Garage Door Repair

When a garage door stops working or begins to start failing intermittently, it is important to carefully assess the problem before grabbing the first screwdriver you see, intent on fixing the problem yourself. Listed below, you’ll find a few common problems that homeowners can fix on their own, and those that should be left to a professional.

Garage Door Parts

The largest door in the home is also the most complex. Although there are several different types of residential garage doors, the two most common are the one-piece door and the sectional door. In both cases, heavy-duty springs help offset the weight of the door, making it easier to open and close it.

As the name implies, one-piece doors are built as a single piece that pivots open and closed. They typically use special tilt hardware in conjunction with the springs, which act as a counterbalance to offset the weight.

Sectional doors are built-in sections and then assembled together with a series of hinges and rollers. Metal tracks run vertical on either side of the door and curve back into the garage at the top of the door opening. The rollers ride inside these tracks, which not only keep the door in place but also define the path the door takes as it opens and closes. Large torsion springs sit on a shaft above the door that spans the opening. Cables attach to drums on the shaft, and then to the bottom of the door. Sectional doors are the most common type of garage doors seen on newer homes in the States. When a replacement garage door is needed, most one-piece doors end up being replaced with sectional doors.

Garage Door Problems

First, identify the problem with your door to see if it is something you can safely fix. The following is a list of this type of problem, along with its solution:

  • Squeaky / Sticky Hinges or Rollers – being careful to keep your hands and fingers away from pinch points, use a spray can of lubricant to thoroughly coat the affected hinges or rollers. Silicone or white lithium grease works best for this.
  • Door Lock Not Engaging – on sectional doors, two thin bars extend in opposite directions from the center of the door and are attached to a twist-style lock handle.

Considering how thin these bars typically are, a small bump can often bend them out of alignment. If this is observed as the problem, use your hands or a set of pliers to carefully bend the bar back to its proper position. Be especially careful when working around the door panels, they can be rather thin and can puncture or dent easily.

Unless you’re a trained garage door service technician, please do NOT attempt to fix any of the following problems. Being able to identify the problem, however, may end up saving you money by being able to communicate the problem in advance to a service technician.

  • Broken Spring – Most springs now contain safety measures across the garage in the event one of them breaks. Because of this, it may or may not be easy to identify the problem. If you notice a broken spring, it’s always best to have it replaced by a qualified technician. The springs are under a large amount of pressure and can seriously injure anyone not familiar with the replacement process.
  • The Door Isn’t Properly Balanced – As long as the door is in the closed position, carefully pull the manual release handle for the garage door opener (if an opener is installed). This is typically a red handle on a rope that hangs down from the opener. The door may start to move up at this point, so it is a good idea to stay clear of the door until you see how the door reacts. A properly balanced door should be relatively easy to open and should stay in place when released. If you find it extremely difficult to open the door, or it falls when released, you should call a service technician to have it properly balanced.
  • Roller Off Track – Depending on the condition, this may require that entire sections of the door be removed. Not only is this dangerous for someone who isn’t properly trained, but an untrained person may also do irreversible damage to the door trying to attempt this.

How To Adjust Limit Switches On A Garage Door Opener

A garage door opener can be adjusted to a variety of heights to match the needs of the individual homeowner. In most models of garage door openers, the adjustments are very simple. It is important for the door to be set to the proper travel distance at all times. Make sure to read my review about the garage door openers here, as well.

The door must travel the proper distance up to provide adequate clearance for all vehicles. Downward travel must also be set correctly. If the door continually hits the ground with too much force it can result in damage and excessive wear to the door and/or its components. Most recent models of garage door openers will automatically reverse if they strike the ground or any other object with any significant force. This is a safety feature meant to prevent inadvertently crushing a person beneath the door.

Garage Door Opener Limit Switches

A garage door opener’s travel distance is controlled by a device known as a limit switch. When the limit switch is activated the opener will shut off, thus stopping the door’s movement. There is a switch for the upside as well as the downside of the door. How the switches are activated varies from one model or manufacturer to the next.

These limit switches are adjustable, allowing the door to be set to stop its upward or downward motion at whatever point the application calls for. In most cases, these switches are set when the garage door opener is installed and are rarely adjusted again unless a new opener is installed, or the springs are adjusted or modified.

Read also about the most common fixes for garage door opener problems.

Adjusting Garage Door Limit Switches

Each manufacturer will place the limit switch controls in a different area. On most units, the adjustments are located at the rear of the garage door opener. The type of adjustment also varies from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. The adjustments can be simple knobs or screws which can be turned by hand or may require a screwdriver.

There will be two controls: one for the “up” motion of the door and another for the “down” motion. Adjust only one limit switch at a time, making small adjustments. Once you have the door stopping in the proper location in one direction begin adjusting the opposite direction of travel until the door stops at the desired point.

Precautions When Setting Garage Door Limit Switches

The springs on the garage door do most of the heavy lifting, thus the garage door opener is a rather lite duty motor. These units are designed for a limited number of operations per hour. If you exceed these limits the result can be a blown capacitor or a damaged motor. If you are having to raise and lower the door frequently, you will need to pause in order to allow for the components of the opener to cool.

When setting the upward limit switch be certain to make very small adjustments. If you make too great of an adjustment the door can travel too far up the track or rail and cause damage to the door, the track, or to the garage door opener. Taking your time can avoid this type of damage and potentially extra cost as well.