Get new vending  locations

How to Open a Vending Machine Without a Key

Vending machine owners lead busy lives just like the rest of us, and sometimes, keys get lost. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a master key for vending machines.


Vending machine owners lead busy lives just like the rest of us, and sometimes, keys get lost. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a master key for vending machines. If they’re lucky they’ll have a spare key, but in dire circumstances, a vending machine lock needs to be opened without the key. Thankfully, there are a few ways to accomplish this task. Whether you are a vending machine owner in need of some help with your own vending machine lock, or you’re just curious about the process, we’ve got the answers about how to open a vending machine without a key below. 

How to Open a Vending Machine Without a Key (Way #1)

The first method to gain access to a vending machine without a key is using a tubular lock pick. Tubular locks are the standard for many lockers, bike locks, ATM machines, and of course machines. They can’t be picked with regular lock picks due to their circular nature, but there are many varieties of tubular lock picks available at hardware stores to suit every type of vending machine lock. 

It is always a good idea to use a tubular key duplicator to replace any lost keys before you find yourself without a vending machine key when you need one. However, the below steps will help you open a vending machine without a key as long as you have the right kind of lock pick.

  1. Prep tubular locks pick by loosening the tightening bolt
  2. Push down the washer
  3. Adjust the lock pick to the proper position for lock picking: gently push the pins against a flat surface to accomplish this
  4. Tighten the bolt to keep the pick in the proper position
  5. Insert the pick into the door lock on the machine
  6. Turn the pick left and right to unlock the vending machine lock

How to Open a Vending Machine Without a Key (Way #2)

If you’re interested in a simpler way to open a vending machine without a key, a ballpoint pen can be a great substitute for tubular lock pick. It won’t be quite as effective for all vending machines, but they are still usable on tubular locks and will almost always work for vending machine locks made before 2005. 

Choosing the right type of ballpoint pen is the most important step in order to find success during a (legal) vending machine break in. The width of the pen has to be sized properly to fit into the tubular lock; if it is too wide, it won’t be usable. The below steps will instruct you on how to open a vending machine lock successfully with a ballpoint pen. 

  1. Find the right size of pen—the exact same width as tubular locks or slightly thinner—with a sturdy plastic design
  2. Take the ink tube out of the pen
  3. Insert the tip of the pen into the vending machine lock as far as it will go
  4. Hold the pen with your non-dominant hand and shake the lock with your other hand—eventually the lock should pop open

If Things Go South, Call a Locksmith

When a vending machine owner can’t open a vending machine with one of the above vending machine key hacks, or they don’t feel comfortable attempting this DIY solution themselves, there is a third option. 

A locksmith is a wonderful resource for vending machine owners, as they have the experience to safely pick the vending machine lock without damaging the vending machine. Additionally, if your machines are outfitted with electronic locks but your key codes are no longer opening the lock, a locksmith may be your only solution in that scenario. 

Calling out a locksmith to assist with opening a vending machine without a key also has one additional benefit: they will be able to replace the lock for you at the same time, ensuring you won’t have to go through a similar hassle the next time you need to open the vending machine for restocking or collecting profits.

Whether you have a brand name soda machine like a Coke vending machine or an off-brand snack vending machine business, reliable access is crucial. For many vending machine owners, a locksmith is the right solution for the process of opening a vending machine without a key, as it can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. Plus, you won’t need to remember how to open a vending machine without a key since the situation would hopefully never occur again. 

What Else Could Go Wrong with a Machine?

a woman sitting desperate next to a vending machine

Vending machines can encounter a number of difficulties throughout their lifespan when they're not well-maintained. These issues can include the need for a restart, damage that is acquired during a move, overuse of electricity, and even items getting stuck as they are dispensed. To avoid these issues make sure you run regular vending machine maintenance. Otherwise, scroll down through this list.

It Needs a Restart

Every electronic device needs a restart every now and then, and vending machines are no exception. Many problems that arise and cause complaints from customers can be fixed with a restart, including improper cooling of snacks and beverages, payment refusals, and the wrong items being dispensed when a code is entered.

Restarting a machine is not a complex process, but it can have a dramatic effect on the functionality of your vending machine. All you have to do is unplug the machine, let it rest for roughly five minutes, and then plug it back in. This amount of time ensures that every internal component has time to reboot, and your machine will be functioning perfectly when power is restored. 

It is important to note that individual components of machines can be reset as well; it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. There are numerous problems that can arise from a malfunctioning card reader, and luckily, this component can be reset independently from the rest of the machine to get the payment system back up and running. 

It Was Damaged While Moving

Vending machines need to be moved on occasion, and there is a correct way and an incorrect way to do so. Damage that occurs during transportation can require costly repairs, and at the least it will negatively affect the machine’s appearance and consequent desirability to customers.

While there are plenty of vending machine refurbishing companies out there, no vending machine owner wants to spend money on that if it can be avoided. Instead, vending machine movers can follow a few simply steps to protect the merchandise and ensure the machine makes it to its new location in the same condition as when it was picked up. 

First of all, machines should always be empty when they are transported. This will help keep the merchandise safe, but it also protects the machine; drink bottles or firm snack containers have the potential to damage the machine if they come lose over rough terrain and bounce around inside the vending machine. 

There should always be some sort of protective covering on a vending machine too, such as furniture blankets and cushioning materials, to prevent cracks and scuffs on the machine’s exterior. Since vending machines are heavy and bulky, they should always be moved by a team rather than an individual. 

It Uses Way Too Much Electricity

Energy consumption of a vending machine can vary based on its size, the types of items it supplies, its hours of operation, the complexity of its features, and even its location.  In certain conditions, the amount of electricity a machine is using may be much higher than expected. 

One of the more common reasons for a vending machine to use too much electricity is an unfavorable location. If a vending machine is surrounded by other objects or is placed too close to a wall, it won’t be able to ventilate properly. As a result, it will have to work harder to maintain the optimal temperature for the snacks or beverages as well as to cool itself down. Repositioning the vending machine so it has adequate space for ventilation is an easy fix for excess electricity use. 

A second cause of excessive power consumption is an outdated machine. Technology has advanced quite quickly, but many operational machines are still using old systems that draw more electricity than is needed to keep the lights on and maintain the ideal temperature for the snacks and drinks. Updating the system or swapping an old machine for a new one is highly recommended in these scenarios. 

If a vending machine owner is fronting the cost for the electricity and wishes to reduce the energy consumption of their machines, there are a few ways to do so. Replacing large machines with smaller units will help cut down on costs, especially if the demand in the area is not high enough to warrant higher stock.

Another tip is to modify the operational hours. Instead of a 24 hour machine, for example, the smart vending machine can be put in power saver mode overnight when business is low. Lastly, the type of vending machine can be changed to cut down on costs: refrigerated machines require more electricity than non-refrigerated models. 

Things Get Stuck

Items get stuck in vending machines for a variety of reasons. It is much more common to see snack items get stuck rather than drinks, but bottles can be a hazard as well. The most common reasons for things getting stuck in machines is improper stocking habits and poor ventilation. Sometimes, it just comes down to plain old bad luck. 

When a drink gets stuck in a vending machine, it is almost always due to an unfortunate way of falling. The drink may not be released from the slot effectively and it ends up getting trapped at an angle between the front glass and a row of bottles. In order for the drink to be released, it needs to be knocked down by a second beverage or jolted with a well-aimed kick or punch to bounce it out of its position. 

Snack bags get stuck far more frequently than drink bottles, and this can be due to poor air flow, jamming in the coils, and more. If jamming is the issue, you’ll need to read this piece on how to unstuck vending machines. Otherwise you'll need to get assistance from someone who can open the machine and readjust the position of the bags in the coils. If poor ventilation is the cause of a stuck bag, the bottom flap can be opened and closed a few times to improve ventilation temporarily and release the trapped bag. 

Wrapping Up

Regular access to vending machines is necessary for profitability and consumer satisfaction; the loss of a vending machine key can make that pretty difficult. Luckily, the above mentioned methods will work on vending machines from most companies and can get a vending machine owner out of a jam pretty quickly. While there are many other potential problems you can run into with vending machines, a keyless lock doesn’t have to become a major headache.

Learn more about vending with our newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter today and get the inside scoop on how to succeed as a vending machine company owner.

Subscribe To Newsletter

Ready to get new locations?

Take your vending machine business to the next level by finding the perfect locations for placement. Our comprehensive research and placement suggestions make it easy to identify and secure new locations, so you can start increasing your revenue and expanding your business.

List of 250+ places where you can potentially place your vending machine

Includes business name, phone number and address of each location

Human quality researched list

All locations tailored to your zip code area

If the location has a listed email, we will provide it.

3 day delivery

25 mile radius search