Garage Door Problems Often Require Only Minor Repairs by Homeowners; Common Things to Look For

Typical Garage Door Designs

A garage door is something nearly every home has. Therefore, it is not uncommon to need some type of garage door repair at one time or another.

There are two systems that make up a garage door; the door mechanism, and the garage door opener or lift system.

Obviously, if it is a manual door, it has just the door mechanism. This includes the garage door springs, hinged garage door panel sections, a latch, and track with rollers on each side; allowing the door to “roll” open. Garage door torsion springs assist in opening the door in both manual and garage door opener applications; helping to provide a smooth transition during opening and closing.

An overhead garage door opener uses either a chain, belt, or screw actuators driven by an electric motor to open and close the garage door. The most common set up consists of a garage door motor driven chain system.

When installed, the garage door motor is positioned on the garage ceiling so the chain and related brackets and hardware are as close to dead center of the garage door as possible.

Occasionally a motor driven chain system is attached offset from dead center because of obstacles that complicate garage door installation. Varying from center alignment should be avoided, however. This is because garage door problems will almost always develop over time.

Look for Loose Hardware

When attempting to diagnose a garage door problem, the first place to check is the track and rollers. While the door is in the closed position, inspect the brackets that secure the tracks to the framing members. Brackets should always be attached with lag screws or bolts; secured solidly into the framing members. Check for any brackets that might have worked loose, or may not have been properly secured during installation.

Garage door tracks are installed vertically on either side of the door and curve to run on a horizontal plane parallel with the ceiling. Using a level, make sure vertical sections are perfectly plumb, straight, aligned, and in square with each other. Both overhead sections should be the same distance from the ceiling; aligned with the other.

Check the overhead section; it should slope very slightly to the back of the garage. Make any necessary adjustments by loosening or moving the brackets, adding or removing shims, and tightening lag screws or bolts.

Inspect for Damage

Further inspect the tracks for any damaged areas; including flat spots, crimping, and dents. Use a hammer or mallet and a wood block to straighten any out. Badly damaged sections of track that cannot be straightened should be replaced.

Clean tracks and rollers using a solvent cleaner to remove soils and hardened grease. Wipe dry, and then re-lubricate tracks with garage door spray or graphite; lubricate rollers with silicone spray or 3-in-1 oil.

Inspect the garage door for loose screws or worn garage door hardware. Swing-up doors have a plate where the spring is attached to the door; screws frequently become loose and require tightening. Roll up doors that sag on one side or along one panel may indicate loose mounting screws on the hinges that hold the panels together. Or else hinges may be worn and need replacing.

Screw holes in wood may have become enlarged; requiring either larger screws or repairing the hole for a snugger fit.

Swing-up doors may need the spring tension adjusted. Usually this type of spring uses a cable with a pulley; the end of the cable mounted to a plate. Simply pull more cable through the plate, and add another knot for proper tension.

Roll-up doors usually have a center mount tension spring system. Warning: DO NOT attempt repairing this yourself. This type spring can cause serious injury or even death if incorrectly handled. Acquire the services of a professional for this task.

Troubleshooting a Garage Door Opener

How to fix a garage door opener will depend on the nature of the problem.

Garage door opener troubleshooting to isolate a problem can be complicated. This is because more often than not a group of problems are culprits.

Garage door openers that close and then reverse before completely closing can be one of several causes. Newer garage door opener systems (after 1990) have an electric eye on either side of the lower door frame. When an object blocks the line of sight between the two sensors, the door reverses. Sensors that are out of alignment with each other can give erratic signals to the system, causing the door to reverse sporadically.

A garage door opener system may have a safety reversal feature which causes the door to reverse when it senses an obstruction. When the door is closing and an obstruction is encountered, the resistance is transferred back to the motor unit with torsion (twisting) in the assembly.

If it twists far enough, a small lever or “arm,” either inside the unit or out, contacts a momentary switch, causing the motor to reverse direction. The amount of resistance can be adjusted by changing the distance between the arm or lever and the switch.

Apart from electric eye sensors, there are numerous mechanical systems for setting the opening and closing limit on an opener. They can be plastic arms, levers, or even metal plates; clipped or bolted to the drive chain. One for the open limit, one for closing. This can be adjusted by clipping or bolting the arm or lever to a different location on the chain; increasing or decreasing the respective limit.

Another type of opener uses a screw-type track inside the motor unit, with a moveable “nut” that travels once the unit is activated; When the nut contacts a switch, the unit stops. There are usually two moveable nuts, one for each direction. Adjustment is made by moving the nuts to the desired limit point for each direction.

Garage Door Opener Design

Garage door systems, whether older or newer, employ various designs for setting the opening and closing limit. There are a number of garage door opener designs built for resale by garage door sales/installation companies; many of which are not user friendly. This initiates a lot of small “minimum charge” service calls for minor adjustments, which add up quickly.

To avoid ending up with one of these systems, do garage door opener consumer report research before purchasing and installing a unit. Select only a design that makes provision for homeowner adjustments; with clearly marked components and full how-to instructions.

Apart from special electronic testing equipment and the services of an electronics repairman, there is no way to test for a faulty remote unit. However, garage opener repair can oftentimes be as simple as replacing the battery in the remote unit. Or it may require reprogramming using a different code to keep the neighbor's remote from operating your door.

Some units have a set of “dip switches;” small plastic toggle switches inside both the remote and the opener unit. These should be set identically. Try using various settings until the problem is solved. Other units have electronic codes that can be reset; follow manufacturer's instructions.

If you need to replace a faulty remote but have trouble finding one compatible with your system, generic remote units are available at hardware stores. The unit plugs into an outlet; your garage opener unit plugs into it. When you switch the remote on, it toggles a relay switch and powers on your garage door unit. This allows you to power the garage unit on and off, bypassing the remote circuitry that it came with.

For chain drive garage door opener systems, a common problem is that over time and with use the chain may become loose and drag on the track or other components.

Most units have provision for adjusting chain tension; either using an adjustable roller on the chain, adjustable links in the chain, or an adjustment on the lift motor box. Follow manufacturer's instructions; always make adjustments with the door closed, and power to the lift motor off for safety purposes. Never over-tighten the chain; this could cause damage to the system.

Sometimes Replacement is Necessary

If you are in need of a garage door opener part or lift motor for a system that is obsolete and no longer manufactured, you may need to purchase a whole new garage door opener system. To select motor size keep in mind the following rule of thumbs:

  • Garage doors up to 8-feet wide should have a minimum lift motor size of 1/3 horsepower.
  • Garage doors 10 to 12-feet wide should have a minimum lift motor size of ½ horsepower.
  • For large custom garage doors wider than 12-feet, follow manufacturer's suggestions; it is better to have a motor than can provide more lift than needed, than not enough.

Consider a Professional

There are many different manufacturers and types of garage door systems; hiring a professional garage door contractor or garage door service may be money well spent.

A professional garage door contractor will be knowledgeable about the various types and brand name systems. He or she can can quickly diagnose and repair any problems you may have.

To find a local garage door repair and installation professionals, or garage door opener service, is a valuable time-saving online resource.

Homeowners anywhere in America can sign up absolutely FREE, without any obligation, and post their garage door service needs online. Reliable local contractors view project details and provide competitive bids; even just hours after project posting.

Homeowners can view detailed contractor information at; including company profile, licensing, insurance, and certification credentials, customer feedback and comments, and photo gallery with pictures of recently completed projects. And then make an informed hiring or contact decision; or hire no one at all. Remember, there is no obligation.

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