Best Locks for Cave Gates?

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Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby travii99 » Apr 4, 2016 8:36 am


I have recently been struggling with the padlocks on cave gates in Texas and I am looking to see if there is a knowledge base of experience in our caving community regarding the best locks for these environments.

Many of the gates we use have an arm hole which allows you to reach the padlock hanging on the inside of a solid gate. Once the padlock is removed, a lever is moved and the gate opens. The problem is that the padlocks sit in the wet warm environment (sometimes years at a time) collecting dust, dirt and corrosion as air moves past due to the cave breathing. Several locks have recently taken over an hour to open whilst in the most uncomfortable positions, meanwhile with the fear that the key might break off in the lock and then we are screwed, etc..

I am wondering if anyone has had the experience or research to whittle down the best types of locks that can handle this environment and still continue to function properly. I have researched corrosion aspects of different tumblers (no real conclusion on which is best). Other cavers have told me that the locks with the rubber housing around the entire lock, including the key hole, are no better than a normal Masterlock for example. We have tried both the most expensive locks and the cheaper ones, but none seem to hold up.

Does anyone have any experience with this or have any light they can shed? Thank you so very much!!!

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Re: Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby MUD » Apr 4, 2016 11:09 am

Pack the lock with a heavy weight grease the last time you use it for the season. You should also keep it oiled and cleaned as much as possible. I've dealt with several cave gate locks for years and nothing works like keeping it clean, oiled, and a good packing of grease before she's closed for the season or a length of time.

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Re: Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby graveleye » Apr 4, 2016 3:50 pm

and don't handle the key with a muddy, sandy glove, especially if you are trying to unlock the gate from within. Trust me on this.
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Re: Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby William Bagwell » Apr 5, 2016 4:00 am

Second Cavemud suggestion, even Vaseline should work and be less likely to stain. Once a victim of 'super glue in the locker lock' :roll: Little bit of Vaseline every few months and that trick no longer works.
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Re: Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby Amocholes » Apr 5, 2016 6:54 am

A heavy duty brass lock will not corrode as quickly.
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Re: Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby travii99 » Apr 5, 2016 8:40 am

Thanks y'all! I believe I will try one of these, but with a brass shank. They are apparently out there, one just needs to find a dealer that will get them for you.:

This stuff also looks like a good lock lube to go with it:

With some regular maintenance, the hope is that the brass will not corrode and the rubber cover will keep the debris out, and if it is oiled regularly, the parts will stay mobile inside the lock.

Apparently the brass shanks are harder to come by, so I will see if I can find someone that can get it for me.

Thanks for the responses!
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Re: Best Locks for Cave Gates?

Postby snoboy » Apr 5, 2016 6:41 pm

Not quite the same, but we used to have to manage a padlock on our post office box through the winter. What worked best for us was to melt Vaseline in a tin, and submerge the whole lock in it, allow it to get most of the air bubbles out, and let it cool submerged. Then extract and clean the outside of the lock. Be careful of setting the melted Vaseline on fire! :yikes: This insured that there was lots of lube through the whole lock, and displaced any water that tried to get in. Might work for cave locks too. :shrug:
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