What would you think is the most common reason for a specialist to be called out to repair garage doors? It actually has nothing to do with the door itself. It’s related to the door’s automatic reverse mechanism – generally, it’s caused by a misalignment with the safety system’s two photo eyes.
Not sure how that might work? Think about this. You arrive home from work, and press the open button on the garage door remote. The door smoothly slides up, and you pull into the garage. So far, so good. Now, you press the close button. The door begins to close, but then stops and reverses. You try again, and the same thing happens!
It might seem like a serious issue, but it’s actually a minor problem, and one that you can most likely handle on your own. Below, we’ll discuss what you need to know so you can get your garage door back in working condition.
Understanding Photo Eyes
We’ll start by discussing safety – all electric garage door openers sold in North America after 1993 were required by law to come factory equipped with an automatic reversal system. This law was in response to a number of accidents in which people, particularly children, were hit by a garage door while closing and who were injured, or even killed.
The system we’re discussing uses two photoelectric eyes, or sensors. There are two small units, one on each side of the garage door – they look like little black boxes with glass eyes on the side. They point at one another, and are usually installed about six inches from the ground. The units connect to the garage door opener motor.
If it helps, think of the system sort of like the automatic doors at your local grocery store. When you step in front of the sensor, the doors slide open. You can stand in the way all day long and the doors won’t close. However, once you move out of range of the sensors, the doors will close.
The same concept is at work with your garage door opener. One of the two eyes emits an invisible beam. That beam bounces off the other eye. If the beam is broken for any reason while the door is coming down, it will automatically reverse and will not lower again until the beam is unbroken.
Note that there’s also a second automatic reverse system built into your garage door opener to protect against failure of the first one. While the photo eye system is electronic, this one is mechanical. Really, it’s pretty simple, and works just like the one that prevents elevator doors from closing on your hand. If the door is closing and it encounters an obstacle, it will automatically reverse. It’s pretty sensitive, too. Something as thin as a 2×4 will prevent it from closing fully.
Why Does Misalignment Occur?
Photo eye misalignment is pretty common, and it can happen for any number of reasons. Part of it is the location of the eyes – they’re awfully close to the ground, and right in the way of anything that passes them. They’re very easy to bump, and even a light graze with your shoe might be enough to move the eye out of alignment.
If you’re experiencing a garage door that won’t close, there are a couple of automatic warning signs that will tell you the problem is that the photo eye system is misaligned. With some systems, you’ll notice a blinking light on your garage door opener. On others, you’ll hear a clicking noise. If your system has a wall panel (it should measure about 3” x 5”), it will have a blinking LED light.
Fixing the Issue
Now that we’ve explained the situation it’s time to move on to rectifying it. Again, it’s not particularly difficult to do. You really just need to realign the photo eyes so that the beam is unbroken once more. You’ll need to figure out which eye was bumped out of alignment, but this is also easy. While the garage door is closing, try to adjust one of the eyes so that it is aimed directly at the other. The blinking light on your control panel or opener will stop once the eyes are aligned.
It’s also important to make sure that the photo eyes are firmly attached to the metal mounting bracket that holds them in place. Check the bolt on the back – sometimes the nuts will loosen. You can tighten them with a wrench easily. You should also take this opportunity to clean the lenses. A clean cloth is all you need – just wipe the eye to remove any dirt and dusty that has built up. Ideally, you should do this regularly to keep the system in good working condition.
If none of these tips helps, the problem might lie a bit deeper. Check for broken or frayed wires behind the units and replace it. However, if you cannot find the problem, stop there and get in touch with us.
A Word of Caution
The beam on your automatic reversal system is there for protection. Never start the garage door closing, and then jump the beam to prevent the door from stopping. A single slip could mean that you (or your child) will be hurt by the closing garage door. If you need to close the garage door frequently, install an exterior keypad for better safety.
If Your Problem Is Not Resolved…
If you’re still experiencing issues, contact us. You can reach us at (603) 833-7135. We have decades of experience working with garage door openers, and we can help ensure that you get the protection you need and a perfectly working garage door. We’d even be happy to send you a quote by email.
If you’d like, stop by our showroom, or you can use our design center to preview new garage doors if you need to replace your old one. Our image gallery is also worth a look.