Automatic garage door opener issue

Scenario: 15 year old garage door opener is not working correctly. If one pushes the button to go up or down the door will move maybe 3-6 inches in that direction but will almost immediately go back to its starting position (either completely up or down). If the button is HELD DOWN it will complete the movement but if at any point the button is released the door will immediately reverse directions.
I checked to see if something was obviously blocking the door track but don’t see anything obstructing. Any ideas on a possible cause or fix? I was considering maybe hitting the track/door wheels with some WD40 when I get home but in the event that doesn’t work, what are other options to investigate?

Don’t oil them. They are probably nylon or something similar and oil only traps dust. If you think they need lubricating, buy some silicon spray and try that.

It’s more likely to be an electrical fault - maybe in the remote.

Does your opener have sensors at the bottom of the door track that are there to detect something that might get trapped under a closing door? I would think 15 years ago that feature was in place?

If so, you may just need to wipe something free from the sensors. Or check their wires to see that they are still connected properly.

Try releasing the opener drive (there should be a cable with a handle hanging off the opener), and see if it’s easy to open and close the door manually. If not, then it might need lubrication, or more likely a new spring. If you can open it manually, then you know it’s an issue with the opener.

When a door sticks or faults, especially in cold weather, exercise it by unlocking the opener and opening and closing it manually (as suggested). Something that’s worked for me is to “change the phase” between the door and the opener by unlocking it, opening it halfway, relocking it to the opener, and then cycling it. Sometimes that puts a sticky spot at a different point in the opener’s motion and fixes the problem.

A door that reverses is hitting either a tension sensor (indicating it’s physically blocked by something, like your head) or the obstruction sensor. You can adjust both opening and closing tension on most modern units. If the track’s a little sticky and the spring’s a little weak, it might just need a pound or two more pull before it faults.

The blockage sensors (electric eye across the bottom of the door) can indicate something in the way if it’s knocked out of alignment or blocked by a bit of crud (damn spiders!) It will usually only prevent closing of the door, not opening.

Lubricating the bearings of the door rollers (in the center, on the shaft) can help if the rollers aren’t sealed units. As above, lubricating the wheels and track is not a good idea. Make sure each roller spins freely when you push the door load off of it. Sticky or noisy, hit it with some silicone grease (from a spray can is easiest).

Finally, check the track for misalignment or junk in the way. This can be tricky, as you have cycle the door many times while watching each roller to see if it’s binding or bumping. Obviously, keep yer damn fingers outta there! :slight_smile:

Springs don’t usually get noticeably weaker before they break, but in some cases, an extra wind or two can help. Best left to a pro for many reasons.

If cleaning/lubricating doesn’t solve the problem, I think most openers have adjustments on the unit to change the force of the motor. Mine was doing exactly what you describe, so I turned the knob a tiny bit to make the motor apply more force, and it fixed it.

Ours was doing the same thing that the OP describes, and this was exactly the problem – the optical sensors had become slightly misaligned. A quick visit from the garage door repair guy, and the problem was solved.

Parenthetically, on sunny mornings in the winter, at a certain time of day, we still run into the problem, as the sunlight hits the sensor directly.

The OP says the door fails to move either UP or DOWN. This would seem to preclude the problem being the sensor at the bottom of the door track.

I would bet on the optical sensors (electric eye). Very easy to knock the transmitter or receiver out of alignment when wheeling a trash can out to the curb. Mine has LEDs on them that let you visually tell if they are aligned, and are very easy to realign.

I think I’ll take your bet. A misaligned sensor at the bottom of the door track stops a fully opened door from descending more than 6 inches? How does that work?

I’m going to bet a stiff door - maybe one of the wheel bearings for the wheels in the track has broken.

The sensor stops the door from closing, but not from opening. It sounds like something is triggering the “obstruction” detector - if it has to push too hard to open/close the door, it reverses - just in case it’s your hand or head or other body part that’s being trapped by the door, even if the light sensor says OK.

(AFAIK the light sensor near bottom of the door only stops closing)

I’m pretty sure this is exactly what the fix is.

It did on mine when the sensors weren’t properly aligned (the door would only go down a foot or so, or sometimes it’d not move at all), but I couldn’t tell you exactly why, since it’s out of my area of expertise. I’m going to guess that the misaligned sensor was interpreting whatever it was “seeing” (or not seeing) as a continuous obstruction.

But, as you noted above, the OP is having problems with the door both opening and closing (I missed that), which would suggest something other than the sensor.

I’ve had the same problem with a dirty sensor. A Q-tip and windex solved the problem.
Some sensors have a Red and Green led lights that signal an obstruction in the line of sight of the sensors. Red means obstruction,while green means all good and functional ok. Some have just a single led, with a solid light = good, a blinking light = a interference of the sensor.

One sensor registers green and one registers red. I didn’t install the unit and don’t have an owner’s manual to know what that means.

Usually only the one side is the sensor and the other is the light source; there really is no point to sensors on both sides. The mounting clips can be easily bent out of alignment and can be easily bent back. Just pointing them manually is usually sufficient to align them.

I doubt lubrication has anything at all to do with the issue. Something is out of alignment due to being bumped or to shifting of the structure. If it is not the sensors then the track probably needs adjustment; moving the door manually should show you where it is binding.

The automatic stop can be over ridden on many units by simple holding the button down until the door has closed fully.

WD-40 is a cleaner and penetrating oil. It is not a good lubricant and will wash off proper lubricants.

I’m tellin’ ya, it’s the force adjustment. Increase the force by a tweak.

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If, after trying some of the above suggestions, you need to engage a repair guy, be very careful. Garage door repair has become mired in scams. Especially companies advertising online with a very fast response ( same day, or even 2 hrs), which they will sub out to somebody local who is then bound to their manual and price list. Invariably they will diagnose replacement of the springs at some insane price. Look for companies that are actually local - i.e. have a street address that on Google street-view shows some kind of workshop.

And if they still diagnose your springs, tell them to get the f out of your house. If you can manually move the door at all, it ain’t the springs

The optical sensor won’t prevent the door from opening, only closing. It’s likely a torque limiter that’s kicking out because the door is bound up from misalignment.

About 5 years ago when my door kept refusing to open or close I had to refurbish my door with new pulleys and rollers. It was about $50 worth of parts from Lowe’s. I think most of my problem was the 2 big pulleys where the cable makes the 90 degree turn, the bearings in the center of the pulleys had gone bad and were making too much resistance.

With a little common sense you can safely work on the doors with 2 springs along the tracks. The doors with one big spring along the top of the door are best left for professionals.