Is It Your Garage Door Opener -- Or Something Else?

You've invested a pretty penny in your home, including the garage door and garage door opener, so you're understandably upset now that you can't get the garage door to function correctly (or at all). But a little knowledge and a clear head can help you troubleshoot the situation so you can tell whether the problem lies in the garage door opener or in some other part of this mechanical assembly. Here are some specific questions that lead you to the necessary answers.

Is the Opener Getting Power?

A garage door opener depends on electricity to power the motors that operate the chain leading to the garage door. The very first thing you should do, therefore, is check to see whether electricity is getting to the wall switch. If it isn't, then you might have to throw a breaker or change a fuse. If the wall switch has access to power but doesn't seem to know it, then the wiring or circuitry inside the switch may have gone bad. The good news is that wall switches typically cost only a few dollars to replace. 

Remote control units need electrical power too, in the form of batteries. If your wall switch works but your remote control doesn't then the fix could be simple as popping new batteries into the device. But if new batteries make no difference, then you may need to order a new remote control unit.

Is the Opener Receiving a Signal?

Okay, so you know your garage door opener is getting power -- but is it acknowledging receipt of the instructions you send it? If you're not seeing any lights or hearing any noises indicating that your garage door opener is open for business, then its circuit board may have failed. Electrical storms or many years of wear and tear can cause this issue. Fortunately, most circuit boards are easy to access by simply opening the unit up, removing the retaining screws and lamp, and disconnecting the attached cables. All you have to do at that point is attach the new circuit board to the cables and reverse the disassembly steps to secure it into the unit.

Is It a Motor or Gear Issue?

If your garage door opener is struggling valiantly to work but the results are all noise and no action, suspect a problem somewhere in the motor assembly -- especially if it's screw-driven motor operating in extreme weather. In most cases, screw-driven motors boast greater reliability than their belt-driven or chain-driven brethren because they have fewer moving parts. Unfortunately, however, they're also more prone to failure when subjected to wide temperature swings.

The garage door opener's drive gear may be another failure point. This assembly interacts with the motor gear to turn the crank that moves the garage door chain. Gears naturally wear out over time, and eventually they can slip or freeze up. If no other damage has occurred along the system, then a new drive gear should get your garage door moving again.

How's the Chain, Rail, Track and Springs?

Your malfunctioning door may not be caused by the opener at all, but by any of the numerous garage door parts that do the opener's bidding. The chain, belt or screw moves inside a rail that extends to roller attached to the garage door, the movement of which is governed by tracks and springs. So if the door is moving -- but incorrectly -- than the problem lies in this part of the system.  For instance:

  • If the opener has to strain to open the door, for instance, you may need to replace your garage door springs.
  • If the door opens but then drops again on its own volition, then the springs might need adjusting or replacing.
  • If the door closes unevenly or "pops" as it travels, then one of your rollers may be worn out or misaligned.

If you have a mechanical problem on the "door end" of the equation, it's imperative that you hire a professional service technician to take care of it. Trying to fix these components yourself could result in seriously injury if the door decides to slam down on you. But knowing how to troubleshoot the system will at least help you know whether you have a faulty garage door opener or some other issue. Good luck!