Garage Door Won’t Open or Close: 15 Reasons and Solutions

A garage door that won’t open or close can be incredibly frustrating. It prevents you from getting your car in or out, and can make your garage unusable. Thankfully, many garage door issues can be fixed with some troubleshooting and DIY repairs. Here are the most common reasons a garage door won’t open or close properly, along with solutions to get your door working again.

Overview of Common Garage Door Opening and Closing Issues

There are a variety of issues that can prevent a garage door from opening and closing properly. Here is a quick overview of some of the most common culprits:

  • Broken springs – The torsion springs provide the counterbalance that allows the door to open and close smoothly. Broken or damaged springs will stop the door from moving.
  • Problems with the opener – Issues like broken chains, gears, and motors can prevent the opener from lifting the door. Power outages can also cause the opener to stop working.
  • Track issues – Bent, misaligned, or damaged tracks will cause the rollers to get stuck and jam the door.
  • Damaged cables – Frayed or broken cables will cause the door to stop moving along the track.
  • Obstructions – Objects in the path of the door can cause it to jam. Buildup of dirt and debris can also block the door.
  • Loose hardware – Nuts and bolts can become loose over time, leading to misalignment and jamming issues.
  • Sensor problems – Issues with safety sensors that detect objects underneath the door can prevent it from closing properly.
  • Remote control problems – Faulty remotes, dead batteries, and antenna issues can prevent the remote from opening the door.
  • Door balance – If the door is unbalanced, it will have trouble lifting up or sliding down the tracks smoothly.
  • Mechanical issues – Worn cables, pulleys, rollers, and hinges can all cause a door to stop working properly.

Knowing the common issues that can occur is helpful when trying to diagnose and fix a garage door that won’t open all the way or fails to close fully.

Broken or Damaged Garage Door Springs

One of the most common reasons a garage door fails to open or close is because of an issue with the door springs. The torsion springs are an essential component that counterbalance the weight of the door to allow it to be opened and closed smoothly.

If one or both of the springs are broken or damaged, the door will be off balance and struggle to move. Signs that broken springs are the culprit include:

  • Door only goes up or down part way then stops
  • Door is very heavy and difficult to lift manually
  • Door drifts up or down when in the open position
  • Loud “popping” or “snapping” sounds when operating the door

If the springs are broken, they will need to be replaced as soon as possible. Installing new commercial-grade springs with safety cables is recommended, and should be done by a trained garage door technician for safety.

Checking and Adjusting Spring Tension

In some cases, the springs may not actually be broken, but have come out of alignment or lost the proper tension. The tension on torsion springs should be adjusted periodically to keep the door balanced.

You can check the spring tension yourself by lifting the door about halfway up and letting go. A properly tensioned door should stay in place or drift very slowly. If it falls rapidly, the springs are too loose. If it rises up quickly, the springs are too tight.

Adjusting spring tension requires winding bars and proper training, as the springs are under high tension. Leave this job to a professional to avoid injury. They will wind or unwind the springs incrementally to achieve the proper balance.

Replacing Broken Springs

To replace broken torsion springs:

  1. Disconnect the garage door opener to ensure it does not try to operate while springs are being changed.
  2. Wind the springs down completely using winding bars to release remaining tension. Unhook the springs from the anchor plate and cable drum.
  3. Install new springs on the torsion shaft with the proper number of winding turns specified by the manufacturer. Wind the springs up and connect them to the cable drum.
  4. Attach end bearing plates and secure the stationary cone on the other end. Anchor the springs in place with safety cable.
  5. Test door balance and make any final tension adjustments. The door should now glide smoothly with no drifting.
  6. Reconnect the opener once springs are replaced and properly adjusted.

Replacing torsion springs can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Calling a professional garage door technician is recommended for safe spring replacement in most cases. Proper training and winding bars are required.

Problems With Garage Door Opener

The electric garage door opener is responsible for lifting the heavy door up and down on its tracks using a trolley and pulley system. Like any mechanical device, openers can develop issues over years of use that will prevent normal operation.

Common problems that can stop the opener from lifting the door include:

  • Broken chain or drive gears
  • Burnt out motor
  • Loose pulley or broken trolley
  • Misaligned rail assembly
  • Bent or broken trolley track
  • Opener power outage
  • Faulty circuit boards

Basic troubleshooting and repairs that can get your opener working again include:

  • Tightening chain and sprockets
  • Lubricating chain and gears
  • Adjusting alignment of rail assembly
  • Inspecting and replacing any worn or broken parts
  • Resetting circuit breakers or replacing fuse
  • Reprogramming remote control and entry pads

For more complex issues like motor problems or circuit board failures, you may need to call a professional garage door company. Installation of a brand new opener can be a solution if your model is especially old or damaged.

Troubleshooting the Opener Motor

If the motor runs but the trolley does not move, this indicates a mechanical issue like a broken chain or gear. If the motor won’t run at all, this points to an electrical issue.

  • Check chain tension and condition
  • Inspect gears for wear or damage
  • Test the motor by bypassing any remotes or wall switches and running direct power to it. If it doesn’t turn on, the motor needs repair or replacement.

Fixing Opener Sensors

The safety reversing sensors must align properly for the door to close all the way. If misaligned sensors prevent closing, try the following:

  • Clean sensors of dirt, spiderwebs, etc.
  • Check for any obstructions or damage
  • Ensure sensors are properly aligned and not blocking each other
  • Check and reconnect any loose wiring connections
  • Replace sensors if faulty or damaged

When to Call a Garage Door Professional for Opener Issues

It’s always safest to have a trained garage door technician handle any advanced repairs or complete opener installation. Consult a professional for:

  • Complicated opener diagnoses and repairs
  • Overall garage door balance adjustments
  • Motor or gearbox issues requiring disassembly
  • Broken track alignment and replacement
  • Installation of brand new openers
  • Educational guidance if you wish to DIY basic fixes

Garage Door Track Issues

The metal tracks that guide the rollers as the door opens and closes can sometimes become problematic. Damaged, warped, or misaligned tracks can cause the door to jam, stick, or come off its tracks completely.

Common track issues include:

  • Bent or kinked track from impact damage. May cause the door to bind up at that spot.
  • Rusted or corroded tracks. Lack of lubrication can allow tracks to corrode over time.
  • Buildup of dirt, cobwebs, leaves, etc. This debris when allowed to accumulate can obstruct the door’s path.
  • Misaligned tracks from door or hardware adjustments. The tracks must be parallel for smooth travel.
  • Loose track brackets. Tracks can sag without tight hardware securing them in place.
  • Damaged track rollers and axles. Worn out rollers get stuck and don’t roll smoothly.
  • Improperly spaced track rollers. Rollers evenly spaced ensure balanced door travel.

To fix minor track issues yourself:

  • Clean tracks of debris
  • Use a level to check for parallel alignment
  • Inspect track hardware and tighten any loose bolts/screws
  • Check and adjust roller spacing as needed
  • Lubricate rollers and track with garage door lubricant

Bent or severely misaligned tracks will need professional repair. The tracks may need realigned, reinforced with brackets, or replaced completely if damage is extensive.

Aligning Tracks Properly

With the door closed, use a level in horizontal and vertical positions to check alignment. Use metal shims or loosen track bolts to adjust:

  • Horizontal tracks should incline slightly down toward the back for proper travel.
  • Vertical sections must be plumb and parallel to each other in the closed position.
  • The gap between the tracks should be equidistant top to bottom when door is closed.

Replacing Damaged Rollers

To swap out worn rollers:

  1. Support the door securely and disengage the opener.
  2. Remove rollerbolts and old wheels from hinges. Clean hinge sockets.
  3. Install new rollers of the same size. Apply lubricant to axles.
  4. Reinstall rollerbolts and test travel along track. Adjust spacing as needed.

With routine inspection and maintenance, garage door tracks can stay smooth and properly aligned for many years. Call in a pro if tracks need major straightening or replacing.

Frayed or Broken Garage Door Cables

The steel cables that lift the door are under significant strain and tension. Over years of use, these cables can wear out, become frayed, or even snap. Damaged cables will cause the door to stop opening properly.

Warning signs of worn cables:

  • Fraying or kinking near the bottom of cables
  • Rust and corrosion on the cable wire surfaces
  • A few wire strands breaking in spots along cable length
  • Door becomes noisy when opening and closing
  • Door begins bouncing around and struggling to stay on track

In the event of any significant cable damage, the cables will need to be replaced as soon as possible:

  1. Ensure door is disengaged from automatic opener.
  2. With assistance, carefully lift door just enough to put on safety braces to hold it in place.
  3. Loosen cable clamps and crimp collars. Unhook cables from bottom roller brackets.
  4. Unwind old cables from the cable drums and completely remove them. Discard frayed cables.
  5. Measure new replacement cables to proper length needed.
  6. Carefully wind new cables evenly onto cable drums and secure them.
  7. Reattach bottom ends of cables securely in place with clamps/collars.
  8. Remove safety braces holding door in place. Test balance and operation several times.

Garage door cables endure extreme levels of tension. Leave their inspection and replacement to trained professionals to avoid serious injury. Annual inspections help detect cable wear before breakage.

Dealing With a Jammed or Obstructed Garage Door

If something is obstructing the path of the door, or the door gets off track, it can become jammed. This may prevent it from opening or closing fully. Some common obstructions include:

  • Tree branches, bushes, or overgrowth near the door.
  • Pebbles, rocks, or other debris on the ground.
  • Trash, sports equipment, tools left lying around.
  • Improperly parked vehicles blocking path.
  • Accumulated dirt and cobwebs inside tracks.
  • Dented bottom door panel dragging on ground.

Trying to force the garage door closed when jammed could damage the opener or hardware. Avoid doing this.

To potentially clear minor jams:

  • Inspect tracks and rollers and clean out any debris buildup.
  • Clear any obstructions in the path of the door inside and out.
  • Check for dents or damage to bottom door panels.
  • Confirm door is properly balanced and tracks are aligned.
  • Check cables, springs, rollers that may cause it to hang up.
  • With power disconnected, manually move the door up and down to check for rough spots.

If the door binds up or jams repeatedly, a technician should inspect for any underlying issues needing repair.

Loose, Broken, or Worn Garage Door Hardware

The hardware components that hold together the garage door system endure constant stresses during opening and closing cycles over the years. This can lead to loosening and wear of cables, rollers, hinges, bearings, pulleys, and associated hardware. Some indications of loose or worn hardware:

  • Frequent loosening of bolts and screws
  • Squeaking, grinding, or other rough sounds
  • Rollers slipping out of track
  • Side, center, or corner hinges wearing unevenly
  • Rusting or corroded hardware
  • Door sagging or becoming misaligned

DIY solutions include:

  • Tighten all loose nuts, bolts, screws around door
  • Add threadlocker liquid to prevent repeated loosening
  • Oil all hinges, rollers, and pulleys
  • Replace severely corroded or rusted hardware
  • Ensure cables and springs are taut and anchored properly
  • Check and replace any visibly damaged rollers or hinges

It is smart to hire a professional annually to check all hardware components top to bottom. A preventive maintenance visit can catch worn parts before they fail.

Problems With Garage Door Sensors Not Lining Up

The photo eye safety sensors on either side of the garage entrance must align properly in order for the automatic opener to close the door. If something obstructs the sensors or they fall out of alignment, it will prevent the door from closing all the way.

Some common issues with safety sensors:

  • Cobwebs, dust, or debris covering the “eye” of the sensors.
  • Misalignment from bumps, knocks or vibration. Sensors must be perfectly inline with each other.
  • Loose wires, bad connections, or electrical shorts in sensor wiring.
  • Condensation or water damage from weather exposure.
  • Physical damage from impacts to the units.
  • Old, faded sensors with weak transmitting power.

Troubleshooting steps for sensors:

  • Clean sensors of any dust, dirt, spiderwebs, etc.
  • Realign units so they point directly at each other. Usually about 6 inches up from the floor.
  • Check that nothing blocks the pathway between the sensors.
  • Inspect sensor wiring and reconnect any loose wires.
  • Replace severely damaged sensors. Make sure new ones are compatible with your opener model.

The safety reverse sensors are a crucial component that will continuously need adjustment and maintenance. Check them first if your door fails to close properly.

Issues With Remotes and Keypads Not Working Properly

If the garage door opener works normally when using the hardwired wall switch, but NOT the remote or exterior keypad, the issue likely lies with the transmitter/receiver system. Possible causes can include:

  • Dead batteries in remote control. Check and replace batteries every 6 months.
  • Dried out keypad buttons or bad internal keypad connections. Test with meter or swap in new unit.
  • Blocked pathways between remote and antenna. Remove obstructions.
  • Antenna damaged or knocked out of alignment. Antenna may need repositioned or replaced entirely.
  • Interference from nearby devices overriding signal. Change remote control frequency.
  • Faulty circuit boards in control units. May require electronics professional.
  • Receiver not “learning” new remotes or access codes. Reprogram receiver and input new codes.
  • Distance limits exceeded for remote range. Stand closer to garage door when using clicker.
  • Weak transmitter signals from old remotes and keypads. Replace units.

Check the wiring connections to the antenna, control panels, and powerheads. Tighten any loose wires. Clean corrosion off connections. Professional garage door installers have testing devices to diagnose remote issues.

Rebalancing a Heavy or Unbalanced Garage Door

If a garage door is not properly balanced with correct spring tension, it will have trouble lifting, closing, or staying shut. An unbalanced door may:

  • Struggle to open more than a few feet before stopping
  • Drift slowly up or down when in open position
  • Require great effort to manually lift or lower
  • Not stay shut and re-open under its own weight
  • Slam down quickly from open position

Try checking a few common solutions:

  • Inspect condition of torsion springs. Do they appear worn or damaged?
  • Check for broken cables, frayed wires, or damaged pulleys.
  • Ensure spring tension is adjusted equally on both sides.
  • Make sure door is in good condition without damage/rust.
  • Inspect track rollers for spacing, binding, or grime buildup.
  • Ensure opener trolley carriage rides smoothly along rail.
  • Confirm tracks are aligned properly, especially at points of connection.
  • Check that door seals on all four sides for light gaps or cold drafts.

If basic adjustments do not improve door balance and travel, the weight distribution of the door itself may need adjusted:

  • Wooden doors can be sanded or have bottom panels trimmed to reduce weight.
  • With steel doors, counterweight systems can be added along the bottom to improve balance.

Rebalancing garage doors is best left to professionals. Improperly wound springs and cables under dangerous high tension pose safety risks. Let a certified technician make balance adjustments.

Worn or Deteriorating Garage Door Seals

Garage door seals and weatherstripping serve the important purposes of insulating the garage, blocking outside air, and sealing against water intrusion.

Worn out or damaged seals and seals can lead to:

  • Gaps along edges where outside air and elements enter.
  • Loud whistling as air penetrates gaps while opening/closing.
  • Rusting and deterioration of door that allows moisture inside.
  • Ice buildup preventing proper operation in winter.
  • Loss of climate control and increased heating/cooling costs.

Inspecting door seals and replacing them when worn improves insulation and operation.

Areas to check