Troubleshooting a Garage Door Opener

By Natalie Yerger | Advertiser Disclosure

Stepping out of the car on a cold, rainy night to open the garage door is an inconvenience that’s relatively inconceivable if you were born in the last three decades. Automatic garage door openers are labor-saving devices that lift the door while you remain comfortably in the car.

Though convenient, automating the garage system made it vulnerable to new kinds of issues and breakdowns, specifically revolving around the electrical setup. Here are some common garage door issues and how to troubleshoot a garage door opener.

10 reasons why your garage door opener doesn’t work

Issue #1: The remote control batteries are dead

Solution: If the batteries in the remote control have died, it won’t be able to send a signal to the garage door to open or close. Stand within range of the opener and press the buttons on your door’s remote controls—if the opener doesn’t work, consider changing its batteries.

Change the batteries in all the transmitters in your garage by sliding open the door on the back of the device and removing the batteries. If a closer range and fresh batteries don’t work, try reprogramming the remote using the garage opener’s manual. If you’ve misplaced the manual, you may be able to find a version of it online. 

Issue #2: The garage door reverses just before closing or hitting the floor

Solution: The majority of garage door openers manufactured today are designed to automatically reverse as soon as the receptors pick up an obstruction in the door’s path—this prevents crushing small children, pets, feet, and anything else that gets stuck in line with the sensor. Make sure no items are blocking the door before moving onto the next step.

This process is controlled by photo eyes on either side of the garage entrance, which transmit an invisible beam between each other to detect anything in the door’s path as it closes. If your garage doors are falsely detecting obstructions and, therefore, not closing fully, the photo eyes may be dirty.

The eyes are similar to a camera lens, so clean them with a soft cloth and a mild, streak-free cleaner. Make sure the photo eyes are aligned, measuring the height of each photo eye from the ground and adjusting appropriately with a laser level. Accurately aligned photo eyes greatly impact the safety of your garage doors, so much so that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued entrapment protection requirements for all garage doors manufactured after January 1, 1993.

Issue #3: The door sticks while opening or closing

Solution: This issue can be evidence that the tracks or rollers aren’t properly aligned. All garages have a metal track that the door runs on, and the rollers and rail need to be properly situated in order for the door to move smoothly. You’ll want to troubleshoot this garage door opener issue quickly, as the weight of the garage door can compound the issue.

To realign the track, loosen the screws that hold it to the frame. Then, tap it lightly with a hammer or a soft rubber mallet to realign it. Use a level to make sure it’s perfectly straight and then tighten the screws. For serious alignment issues, contact a garage door professional.

Issue #4: The garage door isn’t closing completely or hitting the floor

Solution: If your garage door only closes partially, you may need to adjust the close limit settings. The limit switch is an adjustable switch that determines how low the garage door should go in order to close completely. Close limit switches that are set too high will cause your garage door to not close all the way.

There’s usually a switch on the motor unit that will increase or decrease how far the garage door closes, but reference your owner’s manual to determine how exactly to adjust this feature. Additionally, make sure the antenna on the motor unit are not blocked or obstructed by any items or debris.

Issue #5: The garage door isn’t opening completely

Solution: If the garage door doesn’t open completely, there’s a good chance that the issue is related to the limit switch. Just like there’s a limit switch for closing the door, there’s a limit switch for opening it. 

Adjust the switch by using a flathead screwdriver to turn the down limit switch adjustment on the side of the garage door opener clockwise by one turn. Keep in mind that, for both limit switches, the connection between them and the motor unit can be disrupted if they’re located too far from the motor unit.

Issue #6: The wall switch doesn’t work

Solution: The wall switch resides inside your garage and allows you to manually open and close the garage doors from the inside. If they’re not working, it’s likely an issue with their power supply. Check your fuses or breaker to see if they’ve tripped or broken. If so, replace the fuse or reset the breaker and then try the wall switch a second time.

Issue #7: The garage door won’t open in cold months

Solution: Cold weather brings ice, snow, and its own set of home complications. Garage doors aren’t immune, and freezing temperatures can make rollers stiff or frozen. Try lubricating them with WD-40 or make small adjustments to the garage door opener sensitivity.

Issue #8: The keypad won’t work

Solution: Some garage doors have a keypad on the garage door exterior. If yours isn’t working, you may need to reprogram it or replace its batteries.

Issue #9: The garage door sticks while closing or opening

Solution: If your garage door opens but seems especially noisy or creaky when moving, and you’ve ensured that the rollers are on track, there could be debris in the tracks that are preventing the rollers from moving as efficiently as possible. Remove leaves, dust, and other debris that have been kicked up into the tracks. Once everything’s been cleaned, the problem should be solved.

Issue #10: The garage door seal is broken, loose, or leaky

Solution: The weather stripping along a garage door prevents water, insects, debris, and dirt from entering your garage. If you’ve noticed an influx of cobwebs, bugs, or dirt, the seal may have seen its better days. It can be easily replaced with weather stripping from your local home improvement store.

When to call in a professional

Though it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to fix most garage door opener problems on your own, the same doesn’t apply to all issues. Malfunctioning garage doors account for approximately 20,000 emergency room visits every year, with the majority of injuries coming from pinched fingers and entrapment. Because garage doors can have a strong closing force when not working properly, there are a handful of garage issues you’ll want to call in a professional to handle.

  • Garage doors have tension springs and cables which help lower the door while it’s closing. If either of your garage’s torsion springs is broken, don’t try to open the door until a professional can inspect them. 
  • If the door isn’t closing and you’ve cleaned and aligned the photo eyes, contact a professional to diagnose the problem.
  • In cases where your garage doors and their tracks have become seriously misaligned, it’s best to hire this work out. Garage professionals have the equipment needed to realign the doors safely and efficiently.
  • If you’ve given your all to fixing a part and think it’s time for a replacement, whether it’s a small part or a serious one, call a professional to perform the necessary garage door repair.

Frequently asked questions

Why is there no power to my garage door opener?

If your garage door opener has no power but is plugged in, the circuit breaker fuse is on, and the electrical outlet has power, the opener may be faulty and require new batteries or a replacement.

How do I reset my garage door remote?

The specific steps to reset your garage door remote will vary by brand, but you can typically reset the remote controls and keypad in a few simple steps.

First, make sure the garage door is in the down position. Next, press and hold the reset button on the opener for approximately five seconds—most openers openers or control panels will have a specific button you can press to erase the codes. From there, you can reprogram the remote controls and keypads you wish to use.

How do I reconnect my garage door opener after a power outage?

Again, the specific steps for this process will vary by brand. In general, you’ll want to close the garage door once the power has been restored. The door opener must be in the closed position to reconnect the opener.

Press the garage door opener button, and then press the close button. If your garage system has trolleys and arms that don’t automatically reconnect, you may need to pull an emergency release cord to reconnect the arm to the trolley.

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