Troubleshooting a Garage Door that Won't Move

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Many people think of their automatic garage doors as a necessity to keep their cars safe from the outside elements. However, the door is rarely thought about directly until it breaks. There are a wide variety of different pieces that can stop working and cause an issue. Sometimes, you will be able to see a broken chain, a bent track, or a damaged roller. Other times, it can be hard to see the problem, like when the garage door runs for several seconds but the garage door fails to move. If this happens to you, then complete the following troubleshooting tasks to see if they solve the problem.

Inspect the Springs

Most people think that the garage door opener, the motor inside, and the pulley system attached to it are what force the door open. However, these parts of the automatic system are not strong enough to pull the down upward. A typical garage door will weigh between 130 and 400 pounds. To help the door move, counterweights are added to it in the form of either torsion or extension springs. The built up energy in these tightly woven springs help to hold the weight of the door as the upward movement of the pulley system forces the rollers to move up the tracks. If the springs attached to the door break or loosen, then the door will not move properly. To see if this is the problem, inspect the springs for damage.

If your garage door has torsion springs, then the springs will sit on a metal bar at the top of the door. One spring will sit on the left and the other will be on the right. If you see large gaps between the sections of the spring or if you see a great deal of rust on the metal, then the springs likely have to be replaced. This is also true if parts of the spring appear bent or if you see a noticeable break. If your garage door has extension springs, then look for springs attached to a ceiling bracket. If these springs appear loose and dangle downward or if they are broken, rusty, or misshapen, then a replacement is needed. Since the springs hold a great deal of kinetic energy, a full break can cause an injury. 

Use the Automatic Pull

Most garage doors have an emergency manual pull system that allows you to pull open the garage door when the opener does not work. To use the pull, you will need to place the opener in manual or bypass mode. Look for a small switch on the opener labeled with one of these terms. Flip the switch and look for a small red handle attached to a hook. You will need to flip the hook or pull on the handle slightly to disengage the pully system. The handle will be attached directly to the garage door springs so you can open and lower the garage door. Pull on the handle at the time to see if the garage door opens.

If the garage door moves, then the vibrations of the garage door opener may have activated the manual mode by flipping the bypass switch or the handle hook. To see if this is the case, flip the hook and secure the pull handle back in place. Secure the switch in automatic mode and press the automatic opener button.

Clean the Tracks

If the garage door did not move when you initially pulled the manual handle, then it is likely that the track is dirty and stopping the rollers from moving. Cleaning the track should solve the problem. Start the cleaning process by using dish soap and water. Use a ladder to reach the tops of the tracks and squirt a small amount of dish soap down each one. Wait five minutes for the soap to move across the rollers and down to the bottom of the track. Use your hose to gently spray water down the track from the top down. Afterwards, use an old toothbrush and a bit of soap to release any noticeable grime on the track.

Try your garage door opener after cleaning it. If the door still does not budge, then use a spray cleaner that is meant to release debris around moving metal parts. An automotive brake cleaner contains chemicals that break down oil and other debris and force it away from the brake pads and rotors of your car. The spray can complete the same type of cleaning along the garage door track and the door rollers. Spray a generous amount of the cleaner along the tracks. If this does not help the garage door move effectively, then contact a repair specialist to diagnose the problem.