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The automatic garage door opener is one of those home systems that is so simple and effortless to use that it’s easy to take for granted. But if you’ve ever pulled into the driveway and pressed the button to no avail, you know that things can go wrong and garage door openers can require replacement.

Garage doors are big, heavy moving objects, which means they can be dangerous. While household accidents involving garage doors aren’t common, you can have greater confidence that your garage door and opener are in good working order with a two-minute inspection every few months and a little light maintenance once a year.

Safety Features

All garage door openers have some sort of safety feature that stops them from closing the door on a person or object. If you don’t trigger this feature often, you should make a point of testing it every few months.

Some garage door openers have an auto-reverse mechanism that detects when the door comes into contact with an obstruction. On more modern systems, infrared sensors detect when someone or something is in the path of the door, which signals the door to reopen without contacting anything.

To test this feature, always use an object like a yardstick or a baseball bat to interrupt the door’s path. Never use your body. If the auto-reverse doesn’t engage, check for infrared sensors on either side of the doorframe to ensure they’re clean and aligned with one another. You may need to measure the distance between each sensor and the floor to see if adjustment is necessary. If auto-reverse still doesn’t work, it’s time to schedule repairs.

Your garage door opener should also have a manual release — a bright red plastic handle dangling from the drive chain mechanism overhead. If your power ever goes out or your garage door opener breaks, you can open your garage door manually by first pulling the manual release. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the manual release and the process for re-engaging the automatic door opener, so check your manual for instructions.

Just a Checkup

All the important parts of your garage door system are out in the open, so a quick visual inspection should be all you need to spot some of the most common types of wear. The most important parts to inspect are:

  • Torsion springs, located above the door
  • Extension springs, located along the tracks
  • Tracks and rollers
  • Door panel hinges

Look for corrosion, damage or deformation, especially in springs. If you see the damage, arrange for repairs from a certified professional. Handy homeowners may be able to perform these types of repairs themselves, but if you have any doubts about your abilities, place your trust in those with proper training. A garage door only needs to be slightly out of alignment to cause real problems!


TLC Time

About once a year, it’s helpful to wipe the garage door tracks clean with a soft cloth. These tend to stay about as clean as the air in your garage, but they do collect dust and dirt which can affect the smooth opening of the door if it accumulates.

It’s also important to periodically lubricate metal moving parts, including springs, hinges and bearings. Use a silicone-based spray lubricant on these parts, but take care not to get it on plastic rollers or in the tracks. If you start hearing screeching or scraping noises while your door opens and closes, that’s a sign you need to lubricate the system.

Closed for Business

If your garage door suddenly won’t open at all, the first thing to do is check the batteries in the remote or try using the wall switch. If that’s not the problem, check the circuit breaker to make sure it hasn’t tripped. You should contact an electrician for help if the problem continues or if your garage door is opening and closing at unexpected times. It could be interference from nearby radio signals, but this could also be a sign of an electrical problem with the garage door opener itself.