Garage door openers have become like dishwashers – sure, you could do it yourself, but why? Believe it or not, automatic openers were invented in 1926. It’s possible that you have never had to lift a garage door. Unfortunately, when the power goes out, or your opener breaks down – it looks like you’re stuck.
But wait! You might be inside or outside the garage, but you can still get the door open. It’s a little bit of work, but you’re not trapped forever. It’s always good to learn the basics of manually opening a garage door, just to be ready when you or a friend is stuck.
1. Find out exactly where the problem is
Before you get out the ladder, make sure that the problem is not with your remote, the outlet, or at the circuit breaker box. Try moving closer to the garage with the remote control. Just like with your TV remote, batteries can get weak and you might need to replace them. Check for the operating light on your remote – if it’s glowing, you can move on to the next step.
Make sure that the garage door opener unit is not unplugged. The outlet will be on the ceiling next to the opener. If it’s a GFCI style outlet (test/reset), check to see if it needs to be reset. You may need to depress the “RESET” button.
If it seems like power is on elsewhere in the area, check your circuit breaker box. It’s possible that the circuit overloaded and cut off the power to your garage. Look for the breaker switch that has flipped off, and reset it.
If none of the above has worked…
2. Gather your supplies
You’ll want to have the following on hand:
- Stepladder to reach the emergency release for the opener
- Two by four or similar piece of lumber, to be used to prop the garage door open
- Gloves or a thick towel
3. Find and disengage the release lever
If the power is off, use your flashlight to locate the chain that runs from the garage door opener, and find the emergency release. This will be hanging from the center rail, and usually has a red pull handle. You may need a ladder to reach it. If so, use a secure ladder, and follow correct safety procedures. Grasp the handle firmly and pull it back towards the garage door opener unit.
You should be able to feel it disconnect – the lever is spring loaded. The lever will stay down after you’ve pulled it. This disengages the opener, allowing you to lift the door. Step down off the ladder, and go to the door.
4. Make sure everything is unlocked
Before opening the garage door, double-check for any locks that may be located on the inside of the door, and make sure they are unlocked. Some garage doors will have interior locks that are either a T-handle design or a slider style lock. These will slide out into the track to prevent the door from going up.
It’s unlikely that they are engaged and locked, but it’s always a good idea to check to make sure that they are unlocked before you begin trying to lift the door.
5. Lift the door
Some doors do not have a handle installed for you to raise the door with. Depending on the type of garage door you have, you may have some fairly sharp metal edges that will be the only thing to grip on the inside. If this is the case, put on gloves or use the towel to cushion the sharp edges when you lift.
Be sure to watch your fingers as the door is moving. It’s easy to get them between the door joints and injure yourself.
You may also want to keep the towel handy if the door is wet with snow or rain, or if there is a rubber threshold installed at the bottom of the door. Use this to wipe off your hands and/or the threshold.
Some garage doors may weigh up to 400 lbs. Even with the track and wheels, it may require a bit of muscle to get it going. Use common sense. Don’t get under the door, use proper lifting techniques, and make sure to place your two-by-four or another sturdy piece of lumber underneath the door after you get it raised.
If possible, find an assistant to help you with lifting the door and placing the lumbar support to prevent the door from crashing back down again.
6. Move your vehicle
Once you have opened and secured your garage door, you may now move your vehicle into or out of the garage.
7. Close the door
Again, if you have an assistant, have them help you remove the two-by-four that is blocking the door from closing, and gently lower the door to the floor.
The same cautions apply to close the door that you used when opening it: Avoid sharp edges by using gloves or a towel. Be careful not to place your fingers in the door joints. Do not stand directly under the door as you are lowering it.
When the door is completely lowered, you may engage any interior locks. This is important, as you will not have the active garage door opener unit to help keep the door secured.
Prevent further problems
If you noticed any difficulties with raising the door on the tracks – such as resistance or the door lifting unevenly, you may have unbalanced springs or other issues that should be checked by a professional garage door installer.
Garage door springs are dangerous to work with and should only be dealt with by those who can implement the right safety precautions.
You may also want to consider installing a battery back-up for your automatic garage door opener. These are fantastic for areas that are prone to power outages and will continue to open your door even when the power is still out.
If your garage door opener is at fault, and it’s several years old, it might be a good time to think about replacing the whole unit. The new units meet upgraded safety requirements and may be a substantial improvement from your old unit.
Whether it’s spring replacement, adjustment, or a whole new opener, a good professional garage door service can guide you through the best options, and ensure that your future garage ins-and-outs remain trouble-free.