To lock or not to lock, that is the question. Some travelers purchase expensive suitcases with locks, only to have Transportation Security Administration personnel break them open to conduct a luggage search, while others throw up their hands, travel with unlocked luggage and lose important items to thieves. The TSA lock offers a good compromise that might work for you. And the combination lock is easy to set and reset.

TSA Baggage Locks

The Transportation Security Administration is charged with screening all luggage before it is loaded into an airplane. All of it goes through electronic screening, but sometimes that is not enough. If something in a piece of luggage appears out of the ordinary, agents manually open the case and take a closer look. Sometimes locks are broken in the process.

To make life easier for travelers, TSA came up with the idea of creating luggage locks that operate both as combination locks and also as keyed locks. These TSA locks are equipped with combinations that the owners use, but were also developed to open with universal master keys carried by airport security agents. If they must be opened in transit for security purposes, the agents do not need to break the locks. Owners set their own combination code and open them that way.

Setting TSA Locks

Here's how to set or reset TSA locks.

Align all four digits on the TSA lock to zero. Correctly aligned, each zero lines up along the red line on the front of the lock. Four zeros is the default setting to open the lock. If you have already set the lock combination and wish to reset it now, set the digits to your last code numbers.

Pull up the shackle. That is the metal piece that opens and closes around your luggage strap. Turn the shackle either clockwise or counterclockwise 1/4 turn (90 degrees), and then press it down again as you would were you locking it.

Keeping a finger pressed down on the shackle, align the four digits to the four-digit combination you have selected. Each of the numbers lines up along the red line on the front of the lock.

Release the downward pressure on the shackle. Pull it up and return it to its original position. Change one of the digit settings and lock the TSA lock. To open it, align the four digits of the code.

Setting Regular Luggage Locks

Many pieces of new luggage come with TSA approved, built-in luggage locks that look very much like the old-style luggage locks. Each suitcase company makes locks differently and different setting procedures apply. Here's how to set push-button locks for the Samsonite suitcase.

Remove any plastic pieces blocking the lock, and set the dials to three zeros, the factory default combination. If you are resetting the lock, set the dials to your three-digit code.

Push the button toward the dials. Holding it pushed in, reset the dials to the new, three-digit code you have selected. Try locking the suitcase. If you have correctly set the new code, the zippers will not stay in the lock slots while the dials are set on your three-digit code.

Change the dials to numbers that do not make up your code. Lock your suitcase.


If your Samsonite-style bag has a lever lock instead of a push-button lock, push the small lever on the lock instead of the button when you want to change the digits. Release the lever when you have reset the code.