Your garage door can have a mind of its own, sometimes. You must have seen it before. The garage door won’t open all the way. Or it will close down then suddenly open up again. Other times, it won’t work at all. No matter what you do, it just won’t shut down or respond to your button pressing. What on earth is wrong with the garage door?
When your garage door acts up, you need to cover all your bases before you start blaming the sensors. Check the door first. While it’s closed, release the emergency cord and manually lift the door to make sure it opens and closes as it should. This rules out, or confirms, that the problem is with rollers, springs, or tracks, and not the remote control or the keypad.
When you’re working on your garage door, remember to take safety seriously. Always work with the door down so that it won’t close on your fingers or your nosy pet when you release the emergency cord. Also, make sure to unplug the power before you start any troubleshooting. That way you’ll avoid any accidents in case someone pushes the button while you’re fixing the door. With safety out of the way, let’s find out what exactly is wrong with your garage door and what you can do about it.
Why Did My Garage Door Stop Working?
Garage doors are prone to mechanical, electrical, and electronic problems which could cause them to stop working. To find out why exactly is your door malfunctioning you’ll need to observe the symptoms to get to the root of it. In general, garage doors act up in four different ways.
The Garage door won’t open although the trolley carriage is moving
This is obviously a broken trolley carriage. You need to replace it. Separate the chain from the trolley and push the rail to the side. This frees up the old faulty trolley. Now you can easily slide it off and replace it with the new one. Slide back the rail and reattach the chain to both sides of the new trolley. Check if the door opens and closes now.
You hear a grinding noise but nothing happens
This is a mechanical problem and the fault is with the main drive gear. It’s made of plastic and since it’s the one connected to the motor, it breaks down more often than other components. To replace this one, you need to know what you’re doing. It’s a lengthy process and requires removing many parts before you get to the faulty gear. If you’re not sure about your DIY skills, better call a professional to fix this one.
The rail won’t let the garage door open or close
Sometimes the problem is with the rail itself. With friction and dirt in the garage, the lube wears off and the door stops working. You should make this part of your regular garage door maintenance work. To always check the rail and make sure it’s lubed. You can use a lubricant that repels dirt and water. Keep in mind that in cold weather lubricants harden and lose their functionality. So use a lithium lube in the cold months.
The garage door doesn’t open all the way
This is often caused by a slack chain. Just like a bicycle, when the chain gets loose the gears keep turning without anything else happening. The same rule that applies to bicycle chains fits well on garage door chains as well. Make sure you have a slight slack of a quarter- to a half-inch in the chain. Too tight a chain would cause the gears to wear off, and if you leave it too slack, it might fall off the trolley carriage altogether.
The garage door doesn’t close
Normally the garage door will close all the way down to the floor. When it doesn’t close all the way or at all, the issue might be with the two knobs that control how far the door goes up and down. Adjust those knobs on the door opener and make sure that when the door opens the bottom is level with the door jamb. Also, adjust how far the door travels on its way down so that the carriage trolley doesn’t hit against the opener.
Can You Open a Garage Door when the Power is out?
Some people who are new to automatic garage doors worry about this point. What if there’s a power failure, would I be locked in or out of the garage? The answer, of course, is no. You can override the garage door system and open it manually if you need to.
It’s not always a case of a power failure that makes it necessary to bypass the electronic system. You might lose the remote control and need to open and close the garage door yourself. To do that, locate the chain that operates the garage door and look for a red cord with a plastic red knob.
Pull the cord down to unlock the lever attached to and set it in a down position. Now try opening the door with your hands. If it doesn’t move, then go back to the bypass and pull it down again harder. When the power comes back or you relocate your remote control, pull on the cord again to lock the lever.
Why is My Garage Door Jamming?
A jammed or stuck garage door is more than an inconvenience. It’s a hazard that needs your immediate attention. You can’t just leave the door half-way between open and closed and go on your way. So what causes the door to jam and what can you do about it? Here are the most common culprits.
- Bad Weather: In the winter months when the weather gets dreary, snow can pile up on the springs. Clearing the snow would solve the problem of the jammed door. If it doesn’t, then the springs are broken and you need to call an expert to have them replaced.
- Jammed or Damaged Track: As the garage door rollers slide up and down the track, they might get stuck if there’s something in their way. Clean the track and lubricate it to allow for smooth movement of the door. If the track is damaged, you would need to replace it.
- Off the Track: If the door gets stuck while you’re opening or closing it, it might be due to the rollers bouncing off the tracks. This is not an easy procedure and it’s better to call a professional.
- Poor Lubrication: All those moving parts in the garage door opener need to be smothered with grease to function properly. This includes the track, the chain, and the springs. Lube them every few months to prevent jamming issues.
- Sensor Problems: If the sensors are not working properly, the door might get stuck halfway. Check the photo eyes are clean and aligned. For more sensor troubleshooting, read below.
Why Does My Garage Door Open as soon as it Closes?
The distance the garage door travels from an open position to a fully closed one is controlled by limits. When the door closes all the way down then jumps back to an open position this is a problem with the closing limit.
Since the garage door cannot tell by itself how far the floor is, the close limit sets a point at which the mechanism “knows” that the door is now fully closed. If the limit is not set correctly, say it’s set to a point longer than the travel distance, the system will keep trying to close the door even when it’s already closed.
When the door hits the floor, the mechanism will assume that there’s something in the way and will reverse the door to an open position. To fix this, you’ll need to set the close limit to the point where the door touches the floor. If you set it too soon, the door will not close fully and setting it too far will mean the door will bounce back.
Why Would My Garage Door Randomly Open?
Besides the electrical and mechanical causes we listed in the section where we talked about garage doors closing by themselves, sometimes interference from a radio signal would cause the garage door to respond. This can be a signal from police radio, a radio station tower nearby, or even CB radios.
Another hidden reason might be the spare remote control. Look for this one and check nothing is pressing its buttons such as a book or a heavy tool. The military sometimes uses frequencies similar to the ones garage door openers have. So if you live near a military base, that could be the reason. Changing the code might solve this problem.
Can a Garage Door Close by itself?
In some cases, the garage door might decide to take matters in its own hands and starts opening or closing without being asked. It’s a rare case and there’s nothing paranormal about it. Don’t freak out. Instead, you need to look at the mechanical and electrical parts of the unit.
Check if there’s a short in the circuit board, the remote control, the wall button, or the wired keypad if you have one of those. If all the connections look intact, you might want to examine the remote control batteries. Weak batteries would cause the remote to send random signals to the door.
Are Garage Door Sensors Required?
If by required we mean mandated by law, then yes they are. Any garage door openers manufactured after 1993 are required by law to include sensors as a safety feature to protect the garage owner.
Sensors to the garage door act as eyes that look for anything that is in the way. Garage doors are really heavy and if they hit someone or something on the way down, that can cause serious injuries. The sensors’ job is to make sure no child or animal is standing at the doorway when the door closes.
This is why proper maintenance and care are needed for garage door sensors. Make sure to clean them regularly and remove the dirt and grime that cover them. And always check that both sensors are aligned and their power light, either green or red, is on.
How Do I Know if My Garage Door Sensors are Working?
The main job of garage door sensors is to make sure there’s nothing in the way when the garage door comes down. Sensing a child or a pet standing in the doorway will stop the closing process and reverse the door into an open position.
To make sure your garage door sensors are working, place a high cardboard box on the floor between the two sensors. Now press the remote control key to close the door and watch what happens. If the garage door reverses back and remains open, your sensors are working. If it continues to close crushing the box on the way down, then your sensors need looking into.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace Garage Door Sensors?
Before you reach the conclusion that your garage door sensors are defective and need replacement, it’s better you check if the problem is somewhere else entirely. With time, dust, cobwebs, and debris tend to cover the electric eye of the sensors causing them to malfunction. Use a rag to clean the sensors and check if that door works smoothly now.
If it doesn’t, then maybe the sensors are perfectly fine and just need to be adjusted. Loosen the nuts holding the sensors enough to allow you to adjust them by hand. You’ll know they’re in the right position when the red or green light is on. If the light is off, it could be a low-voltage circuits problem.
After exhausting all your options and coming to the conclusion that the sensor is in fact the real issue, then you can go online to check for sensor replacements. They’re rather cheap and a pair will cost you anything between $15 and $35. That would hardly break the bank.
What Does it Mean when the Garage Door Light Flashes?
Two reasons would explain the flashing light of the garage door sensors. One has to do with the lock button on the wall control. When you activate that button, you can no longer use the remote control to open or close the door. Press the lock button to turn it off. The light will flash twice to indicate that you can now use your remote to control the door.
The other reason you get flashing lights is that the sensors are not working properly. Either they’re dirty and the beam is interrupted because of the dirt on the electrical eyes, or the sensors are misaligned. Cleaning the eyes and readjusting the sensors should take care of the flashing problem.
Why is My Garage Door Sensor Blinking Red?
Garage door sensors are highly-sensitive components of the whole apparatus. Anything as little as a thin film of dust or dirt can cause them to malfunction. Luckily, the sensors themselves will alert you to any problem they have using their light.
When either one of the sensors is not working correctly, it will start blinking. Even if you don’t take notice of the blinking sensors, the garage door itself will stop working which will force you to examine the sensors as part of your investigative process.
Blinking sensors can be traced back to dirty eyes, loose wires, or faulty sensors. A dry rag will clean up all the dirt off the eyes. To fix the loose wires you’ll need to open the back of the unit and make sure all wires are securely connected. And if it’s an issue of faulty sensors, then you’ll need to replace them with new ones.
Why is the Green Light Flashing on my Garage Door Opener?
This the garage door opener’s way of letting you know that you have a fault in your unit or a safety problem. When everything is working fine, you get a steady green light. A flashing light means you have a problem on your hands.
Make sure there’s nothing blocking the sensors. If you have tools or gardening equipment near the sensors, put them somewhere else. Another way to troubleshoot this problem is to disconnect and reconnect the power. Restarting the system can take care of any glitches including the ones causing the green light to flash.
Are Garage Door Sensors Interchangeable?
There are two sides to this question and we’ll cover them both. The market has many garage door opener brands. When the sensors become defective you’d need to replace them. So should you buy the sensors of the same brand or would any sensors in this case do?
The answer is you should stick to the same brand. Sometimes one company will make more than one brand due to mergers. In that case, any sensor produced by the company will work fine as long as your garage door opener is manufactured by that company.
The other side of the question has to do with the two sensors on either side of the garage door. Do each has its set place or can you use either one on the left or the right sides? Just like socks, garage door sensors have no left or right. They’re interchangeable and as long as they’re aligned, they’ll work fine.
Why are My Garage Door Sensors not Lighting up?
A few issues could cause your garage door sensors not to have the lights on. It could be a wiring problem, an issue with the alignment of the sensors, or the sensors themselves are faulty. We’ll start with the broken or loose wire. To fix that issue, unplug the power and remove the back cover of the unit. Check that all the wires and connections are intact. Reattached any loose wires. Now check if that solves the light problem.
If the lights are not on, it might be that the electric eyes are not aligned. The eyes need to be aligned to complete the circuit. To align the eyes, the sensors have to be facing each other. Keep fiddling with them until the lights shine. If you still have a problem, then the sensors themselves are faulty and need to be replaced.
Do Garage Door Sensors Go Bad?
Sensor wear and tear is a common issue. Since sensors are extremely sensitive they can go bad real quick especially in a harsh environment. But before you make a hasty decision to get new sensors, it’s worth troubleshooting them first.
Check the path is clear and their beams are not interrupted with dirt or debris. Perform some gentle adjustments on the sensors and see if the blinking lights stop. Loose wires can also cause the sensors to malfunction, so spend some time checking the wiring.
Moisture can also make the sensors act up. If it rains or water splashes on the sensors while you’re cleaning the garage floor, the sensors will stop working. Dry the water off and give them time. The sensors will function again as normal once all the moisture is gone.
Can I Disconnect Garage Door Sensors?
As a necessary safety measure mandated by the law, disabling garage door sensors is not recommended. However, in some cases, disconnecting the sensors becomes the only way to make the garage door work. For example, faulty sensors cause the door to jam and you have no way of opening or closing the garage door.
To get around that problem, you need to set the door opener to manual mood. Make sure the door is closed before you pull on the manual release cord at the top of the door. If the door is open, it might crash down when you set the opener to manual.
Are All Garage Door Sensors the Same?
All garage door sensors are the same in the sense that they do have the same job and functionality. There’s a beam that goes from one sensor to the other and that beam needs to be uninterrupted for the garage door to close successfully. Anything that comes in the way causes the sensors to reverse the closing operation and keep the garage door open.
At the same time, not one company that manufactures garage door openers uses the same sensors as the others. That means you can’t use sensors from one company on a unit manufactured by a different company. Sensors are a hot item in the spare parts market, and each company tries to sell as many of its own products as it can.
What Does Orange Light on Garage Door Sensor Mean?
Both green and orange lights are normal in certain garage door openers. Sometimes the sensors will display a different color each. A brand like Craftsman door opener uses both lights in its unit.
For example, the sensor sending the infra-red beam will have a steady green light while the other sensor receiving the beam will display an orange light. As long as both lights are steady and not flashing, then your unit is working fine and you have nothing to worry about.
Do Garage Door Keypads have Batteries?
Yes indeed. As long as they’re not connected to a power outlet, then their source of energy is in the form of batteries hidden inside the keypad itself. Look at the bottom of the keypad for the battery compartment. In most cases, you can just press and slide the cover to open it.
Replace the batteries with new ones and replace the cover. If the keypad still acts up, then the problem might be with the unit itself. Humid weather can shorten the life of the keypad and damage the wiring. Consider purchasing a new unit.
How Long Do Garage Door Springs Last?
Unlike hinges, springs are more prone to wearing out and breaking. Most garage door openers come with standard springs that have a short life. Both weather conditions such as high humidity and snow would strain the springs beyond the breaking point.
There’s not much you can do when the springs give out except to replace them. The average springs might last for a year or two. In the market, you can find sturdier springs that would serve you for a lot longer than that. Make sure you install springs that can handle the weight of the garage door.
Is it Safe to Repair Garage Door yourself?
As we all know, DIYers love to get their hands dirty and try to fix everything that’s broken around them. Sometimes, they’d go too far and put their own safety at risk. Repairing the garage door can be one of those situations where you would easily get into hot water.
Garage door openers have a lot of moving parts. Some of those parts such as the springs handle a lot of pressure. If you try to replace the springs yourself without taking into account the weight of the door, you might be asking for trouble. It’s better to leave this one to the professionals.
Do Garage Door Hinges Wear out?
Garage door hinges are usually the last parts of the unit you’d expect to break or wear out. They’re designed to handle a lot of pressure and wear and tear even in bad weather conditions. The most trouble you’ll get from them is some squeaky noise which tells you it’s time to oil them.
Bearings and sheaves, on the other hand, are a different story. They can break under stress and since there’s a lot of metal on metal friction, lubricating them should be part of your regular maintenance work.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare