September 28, 2018

A Closer Look at the Most Common Problem with Garage Doors

Garage door opener - LiftMaster

When it comes to the most common problem with garage doors, what would you consider the most likely to lead to a service call? We’ll give you a hint – it has nothing to do with the door itself. Instead, it has to do with the automatic reverse mechanism. To be more specific, it’s related to the system’s photo eyes.

Think about this. You pull up in the driveway after a long day at work. You press the button on the garage door remote, and the door rolls up. You pull into the garage, put the car in park, and press the close button on the remote. The door begins to close, judders to a stop, and then reverses to full open once more. What would you do? Press the button again? What happens if the door remains open? Now you begin to see why so many homeowners call the garage door pros.

First, take a deep breath. While it might be a bit disconcerting, it’s not actually a serious problem. In fact, chances are good that you can fix it yourself. You’ll just need to know a few things before you try. We’ll discuss those below.

What’s a Photo Eye, Anyway?

Not sure what a photo eye is, or why it might play a role in your garage door’s operability? Understand that every single garage door opener sold in North America from 1993 forward was required to be equipped with an automatic reverse system. This was a direct response to the significant number of injuries sustained by adults and children alike by garage doors closing on them.

The photo eye system uses two small units, one mounted on each side of the garage door. You should be able to spot two small, black boxes about six inches above the floor. The system works a bit like the way a sliding glass door at the grocery store does. You can stand in front of or behind the door and nothing will happen until you enter the field of view of the sensor. Once you’re in the sensor’s view, the door will open and stay open as long as you stand there.

Each has a glass “eye” or lens on it. One side projects a beam of photons, while the other side reflects the beam back at the first box. When the beam is broken, it tells the sensor that there’s something in the way and the garage door automatically reverses to ensure safety.

You also have a second automatic reversal system on your garage door. The first one we discussed is electronic. The second one is mechanical. It works a lot like the doors in an elevator. That is, if the door closes and encounters resistance, it will automatically reverse. It’s actually so sensitive that a 2 x 4 placed flat on the ground will prevent the door from closing, and cause it to open back up again.

Eye Alignment Problems

The problem with your photo eye system is that one of the eyes is out of alignment. This can happen pretty easily. All it takes is a brush with a shoe, or with a basketball.

To go back to our original situation, imagine that you’re pulling into the garage, and trying to close the door. You notice the lights on your opener start to blink strangely – it’s a sign that the photo eye system is misaligned. If there is no light, you may hear a clicking system. If you have a 3x5 control panel mounted to the wall of the garage, you may notice a blinking LED light on it.

Remedying the Situation

Now that you know what the problem is, you need to know how to fix it. Thankfully, it’s a quick, simple fix in most situations. Keep an eye on that LED on your control panel, as it will stop flashing when your eyes are aligned.

Just move one of the boxes so that it is pointing fully at the other one. Look at the two boxes and see which one seems to be off‑kilter, and then adjust it manually. If the light on the panel goes off, you’re done. You can also try to use the garage door opener to close the door.

If that worked, then you’re good to go. However, while you’re down there, you might as well take care of some maintenance. Grab a clean cloth and wipe off both photo eyes to remove any buildup of gunk, grime, dirt and dust.

Of course, if it doesn’t work, then you need to dig a bit deeper. Look at the back of both black boxes. You’ll notice some wires. If one of those is frayed or damaged, it will need to be replaced. If you can’t find the issue, stop what you’re doing and call us. We’re happy to help get you back up and running.

A Word of Caution

As a note, we just want to say that trying to close the garage door by pressing the button on the wall in the garage, and then trying to get under the door as it closes is just an invitation to injury. DON’T DO IT.

It’s all too easy to have an accident. One slip is all it takes. If you find that you need to open or close the garage door without the remote, install a keypad on the outside of the exterior door.

We also recommend that you check your photo eye system and mechanical reversal system twice per year to make sure that they’re operating correctly.

Still Struggling?

Get in touch with us. Call us at 978-741-1600. We have decades of experience with garage door openers, and can solve your problem quickly. We’d also be happy to discuss your needs with an email quote, or you can feel free to stop by the showroom. You can use our Design Centre to get an idea of what garage doors are available if you’re looking to upgrade, and our image gallery is a great way to see real‑world results of our work.

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