Ever feel like your garage door has a mind of its own? How many times have you waited for the garage door to close only for the door to laugh at you and flat out refuse?
We’ve all been there. The frustration, the anger, the impatience.
Here’s the good news: if your garage door won’t close, you don’t need to call a specialist to come fix it. In fact, many garage door problems can be fixed with a bit of DIY expertise, a decent how-to video, and a good set of instructions. We’re taking a look at some of the most common reasons your garage door won’t close and a detailed explanation to fix it.
Reasons Your Garage Door Won’t Close and What to Do
Unfortunately, there are plenty of reasons why a garage door won’t close. It could be a big problem like a broken spring, or it could be as tiny as an insect (no, really!) If your garage door won’t close, you’ll have to take a closer look to diagnose the problem.
Here are some of the most common reasons a garage door won’t close, along with instructions on how to resolve the problem and replacement parts you might need. Keep in mind that some issues require more technical expertise than others.
One of the simplest culprits in a misbehaving garage door is obstructions. In other words, there’s something in the way of your garage door.
Pretty much any garage door built after 1991 comes with an inbuilt sensor with one job: to detect even the faintest level of resistance against the door. This is a safety feature designed to prevent the door from closing on objects, pets, or people and causing serious injury.
Thanks to this sensor, the door will reopen if it senses any resistance to avoid causing injury. The bad news is that if the sensor can’t tell the difference between a person, a pet, or a rock, so if it senses resistance, it will open.
What to Do
Fortunately, this problem is relatively simple to fix. All you need to do is get the obstacles out of the way.
The tricky part is that the obstacle may not be big.
It could be something as big and obvious as a car parked too close to the door or a trash can blocking the way, but it could also be something quite small. If you don’t see any large object blocking the door, look around for anything small, like built-up dirt, small rocks, or even a small toy.
Faulty Safety Sensors
When there’s an obstacle in the way and your garage door reopens, that’s actually a good sign–it means your sensor is doing its job. If there’s not an obstacle in the way and your garage door is reopening, though, you might have a problem with your safety sensor.
This is the nifty piece of technology that allows your garage door to check for an obstruction. Your garage door is fitted with a pair of photoelectric sensors that detect objects, changes in surface conditions, and other key information through optical qualities.
Sensors consist of an emitter for transmitting light and a receiver for receiving light. These are placed about four inches off the ground.
In plain English, your garage door shoots a beam of infrared light across your garage entrance from one sensor to the other. As long as the beam isn’t interrupted, the door will close normally. If it isn’t, that tells the sensors that something’s in the way, like a dog or a kid on a bike, and the garage door won’t close.
What to Do
A faulty sensor can be easy to fix or complex to fix, depending on the nature of the problem. Potential issues with your sensor include things like:
- The photo-eye sensor lights
- The sensor lenses
- Power supply
The issue could be as simple as a dirty sensor, or a tiny bug perched on the lens. Remember, the sensors work by transmitting light, so anything that blocks the light will tell the sensor not to close the door, regardless of whether it’s a person or a cobweb. Fortunately, this is easy to resolve–you just have to clean off the sensor.
Another common problem is the sensor’s power supply. This problem is easy to check–just look at the green lights on the sensors. If the sensors have power, they should both show a green light. If not, the sensors can’t respond.
There are several reasons a sensor could lose power. For example, the cable connecting the sensor to its power source might be unplugged. If a power outage occurs or if you blow a fuse due to a power drop, your sensors will lose power too. Once the cable is plugged in or power is restored, the sensors will be ready for action.
The most serious issue with garage door sensors is a wiring issue. What it boils down to is that all your wires need to be intact for the sensor to work. Depending on your sensor model, the sensor may flash a red or orange light to indicate a wiring issue.
One of the most obvious signs of a wiring problem is a nail or staple puncturing the wire. In that case, you need to replace the wire. If your wires are tangled, carefully untangle them and check for any signs of broken or twisted wires. You should also be sure that the wires are properly connected–white wires to the white terminal, black and white wires to the gray terminal.
If you spot wiring problems, you’ll need an electrician to fix them. You should only attempt to fix wiring yourself if you’re highly knowledgeable about electrical wiring and know how to work safely.
Limit Setting Adjustment
One of the wackier garage door problems is when your garage door closes only to open right back up again the moment it touches the ground. These are the moments when your garage door seems like it has a mind of its own, or else is being demonically possessed.
It doesn’t have a mind of its own, nor is it possessed. What it has is a limit setting problem.
Your garage door opener limit switch tells the motor that lifts the garage door when to stop running. That way, the motor doesn’t run the garage door right into the ground. It does this by timing movement in seconds, with settings programmed on a scale of high to low when the garage door is installed based on size and height variables between garage doors.
Typically, when your garage door has a limit setting problem, it reopens right after closing because the door closes faster than the setting allows (a safety feature to keep the door from hurting someone).
The limit range also determines how far the door needs to move in order to close properly. If the settings are too high, the door thinks it has to cover more ground than it actually does, so when it touches the ground, the opener thinks the door hit something and will automatically reverse.
What to Do
Limit settings can be tricky to resolve on your own, but it is possible to DIY it with some time, dedication, and careful observation.
The first step is to figure out which end of the limit setting needs to be adjusted (the up limit or the down limit). To do this, start by opening your garage and watch it closely as it opens. If it only opens up halfway and then stops, the upward limit needs to be adjusted.
On the other hand, if your garage door begins to close but does not close completely, or it closes completely only to open back up again, you need to adjust the down limit setting.
To fix the up limit setting, measure the height of where the garage door stops opening. This will be used to adjust the settings. If your garage door won’t close completely, measure the distance from the bottom of the garage door to the garage floor.
Once you have your measurements, break out your trusty ladder to climb under your garage door opener with a flat-blade screwdriver. You should find the up limit and down limit adjustment screws on the side of the motor housing.
In order to adjust the up setting, turn the up limit screw clockwise one turn for every three inches you need the garage door to rise (if you need it to rise a foot, for example, you would turn the screw four times). If adjusting the down limit setting, turn the down limit screw counterclockwise once per every three inches you need the door to go down.
If the door reaches the garage floor only to bounce back up again, then you need to turn the down limit screw clockwise instead. Do this one turn at a time, testing the door between each turn. If the door bounces back up, turn the screw once more and continue to test until the door stays closed.
This may move the chain trolley on the garage door opener (the mechanism that moves the chain to open or close the door). If that’s the case, make sure to leave a two- to four-inch distance between the trolley and the cover protection bolt.
The Operator Has No Power
While the actual engineering of your garage door can sound rather complicated, boiling it down to its component parts leaves a relatively simple framework. There’s the door, the operator that opens it, and the various component parts that help the operator do its job.
All of which is to say that while garage door issues can sometimes be complicated engineering problems, they can also be absurdly simple. Sometimes, a garage door won’t open or close for one simple reason: the operator doesn’t have any power.
Sometimes, this is for an equally simple reason: the operator’s power cord is unplugged. People sometimes absentmindedly unplug the cord on their way into the house and forget. It could even be a faulty outlet.
However, there are other times when the operator is powerless due to a much larger problem, like a blown fuse or a circuit breaker.
What to Do
How you fix a powerless operator depends on the source of the issue. If the operator is dead because of an unplugged cord, just plug it back in and you’re good to go.
Unfortunately, it gets more complicated after that.
If the problem is due to a faulty outlet, you’ll need to fix the outlet itself. The same thing goes for a blown fuse or a circuit breaker. In that case, unless you have extensive electrical experience and know how to work safely, the best route is to call a professional electrician.
Dead Transmitter Battery
Sometimes, your garage door refusing to close has nothing to do with the door itself. The door needs power at both ends to work, meaning the operator isn’t the only part of the equation that needs a power source.
If the operator seems to be just fine but the door won’t open via remote activation, the problem may be with your remote transmitter, not the door. This is a problem that happens all the time. The batteries die, the transmitter stops sending a signal to the door, and the door is stuck.
What to Do
The first thing to do here is to check the transmission receiver on the inside wall of your garage. If you manually push the button on the transmission receiver, does the door move? If it does, the issue is with your remote, not the door itself.
In this case, you’re in luck–all you have to do to fix the problem is change the transmitter batteries.
If you’ve never changed the transmitter batteries before, it’s no more complicated than changing the batteries in your TV remote. Just slip off the back cover, remove the batteries, and run to the store to pick up batteries in the same size. You might need a screwdriver if there’s a locking component inside the transmitter to hold the batteries in place.
Before installing new batteries, check the battery tips. The ends should align properly inside the transmitter. There are few things more embarrassing than making a service call only to realize the problem was a set of backward batteries.
Transmitters Aren’t Working Correctly
Unfortunately, not all transmitter issues are so blessedly easy to fix. Or at least, they’re not always so plainly obvious.
If you press the button and the door fails to move, you have two options. One, if you move closer to the door and it responds, you were probably out of range, which is a common issue. Two, if you move closer but the door still doesn’t respond, there may be something blocking the transmitter signal.
A third option is that there could be an issue with the frequency itself. It’s quirky and harder to figure out, but it does happen.
What to Do
The first problem, being out of range, is easy to fix. Just get in range. Don’t you wish all problems were that easy.
The second problem requires a bit of investigative work. You’re going to have to hunt around and make sure there isn’t anything obstructing the antenna. Tree growth is a common culprit here, in which case you’ll have to trim the tree back. You’ll also need to look for possible damage. If it is damaged, you may need to replace the antenna.
Just make sure you figure out what damaged it so you don’t ruin two antennas in short order.
The third problem requires a bit of explanation.
Most garage doors in the United States operate on the same frequency. That’s because radio frequencies are heavily regulated to ensure your garage door doesn’t interfere with, say, an airplane passing overhead. Chances are, your garage door uses a frequency clustered around 2.4-GHz band designated ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical).
This basically means your garage door opener, key fob, and lowly WiFi all operate on the same frequency. However, your car key and garage door opener have one crucial similarity: they exchange secret codes with the device they operate.
Back in the 60s, garage door openers had a single unique code shared with the opener and the remote. Unfortunately, thieves caught on and kicked off a rash of thefts. These days, your garage door opener uses a rolling code that changes every time you use it. Every time you open the door, a new code is generated and discarded after use.
This brings us to the third transmitter problem. If you’re having frequency issues, you can’t change the transmitter frequency (that would be illegal). It also doesn’t fix the problem, which is usually that the handshake between your devices has been lost.
To fix it, you have to clear the codes from your garage door opener and have it get reacquainted with your remotes. This varies between manufacturers, so check your manufacturer’s website. The basic process looks something like this.
Open the access panel on the back of your garage door opener and look for a button labeled “Learn”. Hold it down until it starts blinking. This will reset your door codes, and your remote will not work. Press the “Learn” button again until the light comes on, and at the same time, press the button on your remote. You’ll have to do this with all your remotes individually.
Once you’re done, press the “Learn” button one last time. The light should switch off and all your remotes should work at this point.
Damaged or Misaligned Tracks
Your garage door system relies on a collection of mechanisms, from the operator to open the door, the springs to manage tension, and cables to do the lifting and lowering work. None of these actions would be possible without the help of metal tracks keeping the door centered and upright.
If either track is misaligned, it can throw off the movement of the door. Unfortunately, this problem gets worse the longer it progresses, so it’s best to spot it and deal with it early.
You can identify this problem on sight if you notice the tracks are bent, or if there are any gaps between the rails and rollers. You can also hear the problem–listen for a squeaking sound as the rollers pass the affected area. The door may pause as it passes this spot.
If you notice this problem, deal with it right away. The weight of the door puts stress on the tracks the longer the issue progresses, which means it will only get worse if left unattended.
What to Do
Unfortunately, while it is sometimes possible to repair the tracks, this problem often requires replacing the tracks altogether, especially if the problem progressed for some time.
We bring it up because this is the point at which your DIY powers end. If you have to replace or repair your garage door tracks, the safest bet is to place a service call.
Need Help Fixing Your Garage?
If your garage door won’t close, it’s easy to feel frustrated. You rely on your door to do one job and be disregarded. But as you can see, there are plenty of ways for the average homeowner to take matters into their own two hands and resolve the issue. If you’re still diagnosing your garage door problem, or you’ve purchased parts and want a demonstration of how to use them, make sure to check out our library of how-to videos for detailed walkthroughs.