The convenience of a well operating garage door offers an array of advantages for Georgia homeowners. Garages protect vehicles and outdoor essentials from detrimental weather. Plus, they serve as a secure entry and exit point for your home when all systems are functioning properly. The average American household operates their garage door about 1000 times per year. We use the garage door more than many other technologies in the home. At this rate, the underlying mechanical system of the garage door requires preventative maintenance and service to ensure longevity. So, if it’s not working properly, get help diagnosing your garage door.
It’s All Fine Until the Door Won’t Open
Too often, we take the convenience of a well operating garage door for granted. That is, until the day your vehicle is either locked in or out of your garage. Or, your garage door begins to take on an eerie mind of its own. It may randomly open and close in the absence of operational cues.
From the simplest to the most complex garage door problems, this guide will help. It’ll walk you through garage door troubleshooting to reveal solutions for the most common garage door malfunctions. You’ll understand the difference between simple solutions and complex problems with your garage door hardware and machinery. It will distinguish the steps you can take to repair your garage door. You’ll also know when to call your local garage door service professional for help. Following these troubleshooting tips will save you time and money.
Safety Note on Garage Doors
Garage doors can potentially be dangerous, and it is not uncommon for people to get injured while attempting repairs. Even experienced repairmen should work with caution, as it is in the highest insurance classification for work related injury. This is not a garage door safety guide and can not account for every situation. Always proceed with caution.
If you attempt any repairs, you should complete a visual inspection. Look for signs that the garage door or its hardware is not secure, broken, hanging precarious, or under stress. Also look for signs that tensioned parts are not secure before and during operating or adjusting it.
When operating the door manually, it is recommended that you either close or brace the door before pulling the release cord, and that nothing is in its operating path. If you attempt any adjustments, do not loosen or remove any part of the door or hardware that is under spring tension or the weight of the door. Make sure the door is not jammed. Also check that its path is clear and unobstructed before operating the motor. Here are some basic tips for diagnosing your problem, from a basic inspection to a door stuck half way.
Diagnosing Your Garage Door: Basic Inspection
Always begin troubleshooting the problems with your garage door opener system by completing a basic inspection. Check the major hardware parts to determine whether your problem is caused by the garage door, or the opener. Here, we review how to troubleshoot garage door problems that can be observed through a visual inspection of working parts.
A common problem with malfunctioning garage doors consists of one family member physically locking the garage door and not telling other family members. The physical lock should not be confused with the vacation/lock mode feature, which is activated using the interior control unit.
Common Garage Door Locks
- If you have a garage door opener, it generally acts as the primary lock. You can usually disengage the lock by pulling the red rope or switching a lever on your trolley system. The lever system varies depending on the opener model. So, you can reference your user manual if you are not familiar with it.
- The T handle lock, also known as a key lock, can be operated from the inside or outside of the garage door. With the popularity of garage door openers, the need for a key locking system has been greatly reduced.
- The slide lock is a compact version of the T handle lock. It is usually found on the door next to the track and can only be operated from the inside. It has a shorter lock bar and does not use a key.
You do not need any additional locks if you have a garage door opener, but some people like the additional security provided by additional locking mechanisms. However, many people prefer not to because of the risk that you will damage the garage door by operating it while it is physically locked.
Garage Door Springs
Garage door springs are a vital component to a well-functioning garage door opener system. Broken garage door springs are one of the most common problems with malfunctioning garage doors. Begin diagnosing your garage door spring with a visual inspection of the torsion or extension springs to determine if a broken spring is causing your garage door problem.
Torsion springs are located above the garage door opening. If you notice an extended section or a break in the spring, the spring broke and needs replacement. The repair and replacement of a torsion spring requires the skill of a trained garage door service professional.
You will find the extension springs next to the horizontal tracks. They help to support the movement of the door during cycle operations. Like the torsion spring, the extension springs operate on a lifecycle basis and require replacement after a number of cycles. If you notice an overextended section, or a break in your extension springs, consult an experienced garage door service pro to determine whether the springs must be replaced.
Most garage door units will not work with either a broken torsion spring or a broken extension spring. If you try to replace the spring yourself, further damage or injury may result.
Chain and Belt Garage Doors
For chain and belt garage door operating systems, you may experience problems with loosening or wearing that causes the moving parts to malfunction. In diagnosing your garage door, if you notice that your chain or belt is loose, or there is an obvious break in the system, a service repair or replacement of the distressed parts may be necessary for a smooth operating garage door system. It is not recommended that you tighten a loose chain, because it can damage the gear system.
Screw-Drive Garage Door Operating Systems
For screw-drive operating systems, the screw may occasionally need greasing. These garage door openers can be particularly susceptible to weather. If your area has experienced major shifts in temperature, and around the same time, your garage door system began to malfunction, an inspection can determine whether your system needs adjustments or repairs.
If you press the main button on the interior wall control unit, but you don’t see any lights, and the motor does not turn on, then you’ll need to identify the source of the garage door opener power failure. This could be as simple as an accidental tug on the power cord from the outlet or a tripped breaker. However, this could be as complicated as an electrical problem with the logic board or transformer.
Diagnosing Your Garage Door Power Failure
The Light Switch
If you do not have a hardwired garage door opener, make sure that you have plugged it into the outlet. If you use an outlet that requires a light switch to be on, check to see that your switch is indeed on.
Professionals do not recommend outlets that require a light switch for garage door openers. Light switch outlets are susceptible to power surges. Surges have the potential to damage the logic board for the opener.
Try plugging a small appliance or device into the receptacle to test the power coming from the outlet. If there is no power coming from the outlet, then the cause is an electrical problem. The problem may be coming from a tripped breaker. Or if the device has power, but the garage door opener does not, then your power problem lies within the garage door system.
The GFCI receptacle
A GFCI receptacle is often used in any area of the home where exposure to moisture is common, including the garage. This safety feature shuts power off for your outlet when a problem is detected. If your opener is plugged into a GFCI receptacle, troubleshoot the power problem by first pressing the TEST button, then the RESET button. If you notice a discolored area in the ceiling of your garage, then you likely have a roof leak, in which the GFCI outlet is protecting your electrical system from moisture damage. Before correcting the electrical problems with your garage door operating system, we recommend having the area inspected by a trusted roofing specialist. Once the moisture problem is solved, your risk of garage door problems related to moisture will be eliminated.
If your garage door opener is not plugged into a GFCI, but you have one in the garage or another room, follow the previous step with the other GFCI receptacle because it may be connected as a protector for the outlet that your garage door opener is plugged into.
Emergency Pull Cord
If your emergency cord has been pulled, your door will be disengaged from your garage door opener system. The emergency pull cord is typically a red string with a red handle, which is attached to a lever on the traveler carriage along the railing track. If you notice an extended spring on the lever, or a change in the normal position of the lever, then diagnosing your garage door is easy. It’s likely disengaged.
Never pull your emergency pull cord when the door is open.
The full weight of your door crashing down can cause serious damage or injuries.
Depending on the type of system and model, you may only need to pull the emergency pull cord down, or back, to re-engage your garage door. If the lever attached to your emergency pull cord is in a vertical position, pull the cord towards the opener, in the opposite direction from the door, until the lever clicks into a horizontal position.
For most screw-drive systems, pull the handle down and back towards the door so that the lever clicks into a horizontal position, and the extended spring retracts.
For most chain and belt drive systems, pull the handle down gently so that the lever clicks into place, and the spring retracts.
Line the carriage up with the attachment point along with the railing system, and either lift the door manually or push the wall control unit to run a cycle. Most operating systems will reconnect automatically. Always consult your owner’s manual, or call your garage door service professional if you have complications with re-engaging your emergency pull cord.
Many interior wall control units come with a secure lock safety feature intended to protect your garage from intruders while you are on vacation. The vacation/lock mode button is sometimes pressed accidentally. This will deactivate all garage door remotes programmed for your system.
Not every garage door opener has the vacation/lock mode feature. If you find that your interior wall control unit has no vacation mode, but you still suspect that the garage door is locked, make sure that the door hasn’t been manually locked by another family member.
To deactivate your vacation/lock mode, press the lock button on the interior wall control unit for a couple of seconds, until the lights from your wall unit stop flashing and turn solid. For units with the slide switch, simply slide the switch to the Unlock position. Now try your remote.
If the remote is still not working, and the lights on the motor and wall unit began to flash while pressing the lock button, repeat the previous step to deactivate the lock mode.
Garage Door Opener Sensors
Garage door opener sensors are an important feature for the protection of family members and pets from injuries caused by heavy garage doors. These opener sensors may be referred to as opener safety sensors, photo eyes, or opener safety eyes in your owner’s manual. Though the safety sensors normally affect the process of closure, versus an attempt to open, the sensors may cause a remote and/or keypad malfunction. The garage door opener sensors can easily become misaligned as a result of normal vibrations, accidental bumping, or path obstruction, and can also encounter interference via pest intrusion or dirt into the eye of the sensors. Diagnosing your garage door sensor problems is as easy as following these steps.
Find the Eyes
You’ll find the two garage door safety eyes located on both sides of the track, just a few inches from the floor. Each sensor should have an LED light located on its side, and the eyes should be pointing at one another.
Consult your garage door manual to determine what the sensor lights indicate because the light changes often vary from model to model. Flickering lights can indicate a slight adjustment needed or a wiring issue. Before replacing your safety sensors, begin by troubleshooting the common sources of malfunctioning garage door safety sensors.
Clean the Photo Eyes
Check for illumination of the LED lights, and consult your user’s manual before moving to the next step. If dirt, dust, or pest intrusion was the cause of your safety sensor problem, then the LED lights should be illuminated consistently with the user’s manual description, and it is time to try running a cycle. If it’s still not working, move on to the next step.
Could be the sun
If the main sensor is in the direct path of sunlight, and you experience problems with your garage door opener only during particular times of the day, then the projected light from the sun could interfere with the operation of your safety eyes. To test whether the sun is interfering with your safety sensors, wait until the morning, or afternoon time, whenever you experience problems with your garage door operating system, and place an object such as a trash can or box on the outside of your garage, blocking the sun’s light from reaching your safety sensor. If the garage door opener operates when the sunlight is blocked, call the professionals at CSS Garage Doors to set an appointment for repositioning your safety sensor eyes.
Diagnosing Your Garage Door Wiring Issues
If the safety sensors seem difficult to align, this may indicate a wiring issue. And, if you’re still experiencing problems with the safety sensors during a cycle, try wiggling the wires coming from the safety sensors while pressing the remote. If the garage door opener operates while the wires are adjusted, then there could be a problem with the connection. Keep adjusting the wires one by one through a number of cycles to locate the correct wire that is causing the malfunction.
Tampering with electrical components of a garage door opener can cause further damage to your system and severely injure an unskilled handyman. If you choose to work with your wiring system, ensure that your garage door opener is unplugged, and the proper breaker powering your garage door opener is turned off. Only when you have successfully turned off the power to your garage door opener should you proceed to the next step.
Follow the Wires
One common problem is that staples holding the wires in place may puncture through the insulation coating around the wire, and cause a short. With the average vibrations that come with opening and closing garage doors, the slightest movement can cause the punctured wires to stop functioning at any time. Remove the staple that seems to be causing the problem, reconnect power to your unit, and try a cycle.
If the garage door is still not working, follow the safety sensor wires to the opener unit.
Remove the Cover
Remove the cover and inspect the area terminals for loose safety sensor wires. Use a screwdriver to tighten the terminals of any loose safety sensor wires, replace the cover, and reconnect the power if it has been disconnected. Try running another cycle.
If you are still experiencing problems with your safety sensors, you may need a wire or sensor replacement.
Garage Door Won’t Open or Close
If your garage door will not open and/or close when you press your interior wall control button, you’ll want to rule out easy fixes before moving on to a total system replacement. In most cases, the source of the problem is easily corrected, and you’ll be on your way to a fully functioning garage door opening system in no time.
Always start with a basic Inspection. Are there any obvious broken, or out of place, parts? There are several components that make up the working parts for a properly functioning garage door opener system. Areas that require attention in garage door basic inspections include:
- Emergency Pull Cord
- Torsion Springs
- Extension Springs
- Broken or extended Chain or Belt
Is It Time to Call a Pro?
If you find that your torsion or extension springs are abnormally stretched or broken, the chain is broken or extended, or the belt is frayed call a reliable garage door company for an inspection, repair, or replacement.
- Check to see that you have power to your garage door opener. If your system does not turn on when pressing the interior wall control unit, troubleshoot power Failures.
- Be sure that your garage door system is not on lock or vacation mode. This safety feature will not allow the opener to be opened from any other system that the wall interior wall control. To use the remote or exterior keypad, you must disable the Vacation/Lock Mode.
- Determine whether the safety eyes have been disrupted in any way. Review the section above regarding Garage Door Opener Sensors for help locating and troubleshooting problems with safety eyes. A common complaint with safety eye problems is that the garage door will open, but it will not close.
What If the Door Won’t Open?
With most garage door openers, the safety sensors block the door from closing. However, some systems also cause the doors not to open. If your interior wall control button operates the door when held down but not during press and release when using the remote or using the exterior keypad, then you may need to realign or clean your sensors.
Garage Door Closes, and Then Opens Immediately
If you’re stuck with a garage door that begins to close and then opens immediately, your problem is most likely a sensor malfunction.
- To troubleshoot problems with your safety eyes, review the section above regarding Garage Door Opener Sensors.
- The limit sensors determine how far your garage door goes up or down. If your limit system has damage or lacks proper adjustment, your motor will keep running. Your cycle will continue even after passing the desired destination. When closing, this can result in a door doing a touchback or opening within seconds of fully closing. When opening, this can result in ramming of the motor system and will eventually tear it up.
- The pressure sensor determines how much force or pressure the garage door opener will push through before giving up. A malfunctioning sensor can trigger this. However, it is usually triggered by the door being out of balance, jammed, or not running smoothly. If the door is heavy and not opening, you may have broken springs.
The garage door limit and pressure mechanisms are adjustable. However, you should leave the correction process to the garage door repair experts. An adjustment too far in one direction or another could cause a safety system failure. This failure will further damage your garage door operating system and could even result in fatal injury.
Garage Door Stuck Halfway
If your garage door sticks halfway, the source of the problem could be one of several things. First of all, you should check for an obstruction to the hardware. Similarly, the door may need an adjustment to the limit or pressure, sensors, or there could be damage to the major hardware components of your garage door system. When one side of the door is visibly lower than the other, it generally indicates a problem with the spring system. In this case, the continued operation will exacerbate the problem, causing additional damage.
Ensure that the garage door is in the closed position and disengage the emergency pull cord. If your garage door will not close, call CSS Garage Doors for help before moving on to the next step.
Is there an obstruction?
For possible obstructions on the track, examine the door as it lifts and closes. Observing the cycle of the garage door will reveal the obstruction problem area. If there is a bent or damaged area of the track, you may need to repair or replace the hardware.
When the problem lies in the motor functions of the garage door system, the safety sensors will likely need adjustment.
Garage Door Remote Problems
If you press the remote for the garage door to open, but nothing happens, try to use your extra remote or your exterior keypad to open the garage door. If the door opens with your extra remote or when you put in your code, then the problem is most likely with your garage door remote.
Next, begin troubleshooting your garage door remote problems with a Basic Inspection.
Basic Inspection for Diagnosing Your Garage Door
- Do you see any obvious broken parts: (Ex: Broken Torsion Springs)
- Have you disengaged your emergency pull cord? If so, your garage door opener will not function. You may need to re-engage your Emergency Pull Cord. Consult your manual for instructions on re-engaging the garage door.
- If your garage door does not open with either remote or your exterior keypad, determine whether the Vacation/Lock Mode has been activated. Similarly, you may need to reprogram your accessories. Consult your user manual for instructions on reprogramming your remote.
- Determine if there is power to your garage door opener. Go to the interior wall control, and press the main open/close button. If your garage door opener does not turn on, begin by troubleshooting Power Failures.
- If the interior wall control and remotes only open, but do not close the door, check the garage door opener safety eyes. Review the section regarding Garage Door Opener Sensors for a guide on troubleshooting the safety eyes. You can usually override this safety feature by holding the inside wall button down.
Garage door remote only works sometimes.
- If your remote is inconsistent, or you have to position the remote closer to your opener, start by changing the batteries for your Garage Door Remote.
- Still inconsistent? You may have a radio frequency interference problem. (Did you recently purchase a new appliance? Did your neighbors install a new garage door opener? Does your garage door open and close randomly?) If you are in the Atlanta, Georgia area and you suspect a radio frequency interference problem, give your local garage door experts at CSS Garage Doors a call. We’ll help you find the source of your problem.
- Some garage door opener systems require reprogramming after replacing the batteries.
Diagnosing Your Garage Door Remote
There are several common problems with nonworking garage door remotes. Diagnosing your garage door remote is quite simple. It may be a dead battery, failure to properly reprogram the remote or radio frequency interference.
All garage door remote batteries will eventually need replacement. If your remote has an LED light, it often dies along with a low battery. Depending on the model that you have, the type of battery that each remote takes varies. To determine the type of battery that you should purchase, consult the owner’s manual. You may also remove the cover from the remote to reveal the battery type needed.
Removing the battery
Depending on the remote model, there are two most common ways to remove the battery. One way is removing a screw connecting the cover on some models. An additional way is prying the battery compartment open on other models. If you see a screw on the back of the remote, simply remove the screw, and you’ll see the batteries inside the remote. If there is no screw, then you may need to pry the remote open. (Click here for an example). Most local hardware stores can replace garage door remote batteries.
Inspecting the battery
Once opened, inspect the battery compartment of your remote for corrosion. If there is corrosion around the terminals, the remote may be defective. However, you can attempt to clean the corrosion away and replace the batteries.
Reprograming after replacement
Depending on your garage door opener model, you may need to reprogram your remote after changing out the batteries. Reprogramming your remote is often an overlooked step in replacing the batteries. For most models, the process is simple.
- Press the program button on the remote.
- Next, press the learn button under the cover of the opener (where the light is).
- Then, press the control button on the remote and watch for the light on the opener to blink.
- Finally, press any other button on the remote to exit the programming mode.
- Now, test the remote.
CSS Garage Doors Can Help with Diagnosing Your Garage Door Problems
So, there are many different reasons for a garage door or garage door remote to not be working properly. For more complex systems, consult your owner’s manual, or if you live in the area, contact us for diagnosing your garage door problem and solution.