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What to Do When Your Garage Door Won’t Open: Top 10 Reasons Your Door is Giving You Trouble

What to do if your garage door won't open

Picture it: you grab a cup of coffee and your purse before running out the door. It’s only 7 am and already you’re behind schedule. You slide in behind the wheel of your car and hit the button on your remote to raise your garage door.

And nothing happens.

The door doesn’t move.

You hit the button again, a little more forcefully this time.

Still nothing.

Panic sets in as you realize your garage door won’t open, your car is stuck inside and you are now officially late.

Statistics show that nearly 70 percent of homeowners enter and exit their home through the garage. So when your door isn’t functioning, it’s a really big deal. The good news is, most of the time when your garage door isn’t operating properly, there is a logical reason for it and often a simple solution for it. In fact, many people are surprised to find out that they can often diagnose problems with their garage door before they call a repair professional. Investigating the source of your problem doesn’t mean you won’t ever need to call a repair service. But it does mean you can be more informed about your problems and give your repair service the best information possible in order to plan out their call to your house.

That’s why it’s important to understand the most common problems associated with a malfunctioning garage door and what you can do to address them when they happen.

1. Remote Control Malfunction

It sounds simple, but you wouldn’t believe how many people think they have a problem with their door when it’s really just a problem with their remote. If your garage door won’t open or close, and it doesn’t make any noises when you press the remote button, first you should make sure you have a fresh set of batteries in the remote. Also, check to make sure that the antenna on the motor is hanging down correctly so that it can connect to the remote when signaled. If the receiving sensors are blocked in some way, the motor won’t be able to receive the signal from your remote to open the door. If you suspect that your remote control is the issue, but the batteries and connection don’t seem to be the issue, you can also try reprogramming your remote.

Make sure you have a fresh set of batteries in the remote

2. Photo-Eye Alignment

Another common problem is a garage door that will open properly but won’t close. Often, this happens when your Photo-Eye has been damaged or its alignment has been interrupted. What is a Photo Eye? Assuming your garage door has been installed in the last 20 or so years, you will have a safety sensor mechanism, often called a “Photo Eye,” located anywhere from four to six inches off of the floor on either side of your garage door. Its job is to protect the door from inadvertently closing on a person or object that might be underneath. It does this by shooting a laser beam sensor across the length of the garage. If it detects movement, it sends a signal to the door to stop lowering.

The Photo Eye is a great safety feature, but it does malfunction from time-to-time. Check the lens to see if dirt or dust is blocking the beam from reaching the other side of the garage — a gentle cleaning with a tissue should do the trick. Also check to make sure the wires leading to the Photo-Eye are intact and that it hasn’t fallen out of alignment. Because there are two pieces — one on each side — they have to be aligned with each other in order to function correctly. If one or both sensors isn’t lined up as it should be, you can manually maneuver them back into place. However, you should also try to determine what caused the misalignment in the first place. If this is a reoccurring problem, it may be because the vibrations the tracks experience when the door opens and closes have loosened the brackets holding the sensors in place, and they need to be tightened or replaced.

3. Broken Springs

Another reason your garage door isn’t opening may be a broken spring. The good news is, you may know if this is the likely source of your problem because when torsion springs break they make a REALLY loud noise. In fact, it’s so loud that people typically describe it as sounding like a gunshot or fireworks. So, if you’re home when it happens, you will know it. If this has occurred, DO NOT try to open the door manually or you risk serious injury. Sometimes when a torsion spring breaks, it can also cause damage to the garage door cable. It can become disengaged or even break completely. Unfortunately, when this happens, the cable can cause damage to a vehicle or person if there is one in its path. If you believe there are problems with broken springs and/or the cable, call a garage door repair company for help so that their professionals can assess the situation and repair it safely and correctly.

Call a garage door repair company for help with broken garage door springs

4. Track Misalignment

If you’re hearing strange grinding noises when you open and close the door, the problem may lie with the track. If the door seems to slow down or even get stuck at a certain point along the track, that’s a good indication that there is a misalignment on your track. You can also check for bumps, bends or gaps on the track that might be causing a problem. If you do find something amiss, you’ll want to have the tracks serviced by a professional. Note: It may be tempting to put this off since technically the door is still operating. Do not put off repair if you suspect an issue with the track. If left unattended, the problem will worsen over time and create a bigger issue down the road.

Along these same lines, you’ll want to check the rollers that move the door up and down the tracks. If your rollers are rusty or damaged, they can create extra friction when they’re moving, which fools the door into thinking it’s in the proper opened or closed position — even if it isn’t.

5. Something Is Blocking the Door’s Path

If your garage door starts to close but then goes right back up, that may be because something is blocking its path. Modern garage doors are designed to detect any foreign objects in the closing path. While this is a great safety feature, it can be frustrating if you’re trying to close your door and it’s not cooperating. Check your tracks for any debris that may have become stuck in there — dirt, rocks or even trash. It’s also a good idea to check the area where the door meets the ground to make sure that it’s not obstructed by toys, bikes or even piles of debris. Clear any suspected problem areas and try again.

6. Door Limit Settings Are Incorrect

Another common problem people encounter with their garage door is that the door closes properly but then immediately opens again. Often this is because the Open/Close Limits are not set properly. The Limit Settings are designed to tell the door how far it needs to go in order to open and to close. If these aren’t set correctly, the door will go down but when it hits the ground before it thinks it should, it will assume there is an obstacle blocking it and go right back up. On most models, you can find the limit switch on the tracks. If it’s not there, check to see if the switch is located inside of the opener itself. Once you’ve located the switch, consult your owner’s manual, which should offer some guidance on how to adjust the settings. You’re specifically looking for two white knobs that can be turned with a flathead screwdriver. Generally speaking, if the problem is that your door isn’t closing, you’ll want to adjust the Limit Switch Adjustment Knob down. If it won’t open, then adjust the knob up. On most models, one full turn of the adjustment screw is the equivalent of three inches of movement for the door, so it’s important to start with small adjustments to avoid prompting the door to slam open or closed.

The Limit Settings tell the door how far it needs to go in order to open and close

7. Disconnect Switch Is Engaged

Garage doors are designed with a “Disconnect Switch” that allows you to turn off the automatic feature in order to operate the door manually. Typically this is important in case you lose electricity. When things are normal and your power is on, you probably don’t give it a second thought. But if you’re attempting to open your door and the motor is running but nothing is moving, the switch may have been engaged by being bumped or maybe coming unhooked from the motor. If this appears to be the problem, you’ll want to carefully open the door manually and then flip the switch or reattach the hook. Then your electronic transmitter should start working again.

8. Door Is Locked

The motor to the opener is running, but your garage door isn’t going up. This could be a sign that the locking mechanism on the door has been enabled. Some older models may have an actual lock on the outside that may have been engaged. Other newer model openers have a “Vacation Mode” that allows you to set a lock on the door for a certain period of time, such as while you’re on vacation. This disables the remote capabilities so that the door cannot be opened or closed automatically until the setting is overridden. If your door has this feature, check your wall keypad to see if this feature was accidentally enabled and consult your owner’s manual to figure out how to reverse this setting.

9. Operator Power Source Disrupted

Your garage door opener relies on electricity to work, so if its source of electricity has been interrupted, the garage door won’t go up or down. The good news is: this is an easy problem to fix. Check the power source for your opener to make sure that the opener didn’t become unplugged or the outlet isn’t malfunctioning. Also check your breaker box to make sure that you didn’t accidentally blow a fuse. You’ll also want to make sure that none of the opener wires have become lose or damaged in some way.

10. Sensitivity out of Adjustment

Garage door sensitivity levels refer to how fast or slow your door goes up and down. This is what helps the door stop closing if it senses something in its path. That means it’s really important to make sure this is functioning correctly. This can especially be a problem in the winter months when rollers get stiff because of the cold. If your door’s sensitivity isn’t set at the right level, then it will think that it’s either too light or too heavy and it won’t operate. The good news is that this can be an easy adjustment. Your opener comes with open/close force switches that you can adjust based on your owner’s manual’s recommendations. This is also a good time to check on your Photo Eye Alignment if you haven’t already — see #2 above. If you choose to adjust the settings yourself, it’s important to be careful that you don’t over adjust the up and down settings.

Door sensitivity is important for making sure the door operates properly

When You Can’t Fix It Yourself

When you find yourself in a situation where your garage door isn’t opening the way it should, it’s understandable that your first reaction is to panic. After all, if you’re like most homeowners, you rely on your garage on a daily basis. You need a properly functioning entrance and exit for it. But if you can stop and spend a few minutes investigating the source of the problem, you are going to have an easier time figuring out what’s wrong and how to fix it.

While we hope you’ll enjoy a long, trouble-free relationship with your garage door opener, we know that’s not always the case. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and the problem will be minor — maybe a pile of leaves is blocking the sensor or your Photo Eye was caked with dust. Sometimes, you may not be so lucky, especially if you have a snapped torsion spring or a misalignment in your track. When problems arise and there’s no easy fix in sight, it’s time to call Aaron’s Garage Doors. Servicing Nashville and middle Tennessee since 1997, Aaron’s is the go-to company for garage door installation and repair. Unlike bigger companies, when you call Aaron’s for service, Aaron himself will answer and arrange the repair. That personal service is what has kept our clients coming back for more than two decades.

For reliable and friendly service on all your Nashville and middle Tennessee garage door needs, contact us for a free estimate or give us a call at 615-456-6654.

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