There is nothing like returning home to find your garage door isn’t working. We don’t think about it needing regular maintenance however, like all other moving parts of a home, it needs to be attended to as well.

For your garage door to be safe and reliably, professionals advise having your garage door and opener serviced annually. Most safety tests and simple maintenance can be done easily do on your own.

Quick Garage Door Safety Tests

The International Door Association recommends monthly safety tests for your garage door. Here are simple but important safety tests that take about five minutes.

Look and Listen for Unusual Sights and Sounds

It’s easy to get used to the sounds and movements your garage door makes while it opens and closes. As you walk through these simple tests, take a minute to stop and really pay attention to how your garage door operates.

  • Is everything moving smoothly? Look for any unusual jerking or straining.
  • Does it sound normal? Pay attention to rattling, groaning, or scraping noises.

Door Balance

Your garage door uses a spring system to counterbalance the weight of the door. When the springs are working correctly, you should be able to easily lift and close the door manually.

  1. To test, with the garage door closed, pull the emergency release cord to disengage the garage door from the automatic opener.  You should be able to lift the door manually now.
  2. Open the door all the way. It will feel like you are lifting 10 pounds or so. It should lift smoothly and remain open.
  3. Next, lower the door to about the halfway point and let go. It should remain suspended in position. If the door is difficult to close, or moves up and down more than a little bit when you let go, it’s likely out of balance. This can signal maintenance issues with the garage springs, and is best left as a maintenance task for a professional.
  4. When you are done, don’t forget to close the door all the way and reconnect the automatic opener.

Automatic Reversing Mechanism

When your garage door detects an obstruction, the automatic reversing mechanism causes it to stop and return to the open position.

  1. To test, open the garage door and then place a solid object, such as a 2×4 board or brick in the path of the door.
  2. Press the garage door remote button to close the door. When the door touches the object, it should immediately reverse itself. If the door does not immediately reverse, contact a professional for service.

Photo Eye Sensor

The two small “photo eye” sensors near the ground on either side of your garage door are designed to stop the door from closing when they detect movement in the path of the door. If they are not working properly, the sensors will keep the garage door from closing, or worse, they won’t detect an object in the door’s path.

  1. To test the photo eye sensors, open the garage door.
  2. Find a long object like a broom that you can use to test the sensors from safe distance. Next, press the garage door remote button to close the door.
  3. While the door is closing, wave the broom in front of the door’s sensor eyes to “break” the beam. The door should immediately reverse. If it doesn’t, check to see if the sensors are dirty; clean if needed. If the sensors still aren’t functioning, check that they are aligned; realign if needed. If all else fails, it’s likely time for maintenance from a service technician. 

Garage Door Maintenance Tips

Here are some basic maintenance tips you can do yourself. Note that some things should only be adjusted by a service professional, including the cables, the spring mounted above the door, and any bolts painted red. If any of these items need maintenance, contact your local garage door professional.

Simple DIY Maintenance

  1. Unplug the automatic door opener. You should always unplug it before you perform any maintenance. Most garage door openers plug into an outlet in the ceiling or in the rafters above the unit.
  2. Inspect the hardware. Your door has a lot of moving parts, and things can loosen over time. Check the brackets that attach the rollers to the door, as well as those that connect the roller tracks to the garage itself. Tighten any loose bolts. Do not adjust any bolts that are painted red.
  3. Inspect the rollers. Plastic or nylon rollers can crack as they age, while steel rollers will look tilted or lopsided.
  4. Lubricate the chain or screw. Use a garage door lubricant. Your opener will use either a chain (like on a bicycle) or a long screw. If it is a screw-type, check your owner’s manual first, as some do not need lubrication.
  1. Inspect the cables. The cables that lift the door run from top to bottom on either side of the door. If you notice fraying or other damage, contact a garage door professional for maintenance. You should not attempt to replace these cables as they are under a lot of tension and could cause injury if not handled properly.
  2. Check the battery backup. If your door opener has a backup battery, test that it is working. With the opener unplugged, press the remote or wall button to try and open the door. Check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to change the battery on your unit, if needed.
  3. Plug the unit back in when you are done.