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Garage Door Won't Open: Common Problems

February 25, 2023

There’s nothing more frustrating than when your garage door won’t open. In reality, there can be a variety of minor and significant issues why your garage doors won't open, ranging from the simple misalignment of the doors to something more severe like broken garage door openers.

Some of these issues can be solved without professional help, while others will require the assistance of a trained technician. In this article, our team at Safety Garage Door will go over possible causes of why your garage door won't open and the solutions for each.

To make your garage door repair journey even more convenient, we've created a downloadable PDF guide that complements our article on 'Why My Garage Door Won't Open.' This resource provides a quick reference for troubleshooting and fixing common issues.

1. Your Garage Door Opener Might Be Broken

Your Garage Door Opener Might Be Broken

A garage door opener is an electric motorized device - controlled by a remote, keypad, or smartphone - used to open and close your garage door. If your garage door isn’t opening, it could be because there's a stripped gear.

If one of the gears in the garage door opener becomes stripped, it means its teeth have worn down or become damaged, and it's unable to engage with other gears or components.

Most times, this is due to wear and tear. Once a gear becomes stripped, the garage door opener won't function. The standard giveaway is if the garage door opener's motor makes a humming noise when prompted but won't open.

Sometimes, you can replace a gear; however, you'll likely need a new opener. In the meantime, open and close the garage door manually until a professional diagnoses and repairs the issue.

2. Garage Door Sensor Issues

Garage Door Sensor Issues

A garage door safety sensor prevents the door from closing when something or someone is in the way. The sensors are mounted on either side of the door. If something interrupts their invisible infrared beam, the door will stop and reverse when closing. This ensures that people and objects remain safe from being crushed by the garage door.

A misadjusted or problematic sensitivity setting is the likely cause when a garage door is stuck closed. When its settings are off, the opener will think the door is either too light or too heavy and won't respond to opening and closing commands, keeping the door closed.

If the reason the garage door won't open all the way is sensor-related, you can:

  • Clean the sensor: First, remove any dirt or debris blocking the sensor's lens. Then, use a soft cloth and mild detergent to clean it. When done, use a can of compressed air to blow away any dust or dirt that may still be present.
  • Remove larger obstructions: Check the area around the sensor for any debris or obstruction, and use a vacuum cleaner or tweezers to remove it.
  • Inspect the alignment: To align garage door sensors, turn off the power, unplug the opener, and remove the bracket. Adjust the settings on the sensors with a screwdriver and then reattach the bracket and plug the opener back in. Turn the power back on and test the sensors to ensure they’re properly aligned.
  • Adjust sensitivity settings: Close the garage door and place a 2x4 board or similar object on the ground in the sensors' path. Activate the door opener and see if the door reverses or stops when it encounters the board. If not, the sensitivity needs to be adjusted.
  • Check the wiring: Check the cord attached to the photo eye sensor - which is usually about four to six inches off the ground for most doors - for water damage, rips, or broken wires. If the wires are damaged, you’ll need to replace the sensor due to possible exposure to harsh rainstorms, hungry pests, or excessive use.
  • Check the LED light: If the lights are turned on, make sure the photo eye isn’t blocked. If one of the lights is flickering or not working, the photo eye might be defective. Try moving the sensor with your hand to see if the light changes. Adjust the pivot bracket to try fixing the sensor's LED light. Once it’s lit again, secure the sensor in place.

3. Tracks Are Misaligned

Tracks Are Misaligned

A garage door track is the metal track attached to the garage walls that guides the movement of the garage door to ensure it opens and closes in a straight line, ultimately making it easier and more efficient to use. It also helps to keep the door securely in place and prevents it from becoming unbalanced or falling off the track.

Your garage door won't open or close if the tracks are misaligned. If the door is crooked and makes noises when it moves, it could be a sign that it has gone off track. As the misalignment increases, the door might stop working altogether.

To determine if misaligned tracks are the issue:

  • Inspect: Look for any bends, gaps, or obstacles in the track. Listen and observe the door as it moves along the track. Areas of friction or jamming indicate the track needs realignment.
  • Be gentle: Forcing the door could bend the vertical tracks and cause it to pop out, so maneuver the door as carefully as possible.
  • Adjust the track: Securely shut your garage door and turn off the automatic feature of the door for extra safety. Then loosen the screws attaching the track to the frame. Push the track back to its proper position, then retighten the screws. Note: The track on the wall and the one on the ceiling should be the same distance from the door.

4. Diagnose the Torsion Springs

 Diagnose the Torsion Springs

A torsion spring is a key component of a garage door's opening and closing mechanism. It’s a long metal spring mounted horizontally above the door opening and connected to the header. When the door opens, the spring winds up and stores energy. When the door closes, the spring releases energy and helps the door to close.

If broken, the door can't open and close normally. That's because the spring counterbalances the door's weight, so when it breaks, it’ll drop suddenly and get stuck in the closed position.

Signs of a broken spring include a loud noise, a garage door that feels heavier, and if the motor runs but the door remains stationary.

Reasons for Broken Springs

Your garage door may not be functioning properly due to the broken tension springs because of the following:

  • Age: The lifespan of a tension spring is determined by its number of cycles. When a spring has more than its intended amount, it can break suddenly while the door operates. In some cases, the spring may fail before the end of its lifespan.
  • Rust: Garage door springs are made of metal, a material that’s prone to rust when exposed to moisture in the air. To stop the tension springs from breaking due to rust, you can apply a silicone-based lubricant each season to decrease friction caused by the rust.
  • Poor maintenance: You should inspect springs at least once a year. If the tension decreases, replace the springs promptly to prevent them from breaking.

How to Fix It

While you can check for signs of damage, we recommend calling us to replace broken or damaged springs, as they’re highly hazardous. A coiled garage door torsion spring can cause severe injury or even death if mishandled.

Signs of a broken or damaged spring include:

  • Abrasion, rust, and corrosion.
  • Squeaking, creaking, or grinding noises.
  • A lack of tension when the garage door moves.
  • An unbalanced door.

5. Inspect the Garage Door Cable

Inspect the Garage Door Cable

Garage door cables are responsible for lifting and lowering the door. They’re connected to a spring system that counterbalances the door's weight, allowing it to be opened and closed with minimal effort. The cable connects to the door at one end and the motor at the other. The motor is what pulls the cable and opens and closes the door.

If your extension springs have already failed, don't open the door - not even manually - until you have them replaced by a professional technician. The cables can't support the door, so none of the opener's protective mechanisms will prevent it from crashing down.

6. Garage Door Remote Control Issues

To open a functional automatic garage door, you simply push a button on the wall-mounted panel or the remote control. The remote control signals the garage door opener to open or close the garage. If your garage door doesn't open, it could be due to a malfunctioning remote control.

Here are some solutions if your garage door remote isn’t working.

  • Get in range of the garage door: Move closer to the garage door and attempt to use the remote control; it could be that you're holding the remote too far away.
  • Check the antenna: Check the antenna is intact and not blocked by anything.
  • Replace the battery: If the garage door doesn't respond to the buttons on the wall-mounted panel, you might need to change the remote control batteries and reset the remote.
  • Reprogram the remote: You may need to reprogram your garage door remote if the existing remote is malfunctioning, if you’ve lost or misplaced the existing remote, or if you’ve recently moved and need to reprogram the remote to match the new garage door opener.
  • Install an app: Some garage door systems are operable via an app, eliminating the need for remote control. Although we still recommend keeping one just in case.
  • Turn off the lock feature: If the light on your door control panel is blinking, press and hold the "lock" button to deactivate the lock feature. To reactivate the lock feature again, press and hold down the "lock" button.
  • Check the door control wiring: Inspect the wiring on your garage door's control if your garage door isn't responding to your remote control, but the remote control and wall-mounted panel are working. Disconnect the power to the opener and then disconnect the two wires from the motor. Reconnect your machine to power and reprogram all remote controls. After that, test your garage door with the remote control to see if it opens.

7. Some of the Garage Door Parts Are Incompatible

Sometimes, there's something wrong with the garage door opener that stops it from opening the door for you.

If you hear a sound from your garage door motor like it’s running, but the chain, belt, or screw isn’t moving, it could indicate that a part within the motor is either broken or defective.

If your garage door opener is five years old or older, it’ll likely use a certain amount of power to open the door. Over time, due to damage to the door tracks, or the door rollers, this amount of power might need to be increased for the opener to lift the door.

Additionally, installing the chain too tightly grinds down the gears. When they wear out, the motor will run, and the gears will turn, but the chain won't move, and the door stays closed.

It may also be that the opener and the garage door are incompatible or that the opener simply doesn’t have the strength to lift the weight and size of the door if it is too heavy for it.

These common garage door problems occur often due to do-it-yourself installations. We can help you with this issue; don't attempt to fix it yourself; please give us a call!

Additional Garage Door Things to Check Out

Additional Garage Door Things to Check Out

When determining why your garage door isn’t opening, remember to check for broken or loose parts, obstructions, and power supply issues.

Opener Limit Settings

The limit setting is a programming mechanism that tells the opener when to stop closing or opening the door. It’s adjusted to accommodate different sizes and heights of garage doors.

If the limit setting is too high, the garage door opener may think the door has closed prematurely, so when it touches the ground, it mistakes it for an obstruction, and the door automatically reverses.

If you’re experiencing this issue, contact a maintenance specialist to inspect and adjust the limit settings on your garage door opener.

Unplugged Cords

There are a few reasons why your garage door operator has no power. It could be something as obvious as an unplugged power cord or something more complex like a blown fuse, faulty outlet, or circuit breaker, which needs to be repaired by a garage door technician.

If fixing these issues doesn't work, the motor may be broken and need to be repaired or even replaced.

Lock Mode

Many garage doors have manual locks, which look like handles with horizontal bars. If the manual lock is engaged, the door won’t respond to the opener.

To unlock the door, rotate the handle until you hear a snap. This sound indicates that the horizontal bar is disengaged, and you can now open the door.

Alternatively, if you press the button and the opener makes a humming noise but doesn’t open, it’s likely that the gears have been stripped and need to be replaced.

Keypad Sync

If you’re experiencing issues with your activation device and the remote works, but the keypad doesn’t, you might need to reset the code. Refer to the user's manual for instructions on how to do so, or you can use a troubleshooting guide to address the problem.

Door Is Disconnected from the Trolley

Check if the trolley (carriage) that connects the door to the opener is properly attached. Reattach it following the manufacturer's instructions if it's disconnected to ensure a secure connection.

Capacitor Is Corroded or Worn Out

The opener's capacitor stores energy crucial for initiating the opening process. Inspect the capacitor for signs of corrosion or wear. If you notice any damage, it may be time to replace the capacitor to restore optimal performance.

The Circuit Breaker that Powers the Opener

Examine the circuit breaker responsible for supplying power to the garage door opener. Confirm that it has not tripped, which can occur during power outages or electrical surges. If the circuit breaker has tripped, reset it to reestablish power.

My Garage Door Still Won't Open, Now What?

It's great if you’ve been able to fix your garage door following our advice. However, if you have identified that the issue is more complex, it’s best to contact our Safety Garage Door Repair team.

At Safety Garage Door Repair & Installation, we provide reliable 24/7 service, competitive pricing, and experienced technicians who understand the importance of fixing your garage door quickly and safely. Please note that our services are available exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area and select cities in San Diego County.

With us, you can count on restored convenience, safety, and security for your home. Call us today to fix your garage door issues!

Ammar Hanafieh

Ammar Hanafieh

Following the family's trade, Ammar has been working in the garage door repair and installation industry since 2010. He brings his expertise via the excellent service and industry insights.
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