, so if maybe your zippers are far in between they might not be able to reach so important to get the measurement right. Then there are also locks with a braided steel flexible cable those you can bend them however you want to make sure it fits.

Or you can use any lock you have at home that fits but keep in mind if at the airport the TSA agent need to inspect your luggage and need to open it and you’re not available they have the right to cut the lock. So keep that in mind, if you don’t mind losing a lock that’s an option.

You can read more about my list of best luggage locks here.

What is TSA luggage locks and how do they work?

A TSA approved lock is a lock that the TSA agents can open and close with a universal master key, some locks even have a red notification on the lock so you can see it has been opened by the master key. But TSA will also leave a printed note in your bag saying they have opened for routine checking. If you suspect your bag was opened or something seems to be missing then contact and file a complaint.

The TSA has a ring of keys with the numbers TSA 001, TSA 002 and so on to around a dozen so if you have a TSA approved lock you can probably see a code “TSA 00X” where the x represents a number.

TSA works with the Travel Sentry that was founded in 2003 and came up with the solution to help TSA be able to open the locks travelers had on their suitcases without destroying them. Travel Sentry themselves does not manufacture any locks or luggage they just set the standard for this lock system with the partnering of government and the luggage industry.

You don’t need a TSA approved lock to fly, but if your lock is not TSA approved they have the right to use the heavy-duty wire cutters to cut the lock open in order to inspect the luggage.

If a lock has this Travel Sentry logo on it it’s a TSA approved lock

travel sentry logo


Thank you, I hope what I have learned helped you with something and have happy travels.


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