Keeping Your Garage Door Opener in Working Order

By Fran J. Donegan

A classic garage door.

Most people don’t associate the term “routine maintenance” with garage doors. But in addition to being battered by the elements, garage doors are opened and closed hundreds of times a year, causing wear and tear on a number of parts, including the garage door opener. Without proper maintenance, a door and door opener will need to be replaced before their times.

Always consult the manual that came with the door or the door opener before working on either. Some cables and springs are under high tension and could injure you if not handled properly. These components should only be adjusted by a qualified garage door technician, but there are some other tasks you can attend to. Here’s a few to help you keep your door in working order.

Check the Condition of the Door Inside

Close the door and stand inside the garage. Look for any signs, or sounds, that do not seem right, such as fraying cables or wear and tear on springs, pulleys and rollers. These could indicate a problem and should be checked out by a professional. Tighten loose bolts you find using a socket wrench. Don’t attempt to tighten any bolts that are painted red or have a warning tag attached to them because it means the bolt holds a part that is under high tension and should be adjusted by a professional.

Check the Condition of the Door Outside

Wood doors with peeling paint should be scraped and repainted. Metal doors that are showing signs of rust or other damage should be sanded, primed and repainted.

Check the Weather Stripping

There should be weather stripping at the bottom of the door. Inspect it when the door is open and again when it is closed. If it is cracked or brittle, or there are sections missing, you can replace it or have it replaced by a professional.

Clean the Tracks

Remove any debris that accumulates in the tracks. While you should clean your tracks annually, don’t grease them. The grease doesn’t improve the door performance, and dirt and debris can stick to the grease, which can stop the tracks from working properly.

Test the Safety Features

All garage door openers manufactured within the last 25 years must have two safety features: an automatic reversing mechanism and photoelectric sensors. They are designed to reverse a closing garage door should something be in its path.

  • To test the reversing mechanism: Open the door and place an object, such as a 2×4 piece of wood on the door’s threshold. Close the door using the wall switch or remote. When the door hits the 2×4, the door should reverse and open fully. If it does not, call a technician.
  • To test the photoelectric sensors: First locate the two sensors near the bottom of each track. They connect to one another through an invisible beam. When something breaks the beam, it prevents the door from closing. Open the door fully. Then close the door using the wall switch or remote. Wave a broom or some other object in front of the beam. The door should reverse. If it does not, it may be because the lenses on the sensors are dirty. Clean them with a soft cloth and try again. If there is still a problem, the sensors may be out of alignment. There should be instructions on aligning the sensors in the door’s manual. If you can’t get the system to work properly, call a technician.
Check the Door’s Balance

A balanced door won’t slide up or down unless force is applied to it either manually or by a door opener. An unbalanced door puts stress on the garage door opener. First, disconnect the electrical power from the opener. Then disconnect the door from the opener mechanism. Lift the door to about waist height, and release the door slowly. A well-balanced door should stay where you let go. If it rises or falls by a significant amount, it is out of balance and should be adjusted by a technician.

Lubricate Rollers, Bearings and Hinges

Apply a white lithium grease, or whatever the manufacturer recommends, to lubricate the rollers and hinges. Do this about once a year. Be careful not to get grease on nylon rollers. Many people like to lubricate the springs, but most manufacturers lubricate them at the factory, which should last for the life of the unit. If you are unsure, check the manual.

Signs You May Need a New Garage Door Opener

A garage door opener should last about 15 years. If you have problems, it could be with the opener itself, but sometimes the door contributes to the opener’s problems—for example, a door that is out of balance could affect the longevity of the opener. Here are some signs to look for. Keep in mind that many of these symptoms of trouble can be fixed by a professional.

  • When the door opens or closes, it immediately reverses direction.
  • The door opens or closes on its own.
  • The door operates in fits and starts, or the operation is not smooth.
  • The door makes loud or strange noises when working.
  • The door is old. Older models do not have the safety features described above, and their remotes may operate using one code, which can be copied by someone with a special device. Newer models operate on rolling codes for added security.

Garage doors and openers that are properly maintained should provide years of trouble-free service.


Fran Donegan writes for The Home Depot about all things DIY. Fran is a longtime home improvement author, and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. He provides key advice on topics from how to repair your garage door opener to how to build a stone wall.

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