Replacing Garage Door Opener

Blog, Home, Outside / Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

One of the many things that came up in our home inspection prior to closing on the house was that the garage was in need of some love. More specifically, the home inspector told us that it was built using methods not up to modern day levels of quality craftsmanship and he didn’t know how long the garage would stay standing. We asked the seller to fix it, ideally replace it, and they declined because of course.

However, somewhere between the inspection and the final walk-through before closing on the house, they decided to replace the garage door for us. This was a small, unexpected win. The original door on the garage was broken and boarded up and now we had a new one. It’s peculiar though, because we put in an offer on the house with the old door, that they would replace it even still. We weren’t complaining because it drastically improved the curb appeal of the house. But that curb appeal came with a host of problems I’ve been fixing ever since.

Over the past year, I’ve learned more about garage door maintenance than I ever thought I would. We started finding nuts and bolts on the floor and when I figured out they were being shook loose from the garage door tracks with its opening and closing, I set about to tighten as many of them as I could find. I didn’t want to have to worry about them failing while someone was under the door or the car was passing through. When I thought I had found them all, a few more loose nuts and bolts would creep up and I’d set to tightening them all again. 

More recently, the garage door wasn’t closing and staying closed. I did a visual inspection to see what might be blocking it or causing it to reverse after hitting the ground and what I found concerned me. The sellers of our house had done such a poor job making sure everything was installed properly that the nut holding one of the garage door track pulleys in place had spun itself loose. Since I’ve never heard of this happening before, I can only assume the shoddy workmanship is to blame! So I set about getting the pulley back in place and the cable on the pulley. I nearly lost a finger in the process. Because the door was stuck in a half-open position, I needed to stretch the springs to reattach them to the garage and in doing so, nearly ripped my finger off on a failed attempt.

Once I had the pulley back in place and I counted all my fingers, I ran the garage door only to find that I hadn’t solved the problem. So I looked closer at it while it was closing and saw that the door kept trying to close even after it hit the ground. After a bit of searching, someone on a garage door forum eloquently put it, “Your opener forgot where the floor is.” And so it had. As I watched the door close, it would hit the ground and then I would see the rail press on the wall and “bend” upward. This was clearly going to cause the garage to fail even sooner than the home inspector had predicted. When I would raise the door, it would only go about halfway up and then stop. Less than ideal.

So, I learned how to to teach my garage door opener where the floor was and how high it needed to raise itself up. To do this, it was as simple as turning a few dials on the side of the garage door opener. It took a few minutes, but eventually the door was opening and closing again as it should.

Until a week later when I received a message from Ellie stating, “The garage door won’t close again.”

I pressed the button a few times to watch the door go up and down and sure enough, it had forgotten where the floor was again. So I pulled out the step ladder and started to adjust the stops for the opener. Some point, after spinning the stops for a while, one dial fell out inside of the garage door opener. I thought, maybe it was loose and that’s what has been causing all this trouble so far. I opened up the case of the garage door opener and immediately learned a lot about how it works. Also, I found an old wasp nest so I knocked it down and stomped on it. I hate wasps. Sure enough, the dial had fallen off and it was fairly easy to snap it back into place. I figured, since I had the case open already, I’d set the stops faster than I would with a screwdriver while the case was closed. In doing so, and testing to make sure the stops were set right, I learned that I wasn’t going to be able to fix the garage door opener. The reason it kept forgetting where the ground was is that the gear moving the stop sensor kept slipping on the downward travel and then would prematurely hit the stop for upward travel.

That’s when I said to Ellie, “We have to get a new garage door opener.” She said, “Can we get someone to install it?” To which I replied, “You’re looking at him.” I further explained that the manufacture date on our existing garage door opener was 02/2002 meaning it was 16 years old and we both agreed it was at the end of its life.

I hopped on and found the best rated garage door opener. We already had a Craftsman installed, so I figured replacing it with a craftsman would likely make my life much easier. I found the one I liked, searched for a coupon, chose to pick it up from the store, and ended up saving $60 on the whole purchase. Not an insignificant amount!

Then a few Saturdays ago, I gave myself a morning to get the new garage door opener installed. I quickly opened the box and started following the instructions to install the new one. What I forgot to check, however, was where in the instruction it talked about taking down the old one. I got about 30 minutes into the assembly before realizing these instructions did not go through the removal of the old opener. I had to figure that out on my own.

To remove the old garage door opener, I quickly decided on what I was not going to remove. This is because they were already in place and swapping out for a new one would not have any significant gains over using the existing brackets. In the end, I unhooked the rail from the door and detached the motor assembly from the rafters. It all came down as one 12-foot-long piece. Not the easiest of tasks for one person to tackle on their own but I managed.

Garage door replacement old removed

Back to the assembly of the new garage door opener, it actually snapped together fairly easily. These are designed to be installed by the average people willing to give it a go. Once I had it all assembled, I needed to bolt it into place, about ten feet above the floor. Since it was only me doing this, I determined the best way would be to mount the rail above the door while the motor rests on the ground and then lift and mount the motor after that. It worked quite well, especially since I had left the mounting brackets in place for both of those. Everything lined up nicely.

Then came what I think was the most tedious part of the process, running the wires. There were three wires that needed to be run, one for each of the door sensors and one for the control you put next to the door. Mounting them was straightforward, but I felt the need to secure the wire at every joist and stud it came across, just so it would not drape and get in the way of anything. Since this was all high up, I had to tack it in, move the ladder and repeat for each spot. Wiring these to the motor was straightforward, I just cut and stripped the wires and plugged them into their appropriate spots.

I was finally ready to turn the whole system on and train it. It was both a tense and exciting moment. But it all worked. All of the remotes worked. The lights, the stops, everything worked. I just needed to train the door to know where the ground was. All in, it took me three hours. Not bad.

Garage door replacement opening animation

Until a day later when I woke up to find the garage door open. I was concerned, but I thought it might have been a fluke so I closed it and went about my day. Then, when I got home later that day it happened again. After a few minutes spent on the support line, I figured out that what was likely happening is that a neighbor’s remote was triggering our garage door opener. All I needed to do was retrain all of the remotes. Haven’t had an unplanned open door since.

All said and done, I’m glad to have replaced the garage door opener. I’m glad I did it myself because it was both fun and I learned a bunch while doing it. And now, we have a fancy new piece of technology powering our lives. Now we each have a remote for our cars, a keypad to enter, a wall mounted button to open, and a button to turn on the lights only. If we wanted, we could buy an addon to control the door from anywhere with our phones. OUR PHONES! But seriously, it’s nice to have something new and I sincerely hope this opener holds up for a good sixteen years or more. Wish me luck.

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