Garage Door Safety Guide
A reliable garage door moves up and down with ease and offers convenient entry into your home with the touch of a button. When the system is working as intended, it can be easy to forget that garage doors are one of the heaviest moving objects in your home. A garage door’s weight and individual components can be dangerous if the system malfunctions. In worst-case scenarios, a broken door may fall and injure a person below.
As a homeowner, part of keeping your garage safe is understanding how to identify and address garage door safety hazards. With some basic knowledge, general maintenance practices and professional assistance, you can effectively enhance your garage door’s safety.
Garage Door Dangers
Garage doors pose a minimal danger when they are running normally. However, there are a few red flags that indicate an increased hazard a professional should handle. The following are some garage door dangers to avoid:
If your garage door starts making unusual sounds, you may think it’s a sign of normal age and wear. Though abnormal sounds are easy to dismiss, they could reveal a greater structural issue within the door. Sounds you may want to investigate include:
- Excessive noise
These noises could indicate loose, worn or dirty parts that may be compromising your garage door’s effectiveness and safety. Continuing to operate your door without addressing odd noises may lead to bigger and more dangerous issues like a broken spring or damaged garage door hardware.
In some cases, you may be able to pinpoint an issue with your garage door that needs to be fixed. Completing the repair yourself may seem cost-effective or efficient. However, a garage door is a complex mechanism with several variables that could complicate your repair.
Depending on what your garage door consists of, it could weigh hundreds of pounds. The sheer weight of the door poses a threat if it moves or falls unexpectedly during a repair. A lack of proper tools and expertise could also endanger you during maintenance tasks. Some parts of a garage door are extremely dangerous, like the spring, and should only be handled by a trained professional equipped with proper tools.
There are two types of springs that help lift garage doors — torsion and extension springs. A torsion spring applies torque to a metal shaft that is secured above the garage door and unwinds and winds as the door opens and closes. An extension spring stretches to attach to either side of the door and exerts a pulling force through its attachments to lift and lower the door.
Regardless of the type of spring attached to your garage door, they are extremely hazardous. The dangers of garage door springs stem from their design. These components have enough tension to handle hundreds of pounds to lift a garage door. If the spring breaks while you are touching it or standing nearby, the force can cause bodily harm and danger. And since the spring helps hold the door in place, a broken spring could send a garage door crashing down.
Garage door safety cables can be installed to contain a spring if it breaks. But even with a safety cable, garage springs need to be handled skillfully. Any spring repairs or maintenance is best left to a trained professional.
Garage Door Safety Features
Modern garage doors have several safety features that protect you when used alongside a regular maintenance routine and general caution. These basic garage door safety requirements help prevent accidental entrapment or injury from a closing door and can help keep you safe when the power is out:
Garage doors that were manufactured after January 1, 1991, must comply with entrapment protection requirements from the Underwriters Laboratories. This includes having electric eye sensors, which are installed close to the ground under a garage door. The sensors connect to each other with a light beam. If anything breaks the beam connection, the garage door safety sensors signal the opener to send the door back up.
In this way, the photo eye system helps detect people, animals or objects that may enter a garage door’s path while it is in motion.
A garage door’s auto-reverse feature works in tandem with the photo eyes to protect people, pets and objects from a closing door. Essentially, a garage door should return to an open position if the photo eye beam is interrupted or the door encounters any force. If an object enters the door’s path but does not trigger the photo eye, a minimal amount of resisting force should signal the auto-reverse mechanism to send the door back up.
Electric garage door openers are extremely convenient — unless the power is out. This is why garage door openers include a manual function. You can usually activate manual controls by pulling a red cord attached to the garage door track. After pulling the cord, you should be able to lift the garage door manually with two hands.
Manual controls allow you to drive your vehicles out of your garage if you need to leave home during a power outage. These controls also enable you to disengage the opener when performing simple maintenance tasks to prevent the door from opening and potentially injuring you.
Garage Door Safety Tips
There are some important steps you can take to fine-tune, test and strengthen your garage door’s overall safety. Use these garage door tips to guide you as you maximize your door’s safety:
Perform Simple Maintenance
Though some tasks should be left to the professionals, there are still plenty of maintenance jobs you can complete on your own. Perform the following checks and maintenance to keep your garage door running smoothly:
- Lubricate parts: According to the International Door Association, your garage door may benefit from lubrication twice a year. Apply spray lubricant to your door’s tracks, rollers and hinges to support proper function and reduce any noises from lack of lubrication.
- Change batteries: If you’re experiencing issues with your garage door remote and the door will not open, the first thing you can check is your remote opener batteries. A new set of batteries could be all you need to get the door running again.
- Clean and align sensors: If your photo eye sensors are dirty or misaligned, your door may struggle to open and close as expected. Check the sensors — which are typically located near the ground on either side of the door opening — for any dirt and debris. If they seem out of line, try straightening them and testing the door again.
- Tighten hardware: Temperature changes between seasons could cause your garage’s attachment hardware to loosen over time. If you notice rattling sounds while the door operates, use a wrench to tighten all roller brackets, bolts, hinges and nuts.
- Replace weather seal: The weather seal on your garage door blocks out the elements and debris to maintain a stable temperature and clean environment in your garage. If you can see the sunlight through damaged sections of the seal, you may want to replace it. You can purchase the supplies you need for this project at a hardware store and complete it on your own if you desire.
If you’re not sure how to complete a maintenance task or you’d prefer to hire a professional, you can schedule a garage door tune-up for reliable service.
Test Your Door Regularly
Your garage door likely has built-in features to help protect you from injury, but you need to ensure these systems are working. A few monthly tests can help you confirm whether your garage door’s safety mechanisms are functioning properly:
- Balance test: To test your door’s balance, first close the garage door and disconnect the automatic opener. Then, try to lift the door manually. The door should move smoothly with little resistance and remain open when you let go. If the door is difficult to open or falls closed, it may be off-balance and need servicing.
- Visual inspection: With the garage door closed, stand inside your garage and inspect the door. Check the rollers, pulleys, springs, cables and mounting hardware for visual signs of damage or wear. Any looseness, fraying, rust or unusual appearance could indicate a larger garage door issue that a technician should address.
- Reversing mechanism test: To test your automatic reversing system, open the garage door and place a two-by-four piece of wood in the center of the garage door opening. Then, press the button to close your door. The door should automatically reverse when it touches the wood if the reversing mechanism is working. If the door does not reverse, contact a technician to repair your door immediately.
- Photo eye test: Begin with your garage door open to check the photo eye sensors. Grab a long object, like a broom or tool, and press the button to close your garage door. As the door descends, wave the object in front of one of the photo eyes to see if the door automatically reverses. If the door continues to close, you may need to clean, realign or replace your photo eye sensors.
If your garage door fails one or more of these tests, contact a professional immediately to have the appropriate safety feature repaired.
Address Garage Door Security
Part of keeping your family safe around your garage door is ensuring the door is reinforced against break-ins and tampering. You may want to enhance your garage door’s security with the following measures:
- Install motion detection floodlights: Placing motion-activated floodlights outside your garage door could help increase your garage security. The lights can startle and momentarily blind a thief, which could deter them from accessing your property.
- Protect your opener remote: Most people store their remote garage door opener in their vehicle for convenience. This can present a serious security risk, as thieves may check your vehicle and gain direct access to your garage and home through the remote. To increase your garage door opener safety, you can purchase a key fob remote opener that stays with you at all times. Or, you could hide your opener within your vehicle to remove it from sight.
- Close your garage door: This is a simple yet important tip. Always check to ensure your door is closed at night and limit the amount of time you leave it open during the day.
Consider upgrading your door: An older garage door may have more vulnerabilities, especially if it is worn down. You can improve your garage door’s safety by upgrading to a newer, more structurally sound model.
Know When to Call a Professional
Knowing your limits is paramount to maintaining garage door safety. If you notice unusual noises or issues with the cables, rollers, tracks or drums, it may be best to call a professional for an inspection and repair. You’ll also want to trust a professional for a spring repair or replacement. It is dangerous to replace garage door springs on your own when you have not been trained.
If you do not feel confident identifying or addressing an issue on your own, you should call a professional. Using a garage door technician can save you time, keep you safe and ensure the job is done correctly.
Garage Door Child Safety
Since 1974, at least 85 children have suffered permanent brain injuries or died in automatic garage door opener accidents. Though safety measures have been implemented through mandatory photo eye and auto-reverse technology, it is crucial your child understands the importance of garage door safety. This is especially true if your child is old enough to play outside with minimal supervision.
You may want to communicate the following garage door safety tips with your children:
- Always check to see if the door’s path is clear before closing the garage door.
- Avoid touching or hanging on the garage door while it is in motion.
- Avoid tampering with the photo eyes.
- Avoid sharing a garage door passcode with friends or strangers.
- Avoid leaving toys in the garage door’s path.
In addition to educating your child, ensure any wall-mounted opener buttons are out of reach of younger children. If you have a key fob garage door opener, avoid letting small children play with your keys. You may also want to discourage older children from operating the garage door until they are responsible enough to watch for hazards and practice appropriate caution.
Trust idc-Automatic for Your Garage Door Repairs and Maintenance
A well-maintained garage door puts you in the best position to protect the people who use it and keep the door functioning properly. At idc-Automatic, we think differently about garage doors. For our customers, that means same-day service from our professional and knowledgeable staff. Whether you need a garage door repair or garage door maintenance, our experts can complete the job safely.