Installing a garage door opener

Almost any garage door opener you buy will open any garage door in America. The chain drive opener is the best-selling opener on the market. A motor pulls a chain, the chain pulls a carriage, and the carriage pulls a cable that opens the door. The direct drive opener (shown here) works basically the same way except that the carriage travels along a large, threaded rod (like a huge bolt) instead of the door being pulled by a chain. Direct drive openers are slightly more expensive but quieter. They work best in warmer climates and tend to bog down in freezing climates.

AN OPEN-AND-SHUT CASE - You can buy garage door openers with 1/4-, 1/3-, or 1/2-horsepower motors; openers with chain drives; and openers with screw drives. They all open the door, and they're all viable options. Look for features you want, like a rolling code or a keypad. But what you really care about is the warranty. Given the choice between two doors, get the one with the longest warranty. A good manufacturer will stand behind a good product. Choose wisely.

MATERIALS: Garage door opener kit

TOOLS: Tape measure, level, screwdriver, drill, socket or wrench set

GARAGE-DOOR OPENER COMPONENTS INCLUDE: The power unit activated by a transmitter, key, or auxiliary switch. The rail guides and supports the traveler, which connects the door-opener chain to the support arm, which is attached to the garage door. The manual safety release disengages the trolley from the garage-door arm and allows manual operation of the door in the event of a power failure. The bracket secures the rail above the door and supports the idler assembly and pulley that guides the chain drive. The interior auxiliary switch allows garage-door opener operation from the garage.

REMOVE THOSE LATCH BARS - I helped my son-in-law install an opener for his old manual garage door. When I left, I reminded him to leave the latch handle but remove the locking bars. As usual, he forgot. On a rainy day a few months later his kids locked the door while they were playing in the garage. He was outside in his car trying to get the door open with the mote until he burned the motor out. Now I kid him that since he must have wanted a manual garage door from the beginning why did we go to all that trouble.

1 ASSEMBLE THE CARRIAGE TUBE. This tube runs from the power unit to the front wall of the garage. The carriage, which raises and lowers the door, travels along it. It's usually shipped in sections—assemble them as directed, making sure to seat the pieces securely. Measure to verify the assembled length matches that required by the manufacturer. Make any necessary adjustments.

2 MOUNT THE CARRIAGE ON THE FRONT OF THE POWER UNIT, FOLLOWING THE MANUFACTURER’S DIRECTIONS. Attach the rail clamps, which will later connect to a bracket on the wall above the door. On some doors you'll install switches and wiring at this point.

3 SLIP THE CARRIAGE OVER THE TUBE. Different makes and models attach differently, so follow the manufacturer's directions.

4 MOUNT THE HEADER BRACKET, WHICH HOLDS THE CARRIAGE TUBE TO THE WALL ABOVE THE DOOR. The exact location depends on the type of door, so follow the directions supplied by the manufacturer. Lift the power unit and set it on top of a stepladder.

5 HANG THE POWER UNIT FROM THE CEILING. Most units hang from angle irons and metal straps that have holes drilled in them at regular intervals. Bolt the angle irons to a rafter (or rafters) with lag screws. Attach the straps to the irons with hex-head screws, and attach the straps to the power unit with the hardware provided. Open the door several times to make sure it doesn’t hit the opener while moving.

6 THE DOOR IS OPENED BY ONE ARM THAT LIFTS IT AS THE CARRIAGE TRAVELS ALONG THE TUBE. Before you can attach the arm, you must attach the bracket that connects it to the door. The exact location varies, depending on the door. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.

7 BYLAW, ALL UNITS HAVE A SAFETY DEVICE THAT SHUTS DOWN THE MOTOR IF SOMETHING IS IN THE PATH OF A CLOSING DOOR. The safety device is usually a light beam and sensor. Mount one on each side of the door as directed. Plug the unit into its socket. Test the operation and make any necessary corrections.

Adjusting and maintaining a garage door opener

KILL THE POWER - Always disconnect power to the garage door opener prior to making adjustments.

CHANGING FREQUENCIES - When you push the button on the opener's remote control, it transmits a frequency-coded message to the door. Send the right message and the door opens. Send the wrong one and the door stays put. Some remotes transmit the same message each time. Others transmit a randomly changing message, or "rolling code," making it harder for someone else’s remote to open your door. How much harder? Depending on the maker, a single-code opener may be preset to one of as many as 3.6 million codes. By listening in with a special decoder, however, a clever thief can record your code, reprogram an opener, and drive right into your garage. A more secure option is a rolling-code opener, which may have as many as 16 billion codes to choose from, and the code changes randomly each time the door opens. A rolling code is virtually impossible to crack, and if you're at all worried about security, it's a feature you'll want in a new opener. If you have an existing single-code opener, ask about kits that will convert it to rolling code. If you have a car with a built-in garage door remote, it will probably work with a rolling-code door. Follow the directions for programming it carefully—you may have to press the button several times before the reprogramming takes effect.

ADJUST THE CHAIN TENSION TO ELIMINATE A SAGGING CHAIN. If the chain sags more than Vi inch below the rail, it may bang against the rail and cause undue wear on the drive sprocket. Tighten the chain until it rests Vi inch above the base of the rail, but be careful not to over tighten.

ADJUST THE LIMIT SCREWS IF THE GARAGE DOOR OPENS MORE THAN 5 FEET BUT FAILS TO OPEN COMPLETELY. Unplug the opener and locate the open-force adjustment screw on the power unit. Turn the screw clockwise. Plug in the opener, run it through a cycle, and adjust as necessary to open the desired amount.


CLEAN AND LUBRICATE THE DRIVE CHAIN AND TRACK OF THE AUTOMATIC DOOR OPENER. Instead of using grease, use a light penetrating oil so it doesn't collect dirt and grit.

Safety testing a garage door opener

PERIODICALLY TEST THE CLOSE-FORCE SENSITIVITY SETTING OF THE GARAGE DOOR OPENER. Place a board 1 inch or thicker on the garage floor in the center of the doorway, then trigger the opener to close the door. When the door comes in contact with the board, the opener should strain slightly, then reverse and open the door. If the pressure is too great or too slight, you'll need to make adjustments.

ADJUST THE CLOSE-FORCE SENSITIVITY if the opener is either auto-reversing too easily or striking an obstacle too hard. Unplug the power unit and adjust the close-force screw according to which solution is required.

TEST THE CLOSE-FORCE SENSITIVITY BY HAND after you have used the board method mentioned above. This will allow you to physically determine the amount of pressure the opener is exerting in case the door comes in contact with people or pets. Stand in the center of the doorway and trigger the opener to close the door. As the door is closing, hold the bottom of the door in your hands and exert pressure to stop the door. Determine if the pressure to trigger the auto-reversing is too much or too little and make the necessary adjustments on the close-force sensitivity screws.

TEST THE SAFETY REVERSING SENSORS BY PLACING YOUR HAND IN THE SENSOR BEAM AS THE GARAGE DOOR IS CLOSING. The garage door mechanism should automatically reverse and open the door. If it doesn't, check the wire connections. Check the sensor alignment and clean the sensor lenses. Retest.

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