Frustrated Your Electronic Lock Won't Open?
So, your electronic lock won’t open? Few things are more frustrating. Whether you’re putting away a new pistol, getting out your hunting rifle or need to access your extra cash, when you need to get into your safe, you need to get in.
Why won’t your safe open? Because not all batteries are created equal.
Battery failure is the most common reason the electronic lock on your gun safe isn’t working properly. Typically this is because the battery is dead. But, your electronic lock might also not be working properly if the battery doesn’t have enough amperage.
As a gun safe technician, I see both of these problems on a regular basis. To ensure the electronic lock on your gun safe keeps functioning properly, here are a few things you need to know.
Just need help getting into your safe? Schedule a maintenance visit.
Troubleshooting Your Electronic Gun Safe
Is Your Battery Dead?
A dead battery is the most common reason an electronic lock won’t open. We encounter this issue at least once a day. To help you avoid this inconvenience, we recommend replacing your battery once a year.
Does Your Battery Have Sufficient Amperage?
Insufficient amperage is the second most common reason an electronic lock won’t open.
YES. You read that right. We’re talking about amperage, not voltage. Why does this matter? Because while voltage and amperage are both measures of electrical current, they measure different kinds of electrical current.
Voltage measures the pressure of electrons flowing. Amperage measures the volume of electrons. In order for your electric lock to function properly, it must get the right voltage and the right amperage.
Testing a battery’s static voltage may give you a reading over 9 volts. However, a battery’s true performance shines when a load is placed on it. The same way your car works harder driving up a hill than on a flat road, different locks place different loads on batteries. How your battery performs under a load is determined by its cell design, chemical make-up, and internal resistance.
Without Sufficient Amperage Your Lock Might Make Noise But Not Open
A battery with the wrong amperage can be deceiving because the keypad can still make noise and appear to work normally. It may also cause the lock to make the wrong combination input beeps or tones. This is typically because the lock is powering down and then back up in the middle of the combination entry sequence.
Which Battery Should You Use in Your Electronic Lock to Get Sufficient Amperage?
We always recommend using Duracell batteries in your electronic lock. In fact, this is the only brand I use when troubleshooting why a safe won’t open. Can it be a pain in the rear to go to the store just for a battery? You betcha — especially if you live in a remote area. But you know what’s worse? Your safe not opening.
It’s important to remember you get what you pay for. Many of the off-brand (aka less expensive) batteries have a lower amperage “output capability” which can make them last longer in certain devices. Unfortunately, this feature causes them to underperform in a device with a high electrical current demand — like a gun safe.
The following are our top picks for electronic lock batteries, in order of preference:
- Duracell ProCell
- Duracell Quantum
- Standard grade Duracell
Electronic Lock Battery FAQs
Do Battery Expiration Dates Matter?
Here’s the skinny on expiration dates. They matter. Plain and simple. Typically a 9 volt battery expires 5 years from its manufacture date. So, a battery manufactured this year in 2020 will expire in 2025.
But keep in mind, the ‘extra batteries’ from that brand new pack have the same expiration window. So if you store them in your kitchen drawer until 2022, they will still expire in 2025.
Furthermore, the two-year-old battery you’ve been saving will likely not perform as well. Time can reduce the amperage and the battery’s effectiveness. So, even if it does work in your electric lock, it’s almost guaranteed to only work for a short time.
How Long Should a New Battery Last in My Lock?
With normal use, a new battery with five years until it expires should last 1-3 years. How long your battery lasts depends on the lock you are using and how often you are accessing your safe.
If you are going through batteries more often than this, get in touch with a safe technician right away. You more than likely have something wrong with your safe lock.
Where Should I Buy My Batteries
There is no wrong place to buy a battery for your electronic lock. That being said, I’ve been doing some personal research for this article and have discovered that “new” batteries aren’t always so new.
In fact, a lot of people are selling batteries that aren’t even remotely new. I picked up some batteries in an auto parts store that were four years old. They failed the load test I performed on them right out of the package. I ordered some very reputable batteries off Amazon that I discovered were also 4 years old when they arrived. They barely passed the load test when tested right out of the package.
Moral of the story: Check the expiration date before trusting a battery to power something as important at the electronic lock on your safe.
Why Do My Batteries Not Seem to Last as Long?
Why did your original electronic lock batteries last 5 years and the unused ones, with two years left until they expire, won’t power your lock? There are quite a few variables that determine battery life, longevity, and output. These include:
- Cell design and chemical makeup.
- Storage environment temperature and humidity conditions.
- Battery charge state and condition level when stored.
Very light use on the installed safe lock battery will actually help a battery maintain an extended life. It keeps the cells from degrading in the battery (once this starts at the 60-70% mark, battery life diminishes drastically).
Plus, your electronic lock is getting older. The demands of the lock’s motor/solenoid increase with use and wear under the same premise a starter motor on a car wears out over time with use.
Where Should I Store My Batteries?
We recommend buying batteries as needed. However, we also know you probably don’t want to chuck any extras you have on hand. Generally speaking, storing your batteries in the refrigerator is a bad idea. The humidity levels in the fridge can damage the battery. When you remove the batteries from the refrigerator, the change in temperature between the battery and the ambient room can also attract moisture into the battery. Furthermore, the battery will also not be ready for use until it has warmed up to near room temperature.
If you have any extra batteries, you’ll want to store them in a dry space, at room temperature. This will maximize their life expectancy.
When Do I Need to Replace My Electronic Lock?
As electronic safe locks get older, they put more demand on the locks power supply. Early generation electronic locks have a life expectancy of 6-12 years. (This is units manufactured from the mid 80’s into the 2014-ish range). Newer locks (those manufactured around 2015 or later) are expected to last 12-20 years.
Can I Get an Electronic Lock Installed?
It’s not uncommon to decide you want to switch from a manual to an electric lock, or vice versa. Electronic locks can offer more convenience, especially as individuals age and have difficulty seeing, remembering, and/or keeping a steady hand. In cases such as this, an electronic keypad lock or a Biometric Fingerprint lock are both good solutions.
Electronic Lock Hit List
- Always use a Duracell battery with an expiration date five years from the date you are installing it. We strongly recommend Duracell Quantum or Procell batteries.
- If you want to test your battery, you need to do so when it’s under a load. A static voltage test won’t tell you if it has enough amperage to support your lock.
- Rotate your spare batteries out yearly.
- Keep your batteries stored in a dry space at room temperature.
- If your lock is struggling to work or going through batteries at a rate of more than one per year, call a safe technician.
- Remember you are not stuck! A good safe technician (like the ones at NW Safe *cough cough*) can open any safe and perform any repair. Furthermore, they can do so without leaving any sign of damage in most cases.
Additional Gun Safe Insights
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