Electric Garage Doors: Maintenance and Repair

Garage doors are virtually the only moving parts in a garage although if they are electric there are a fair few components that can go wrong. Repair is possible, but, as with anything mechanical, regular maintenance makes repair less necessary.

Types of garage door and opener

We have already covered the maintenance of garage doors themselves in an article on the subject If you have a problem, refer to that first, particularly if you’re not sure if your problem is with the garage doors themselves or the electric mechanism.

There are numerous different types of electric garage door, and many variants of electric door opening mechanism. We’re going to concentrate on the most common type of garage door, the one-piece up-and-over. These usually run on tracks mounted on the walls of the garage and are driven by a single motor overhead, sometimes two motors.

The importance of correct chain tension

Chain drive is the most common way to link the door to the opener, usually with cables to spread the movement to the door itself. The most common cause of difficulty with opening or closing the door is the condition of the tracks or the chain. The tracks are covered in the article mentioned previously and electric problems with the motor or the supply are covered later in this article.

Check the chain first, as it will slacken over time as the links wear. The chain should not be not too tight or too slack and if you still have the manufacturers instructions, use those as a guide to the amount of up and down movement allowed. If you don’t have access to that information, work to about half an inch of up and down movement at the middle of the run.

This is important because if it’s too slack, the chain may jump over the gear wheels. If it’s too tight, it will wear much faster and too much to be able to adjust it with the tensioners. Speaking of adjustment, there could be two tensioners, one at the end of the chain, where it joins the cable, and the other on the motor body. Some models have one, but most have both.

Chain tensioners

As there are so many different variations, manufacturers and models, it’s difficult to give hard and fast instructions as to tensioning but they all follow the same principles. The first common type is a bolt that, if tightened, will move a part of the tensioner away from the other, effectively lengthening the distance the chain has to run and making it tighter.

The second type, more usually found where the chain meets the cable, will have a length of threaded stud with part of the tensioner fixed to it. A nut can be turned to move it along the stud, pulling the chain closer to the cable, again making it tighter.

This chain tensioning stuff all sounds a bit laborious but the reality is that chain wear should really only happen at the beginning of the life of an electric garage door. Once the first few years of use are over the chain shouldn’t stretch much at all and should only need to be checked annually, perhaps tightened every few years.

Oiling the chain

Lubrication of the chain is important in preventing the wear that can be caused by opening and closing the garage door, so that shouldn’t be neglected. As the chain doesn’t actually move a great deal (compared with, say a chain on a bicycle or a motorbike) and it’s inside the garage, it shouldn’t get too bad.

A wipe over with a cloth to remove any dust or grit that’s stuck to the oil and a fresh lubrication, with light oil or penetrating oil, is all that’s required. Doing this once or twice a year should be sufficient.

Electrical problems

If there is a problem with the electrical supply or the motor itself it’s time for trial and error to determine the cause. First check fuses and that other electrical devices, like lights or power sockets, are still in working order.

Assuming that there is power, try operating the door from the internal switch and the remote. If it works from the internal switch then there is a problem with the remote and if new batteries don’t fix it, it’s time to call the supplier or manufacturer in.

Non-working motor

If the motor won’t work from either switch but the motor makes a noise when turned on, then there could be a problem with the gearing inside, preventing the chain from being turned. If there’s no noise at all then it’s more likely to be an internal problem with the wiring or coils of the motor. In both case, unfortunately, it’s back to the professionals.

Finally there are often safety devices fitted to electric garage doors like trip switches and optical movement detectors. These can fail, causing the motor to think that there’s a problem when there isn’t. Once more, unfortunately, it’s time to get the manufacturer or supplier in to check it out.

Take stock every now and then

Having read all this you might feel a little put off but it really is a case of a little work, and not even very often. Once in a while take the time to stand in the garage when it’s empty, and open and close it a few times, making sure the operation is smooth.

If it isn’t, it’s time to look into it. Look after the chain and the garage door mechanism and you should have trouble-free operation for years.