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3-slot upper housing stuck

Started by Ted, July 12, 2013, 06:26:23 PM

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My 14-year old son wants to restore an old 3-slot AE machine I've had and which was converted to home operation before I got it many years ago.  I've never had the upper housing off (in fact, never had a key for it until today). 

I'm attempting to remove the upper cover, but no luck.  The lockset seems to be working perfectly--the key turns clockwise a full 90 degrees easily and smoothly, and there's a very slight "thunk" that sounds like the bolt retracting from the slot.  But I can't remove the housing.  It doesn't seem to be painted on--it shifts on the phone a tiny bit when I try to wiggle it--but it still feels as if it's locked. 

Am I missing something?  Any suggestions?  Thanks!


Push hard against the upper-housing while turning the key.

Also, what brand is it? Is it a Northern or Western Electric payphone with additional Ace-type lock located to the side of the main lock?

While most of those locks have been disabled, yours may still be intact.

If you are unsure then a quick photo of it would help.


It's an Automatic Electric.  There's only one lock, and pushing on the housing doesn't help.  However, it did tell me that the problem appears to be lock-related.  When the key is turned 90 degrees (and the bold should be fully retracted), if I push on the housing some, the key retreats maybe 5 degrees or so (instead of being at the 9:00 position, turns back to 8:45).  That tells me the bolt must still be at least partially engaged with the slot.

I pretty much drenched the lock interior with WD40, hoping some of it will migrate down to the bolt and loosen things up. 

Any other ideas?  Thanks!


Are you using a 29S key? It should be stamped on the grip.


Yes, it's definitely the right key  (29S).  It seems to operate the lock (turns smoothly and feels like it moves the deadbolt).  I have a feeling the deadbold isn't retracting completely, though.  But that's just a guess...


They could be stubborn at times!

While attempting to turn the key pound the heel of your fist against the upper housing. If this does not work then you may have to either remove the screws from the back of the lower-housing as described elsewhere on this forum or to take a large screwdriver and pry up to remove the upper housing.

Is this the key that came with it when you acquired it and have previously used to open it?


Ok I reread your opening post and see where you never had the original key.

Presumably you purchased a 29S off of eBay or from some other source.

These reproduction keys are notorious for not working correctly so perhaps that is the problem.

Another possibility is that these sets were often sold by third parties with a lock other than a 29S installed or in some cases Automatic Electric would custom key locks for operating companies such as manufacturing 29V locks for use in Las Vegas.


I have access to the coin vault, so maybe removing the bottom housing is an option.  I'll search to see if I can find out how it's done...


Simply remove the screws from the back and two others from inside of the coin vault. This will allow you to remove the back-plate which will allow the separation of the upper and lower housings.

Be sure to let us know what number is on the lock and whether you can operate it when the upper-housing has been removed.


Got it!  I had to remove the bottom housing to do it, though. 

The lock is a 29S that almost works.  The bolt retracts about halfway and that's it.  The key turns 90 degrees (not sure if that's how far it's supposed to turn, or should it be more?).  There's also a bulge in the lock housing opposite the bolt, so I'm pretty sure the lockset is toast. 

I also learned that the phone was originally beige and had been repainted black (even the data plate had been painted over).  Now that the plate's cleaned off, I see that it's an LPB-86-55. 

Time to start stripping the bad paint.  It might be fun finding beige color-matched powder to refinish it with, though...

Thanks for all your help, everyone!