Proper Garage Door Operation

With an automatic garage door, keep safety in mind.

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What is the largest moving object in your home?

Don't peek, but the answer is at the end of the column.

This subject came to mind while I was discussing the safety features of an automatic garage-door opener with a local installer.

What is the proper and safe way to test the auto-reverse feature of your garage-door opener?

The auto-reverse feature has been required by federal law since 1993.

When the overhead door is closing, there is enough force to maim or cause death if a person were trapped under the door. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that "approximately 60 children between the ages of 2 and 14 have been trapped and killed under automatic garage doors since March 1982."

What can you do to ensure that the garage-door opener is operating properly? Inspect your door every 30 days for:

  • A balanced door. To check for balance, release the overhead door from the opener using the "quick release" mechanism.

    A properly balanced door will remain in place when stopped in any position. When manually checking the door, keep your hands and fingers away from springs, rollers, hinges and tracks.

    An unbalanced door should be adjusted by a professional. There is enough stored energy in the door's springs to cause serious injury.

  • The photocells. Test the photocells, the small lights located near the floor on the outside of each track. Set a roll of paper towels next to one of the photocells to block the light rays between the cells. When the opener button is pressed, the door should start and then stop because the opening is blocked. If the door continues to close, the opener is not safe and should be released from the overhead door until repairs can be made.

  • The auto-reverse feature. Test it by placing a 2-by-4 flat on the garage floor and under the path of the door. If the door does not automatically reverse when it hits the 2-by-4, the opener must be adjusted.

    Most openers have a closing-force adjustment screw or knob on the main motor housing. When adjusting it, make sure the door will close all the way without reversing. If the door cannot be adjusted, it's time for a new door opener.

  • Loose or damaged rollers and tracks. Each door panel has a set of rollers set into the side tracks. With the door closed, examine each roller and the attachment screws for damage or unusual wear. Rollers are available at home stores and can be replaced without removing the door or track. Lubricate the rollers as needed. Check the tracks' hangers and connections for loose or missing screws. If the track fails, the door could fall when opened.


The garage door. But by now you should have guessed that.

(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.)

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