Garage door opener started making a bad grinding noise, won't lift door

Our garage door opener just began making a loud grinding noise, and wouldn’t lift the door. It would go up maybe a foot, then quit. it could then close it when I pressed the button again.

I am able to detach the opener, and manually lift the door, and that sounds normal. If I run the opener with the door not attached, it will go up and down, and make the grinding noise. I reattached the door, and the opener was able to close the door.

Probably related: we’re having a sharp drop in temperature, and it’s -6F outside now. It is an attached garage though, so it wouldn’t be that cold. My kids left it open during and for a while after shoveling the snow, but when my wife closed it, she didn’t notice any more noise. (That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any noise, though.) At any rate, it’s the coldest it would have been for many years.

Suggestions? I have 3-in-1 oil, but I’m not sure where in particular to use it. The whole chain (it’s chain drive, not screw drive), or just one end or the other? Will that even help, or did I probably break a gear tooth or something?

The opener is 15 years old. If I need to replace it, is that a DIY item? The door itself seems to be OK. I had its spring replaced about 4 years ago. It’s a two-car garage.

When was the last time your chain was lubed?

Check the owner’s manual, and see if it uses standard garage door opener lube (white grease), or some sort of dry lube. Then, lube it!

ETA: don’t use 3-in-1 - it will just dissolve the grease. You want to add more lube.

You might also check for plastic filings around the motor housing. If you find filings, it is likely the motor has chewed up the gears.

I have Chamberlain openers and had one go bad with symptoms similar to what you describe. The opener would not work under load and you could hear the drive slipping and grinding as it struggled to lift or lower the door. When I pulled the motor cover, plastic filings were everywhere.

I am no more than a shade tree mechanic and function under theory that if something is not working, I can’t make it not work any worse. Parts were readily available from the manufacturer for about $30 online and it took me two, maybe three hours to tear the system down and replace the gears. A lot of that time is just unhooking the system from the door so you an work on it.

Good luck with it!

Find out the manufacturer and model number. Do they have a website? Sell parts?

Do a Google search, to find for example:
Symptom: The opener makes a grinding noise but the door doesn’t move
Fix: Replace the main gear drive

If the garage door opener makes a grinding noise but the door doesn’t move, your main drive gear is probably toast. The main drive gear is the plastic gear that comes in direct contact with the worm drive gear on the motor. The main drive gear is the most common component to fail on most openers…The gear alone should cost you less than $20. A complete kit that comes with the shaft will cost closer to $40.

Its a DIY job, since the wiring is all in place, and the weight is not too much (if it was a roller door, the doors has its weight on the lifter… but when its a door puller , it doesn’t have that weight )
Remove it and see what the damage is. Is there a belt that can be replaced ?

I opened up the door opener, and the main gear and screw gear both look OK. There was a glob of the white grease beowulff mentioned that was on the side of the main gear, so I spread that with my finger onto the worm gear, and ran the opener open and closed again without the door attached. it seemed the noise got a little lower. I’ll plan to pick some up and go at it tomorrow night after work.

The long chain looks to take regular oil. As I said, I have 3-in-1, but I also have triflow. Are either of these appropriate? (I tried Googling, but 2 of the 3 sites recommended WD40. Which I also have, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what I want to use here.)

It’s a Craftsman opener. I could get the model number, but it doesn’t seem to have broken parts. I’m guessing at this point it just needs lubrication, and the cold temperatures made it worse.

ETA: The main gear has a vertical axis, and below it, on the same axis, is a small gear that meets another small gear. I couldn’t really tell if those were OK. I also couldn’t figure out what they might be for. Anyone know?

I have some experience with this, so I can tell you definitively that your garage door opener is faking it. Probably the influence of those new friends it’s been hanging around with… you know, the ones that won’t look you in the eye and mumble all their response to your questions. I suggest taking away your garage door opener’s X-Box and maybe assigning extra chores. Tell it if it doesn’t adjust it’s attitude that it most definitely WILL be going on the family vacation to the Smoky Mountains instead of the spring break thing it wants to do with its friends.

I’ve also heard good things about “The Total Transformation” by James Leahman.

Good Luck!


WD40 is one of the worst things you could put on it. Its lubricating effects are rather short-lived.

Lube it with either a spray lithium lube (Lubriplate Chain and Cable, or a motorcycle chain lube, for example) or whatever the manufacturer recommends. You want something “clingy” so the machine doesn’t fling oil around the garage every time the door goes up or down.

15 yrs old? I’d replace it. In fact, I replaced my old craftsman garage door opener (GDO) a few yrs ago.
Newer GDOs are safer. They have the safety ‘eye’ at the bottom. The remotes are smaller and use secure signals.
If your kids are big enough to shovel snow, they’re big enough to help change out the GDO. I did mine alone, but I had to borrow a 2nd step ladder and make some temp. bracing from 2x4s (and I’m mechanically inclined).

Sounds like you’re describing the gears that limit the travel in both the up and down directions. As the main gears turn, they also drive a small screw that causes an electrical contact thingy to travel back and forth on the screw. Next to that screw are two adjusting screws that are used to stop the motor after it makes electrical contact with the traveling thingy. The door opener doesn’t inherently know when to stop going up or down - you have to adjust those screws so that it stops at the places you want it to.

ETA: My opener’s main drive gear failed about a month ago. I was able to buy the complete kit with both gears and bushings for about $17, but I didn’t use anything from the kit except the main gear and the grease. The main gear could have been purchased for about $5. If this is anyone’s failure mechanism, I recommend just changing out the gear. It takes some work, but the work is less than that of fitting a new opener, getting the mounting brackets placed right, etc. Plus it’s cheap.

I’d rather not replace it in the dead of winter, if I don’t have to.

These aren’t new features. Mine has both of these. I’m pretty sure the electric eye had been required for quite some time prior to when we had ours installed.

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I’ll hit Home Depot on the way home, and get the main gear grease, and whatever I can find that’s recommended for the chain.

Try here for Craftsman garage door repair parts, manuals, instructions:

Triflow is a better chain lube than 3-in-1 or the most common WD-40.

How hard was it to lift manually? If pretty hard, check that the springs are not broken. Mine has two coil springs near the top center of the door. You’ll probably need the door down to see them. It also has two springs that operate by cable - one on each end of the door. If any of the springs are not working, then it makes the motor work much harder.

Also check that none of the rollers are out of their tracks.

It’s not the door. It feels normal when I lift it manually. When our spring broke a few years ago, my wife and I together couldn’t budge the door.

My chain-driven Craftsman opener is a bit older than yours. My garage door has the side springs and I found that some of the rollers and pulleys had bad bearings and weren’t working smoothly. About $50 of parts from Lowes replaced them all.

I bought some white lithium grease for the gears, and some spray-on silicone garage door lubricant that mentioned chains for the chain and track. I applied them and ran the opener back and forth with the door unattached to spread them around, then attached the door, and the opener was able to lift it.

It still sounds kind of loud, but maybe it’s always loud. It was louder without the door attached; the door seemed to absorb some of the vibrations.

I haven’t wiped off the chain yet, or put the opener case back together yet, so if there’s any more advice someone wants to give, go for it.

Were you able to see all the way around the main gear? My Craftsman opener of about the same vintage failed a few years ago, also during a cold snap that had caused some ice buildup. It had the same symptoms that would allow it to open the door a foot and then stop, with the motor obviously still turning. I pulled it apart and found that one portion of the gear was stripped, which might not be obvious depending on the orientation of the gear.

I purchased a new gear online and replaced it, but in the process managed to jack up the bearing on the shaft while trying to remove the pin holding the gear. A replacement kit with a pre-mounted gear was cheap enough I should have just started there. If you do end up replacing just the gear I learned that it’s much easier to cut the gear off with a dremel or something before trying to remove the pins.

ETA: Saw that it’s working after I posted. Perhaps it wasn’t the gear, but if you heard grinding while it was failing to lift I suspect the plastic gear is on its last legs. Since they’re cheap it might be worth buying one to have on hand in case it goes out again.

You spoke of a screw gear and a chain, so I don’t know which is the one that runs the length of the travel.

If the long one is the screw gear, you can wipe off the old grease, which will by now be black, and re-grease it with a lithium white grease (Lubriplate is a good brand. For a few days, it might drip some black stuff on the garage floor, and you don’t want to track that inside.

If the long part is a chain, consult a bicycle or motorcycle shop for the best chain lube. If there is significant slack in the chain, they can advise you on taking a link or two out.

It’s also good to oil the joints in the door itself, but your opener won’t hoist at all, so that’s not your problem.

Good luck!

They will be ok. they have no load. They measuring the travel .

For everyone who is merely reading, see the video showing the insides of a Liftmaster pull/push style door lifter.