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A beginner’s guide to garage door opener troubleshooting

A white hand presses a garage door opener remote to open a white garage door on a tan house with green shrubs

Your garage door opener makes your garage a functional part of your home. When it works properly, you can easily move your cars in and pull your bikes or storage totes out; when it’s due for maintenance, you’d be hard-pressed not to notice the inconvenience quickly.

According to Home Depot, paying to repair or replace your garage door opener can cost of between $50 and $500 in parts alone. Keep some money in your pocket with these helpful ideas for garage door opener maintenance.

Troubleshooting your garage door opener

 A malfunctioning garage door opener can be a real pain, but with these easy ways to troubleshoot common garage door opener problems, you can keep it and its remote working well for ages to come.

Common Problem #1: Garage door opener is not sending a signal

This issue is most often caused by a dead battery. Replacement batteries should be available at your local hardware or grocery store. Reference your owner’s manual to find out which ones you need.

Common Problem #2: Garage door opener is not able to fully lift the door

Most garage doors operate on a pulley system that uses torsion or extension springs to keep it balanced. This balance makes your garage door easy to lift manually or by the garage door opener when it receives a signal.

If your garage door opener begins to struggle when raising your door, check your springs to see if they’re in need of replacement.

Pro Tip: Now is also a good time to make sure your garage door opener type is best suited for your garage door.

Common Problem #3: The photo eye is misaligned or blocked

Most garage door openers use a safety feature called a photo eye (also called a photoelectric system), which is located on both sides of the inside of your garage door.  

This system sends an invisible beam of light from one photo eye to the other, and if the coast is clear, it allows the garage door opener to operate. But if something is blocking the signal or the lenses are misaligned, your door will not open or close. The easiest way to let the photo eyes know it’s safe to operate is by keeping them both unblocked, and  testing them regularly to make sure they’re working properly.

Garage door opener maintenance

Making time for routine maintenance can help you save hundreds of dollars and add years to the life of your garage door opener. In just a few minutes twice a year, you can keep things rolling.

Check your garage door auto-reverse feature

Modern garage door openers are equipped with an auto-reverse feature to prevent injury of any human or pet who is under the door while the garage door is in motion.

To test this safety mechanism, use the troubleshooting tips under Common Problem #3, and make sure the two sensors of the photo eye are aligned. Both sensors should be red.

It's common for garage door openers to have this second garage door auto-reverse feature–the ability to stop and raise the door when it touches an object in its path.

To check this, bring your garage door all the way up, then set a brick, concrete block, or piece of wood on the ground where your door lands. Press the remote to lower your garage door and see if it automatically changes directions once it touches the object. If it does not reverse direction, refer to your owner’s manual or call a professional to resolve this issue. Better safe than sorry!

Check and replace your garage door opener light bulb

Don’t get caught having to fumble your way indoors—make sure your bulb shines brightly when you need it most. During the day, lift your garage door to check the brightness of your bulb, and change as needed. These bulbs should be available at your local grocery or hardware store.

Check the backup battery

Sometimes, your main garage door opener battery will die or malfunction, which is why many of them use a backup battery. While the main one is still working, test your backup battery to avoid a frustrating situation.

  • Unplug the garage door opener
  • Use the wall button or garage remote to try to open the garage door
  • If it opens, the backup battery is functional
  • If the garage door does not open, unplug the battery, and replace it with a new one
  • Garage door opener batteries should be available at your local hardware store 

Bonus: Check your garage door for evenness

An uneven garage door is more likely to make your garage door opener work harder. Visually inspect your garage door for the following concerns.

  • One side of the garage door hanging lower than the other
  • Metal or rubber components of your garage door system are cracked, worn, or bent out of place
  • Overstretched and/or rusty springs
  • Squeaking or grating sounds when the garage door opens or closes

If your garage door opener’s chain needs lubrication, refer to your owner’s manual to see which lubricant is preferred. If it doesn’t specify, you can use a lithium-based lubricant on your garage door’s hinges and rollers, and brake cleaner on its tracks.

Pro Tip: Though it can be fairly easy to look for signs of garage door wear and tear, it’s best to have it repaired or reset by a professional.

That’s it! Now, you’ve got the solutions you need to fix any minor garage issues and keep your garage door opener in tip-top shape.

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