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Every day since March it seems, the temperature has been going up to 95 and every evening around 7:30pm the thunder-boomers do their thing in different parts of the metro area, but it never rains at your house.

Every stinkin’ day.

Then one day the unbelievable happens, you get clouds, and some real rain – of course with some lightning and thunder mixed in.

Beginning the next day your garage door won’t close.  Oh sure, your remote will open the garage door, but it won’t close the garage door.

So did you enjoy the rain?  And what is wrong with your garage door?

It’s not your door, it’s the door sensors.

Yes, those little gadgets that almost sit on the floor of your garage attached to the door track tend to be sensitive to area lightning strikes.

See, one sensor shoots an infra-red beam of light to the other.  If that beam of light is broken then the door will stop coming down, sometimes by going up immediately, sometimes by just stopping in place.  If the sensor is fried, by a lightning strike or any other electronic surge, you get the same deal.  No beam.  No close.

The sensors are there as a safety device to keep wandering children or pets from getting hit by a lowering garage door.  They are also there so you won’t close your garage door on the new convertible – the one you talked your wife into letting you buy since your kids are out of college and your house will be paid off in almost 7 years – the car that you have pulled only halfway into the garage so your neighbors can still see it as they smile to themselves knowing that you are in way over the thinning hair on your head.

Fear not though – you can usually fix this yourself.  (The sensors, not the thinning hair.)

First, make sure that the sensors are fried.  You can do this by making sure they are lined up properly (sometimes they do get kicked out of alignment) by trying to aim them, or by taking them off the garage door track and holding them right in front of each other.

Still no good?  Then it is replacement time.

Replacements are available from leading garage door companies (several listed on this site) and at some big box stores.

Not a tough swap, unplug the garage door opener, read all the instructions (they usually come in three languages – French, Italian, and German) and go at it.

However – know this…

If you swap them out and your opener still doesn’t work, then not only are the old sensors kaput but probably the computer board in the opener is too, which means you will also have to either get a new computer board installed or replace the opener.

New openers are nice, and you can install them yourself, but they require some little details you will need to pay attention to:

  • You will need a new outside mounted opener if you already have one of those.  Also will need to reprogram the code for that.
  • You will need new remote openers for your cars or whatever you use a remote for.  Make sure you have enough of them, some new doors only come with two.
  • You will have to reprogram your car with the new opener code if you have the little button in the car that will open your garage door.
  • If you have a system where you can control everything in your house off your smart phone including your garage door you will have to reprogram the new door to fit that.

So there you go – now you are a garage door company!  Congrats!

For me, I will DIY until it comes to needing a new garage door opener.  Then I will call in a pro who will also examine my door to make sure it is in good shape as well as the tension spring.

Two final notes – your garage door will still close electronically if the sensors are fried but you have to do it by holding down the main button which is probably by the door leading into your house.  Hold it down until the door is all the way down. 

So you can still remote it up and hold the main button down to lower it.

Number 2 – you will notice that nowhere in this entire piece did I mention removing your door from the tracks or adjusting/loosening/removing the spring.  You don’t need to do it for this job so don’t even mess with it.  Anything spring related is garage professional territory.

Ok - three notes - if your are just DIY'ing the sensors you are in fairly easy territory.  However, once you get to buying and installing a new opener, the effort goes up quite a bit...