You’ve pulled the car into your garage, closed the garage door and carried your shopping to the door linking your house and the garage, only to find it locked! You try the garage door and it won’t open, it seems that no amount of tugging, pushing, pulling, cursing and kicking is going to have any effect! Now what? Nobody else is home and your frozen goods are going to start defrosting in around five minutes!
You would not believe how common it is for people to become locked inside their garage! It can be a frustrating, or even frightening experience – particularly if you suffer with claustrophobia, the fear of confined spaces, or cleithrophobia, the fear of being trapped.
This article will explore the reasons why so many people become locked inside their own garages, we will discuss a few hints, tips and fixes, some simpler than others, all of which will hopefully deal with this issue, or at least make it easier to bear if, or when, it happens again!
Apart from the above scenario, the first question to ask is why anyone would be in their garage with the door closed anyway; surely they would exit the garage after parking their car and close the door behind them? Here are some of the reasons why people are likely to be in their garage with the door closed:
- Security – You may be having a tidy up or looking for something in your garage and feel safer with the door closed.
- Decorating – You’re painting the inside of your garage and close the door to keep the wet paint dust free.
- Animals – You want to avoid any animal sneaking in and becoming trapped in your garage after you leave.
- Weather – You want to work on your car and close the door to keep the wind and rain out, or to keep the temperature bearable whilst you work.
- Door locked – You closed the garage door only to find the door through to the house is locked.
If you have just returned home you are likely to be carrying your mobile phone, hopefully the signal is good inside your garage and you can make a call to ask a key holding family member or friend to come and rescue you. Some people have such issues with becoming locked in that they actually have a landline installed in their garage, just for emergencies! Of course, ringing someone for help is probably only going to be helpful in the situation where the door through to the house is locked, if your only exit is through the garage door then it may well not open from the outside either! It is for this reason that in many areas it is a legal requirement to have a second egress point, either into another external area of the property, such as the back yard, or into the house.
You may ask why do garage doors become stuck anyway, surely it’s a simple enough mechanism and it should keep operating without any issues year after year? Garage doors can become stuck for any number of reasons, many of which are associated with age or lack of maintenance, your garage door may have operated smoothly for a great many years but if you have neglected its upkeep you may be heading for trouble.
Common reasons for garage doors becoming stuck
Garage door is simply locked
It is probably best to check that your garage door is not locked before calling for help, although this will only apply if you are locked out of your garage, unless your locking mechanism has a habit of locking itself of course!
Power is disconnected
Check your power outlet to ensure your garage door is still connected to the electricity supply, if it is then disconnect and try another outlet.
Remote control malfunction
Your garage door may not be opening or closing simply because the battery in the remote control needs replacing. Another cause could be a damaged antenna on the motor or the signal is blocked. If you have narrowed down the fault to the remote control you may need to reprogram it.
Check that you haven’t disconnected your garage door motor by switching the disconnect switch in error.
Your area may be suffering from a power outage.
Something outside is blocking the garage door from opening
It sounds crazy but it does happen, something has moved (or been moved) to a position that is blocking your garage door from the outside, preventing it from opening.
Lack of maintenance
Neglecting to lubricate the working parts of your garage door will eventually lead to all kinds of issues, including your door becoming stuck open or closed! Regular maintenance is extremely important to keep your garage door working smoothly.
The metal tracks, along which small wheels roll to allow your garage door to open and close, may be obstructed, causing the door to remain open or closed. If you can do so safely, check for obstructions or blockages. ALWAYS switch the garage door opener OFF prior to removing obstructions from tracks.
Damage can be caused to the metal tracks, this can happen after an impact, or it can be caused by high winds or heavy rain. Check the track visually; small kinks or shallow bends can be carefully straightened with a great deal of care. Once again ALWAYS switch the garage door opener OFF before attempting minor repairs to the tracks.
Wheels are off the track
If the wheels have jumped the track your garage door will not open or close, it may be possible to jiggle the track or the door and get it working again but you will need help as garage doors are heavy. You will probably need professional help in this instance.
Garage doors have been known to freeze up completely in the depths of winter, check for snow and ice build up on the floor inside and outside of your garage, this could stop it opening or closing.
Pulley and spring system problems
Any issues with your pulley or spring can prevent your garage door from opening or closing, this is not something that can be fixed on a DIY basis and you will definitely need professional help with this.
Garage door sensors
Most garage doors have a safety feature that senses when the door is obstructed and stops it moving, this is called a photo eye and your garage may have one or two of these sensors. Check for anything that the sensors may be picking up as an obstruction, leaves, stones or cobwebs are all common offenders. Direct sunlight can often be misinterpreted by the sensors as an obstruction; you may need to shade them from the sun.
Garage door won’t close all the way
Another commonly reported problem is when the garage door doesn’t close all the way down. This may be an issue with the tracks or the rollers, check for damaged, bent or rusted areas, lubrication can solve this issue but you may need to replace the rollers. If your garage door doesn’t close all the way and you have checked that the tracks and the rollers are okay then the problem could be due to the close limit switch, it may simply need an adjustment. There are various ways of making this adjustment, depending upon the make and model of your garage door; check your owner’s manual for instructions on how to adjust the close limit switch, a simple turn of a screw adjuster could be all that is needed to close the garage door. Check the path of the photo eye safety sensors for obstructions.
Opening a garage door manually is not a difficult process; however, it carries a risk of serious injury so every precaution should be taken to ensure the safety of anyone nearby, particularly children. Keep children away from the garage door and pets inside the car until you are certain it is safe to leave the garage.
Once you have managed to open your garage door always ensure it has stopped moving and is fully open, it is important to check it will remain open before releasing your hold. Garage doors are extremely heavy and they can suddenly and rapidly fall to a closed position if they have not been opened properly when in manual operating mode.
Should you encounter resistance at any point when manually opening your garage door STOP IMMEDIATELY and wait at a distance for professional help.
Having ensured everyone has safely exited the garage you should very carefully return the garage door manually to a closed position, if you are able to manually lock it closed then do so, even parking a car in front of it will prevent someone trying to open it, a closed and locked (or blocked) position is the safest way to leave it until professional help arrives.
How to manually open a stuck garage door
- Check that the area around your garage door is clear and there is nothing present that would interfere with the manual operating process.
- Ensure that the garage door is in the fully closed position.
- Disconnect the power supply to the garage door opener, not just by switching to the off position, by unplugging completely.
- Unlock all bolts, latches and locks to allow manual operation.
- Locate the emergency release cord, this is most often a red rope or a rope with a red handle on the end, pulling this cord will put the garage door into manual operation mode.
- Before pulling the cord down check again that the garage door is in the fully closed position.
- Lift the garage door up until it stops moving and it is fully open, it is crucial that you do not release your hold on the door until you have confirmed that it will remain open.
- Once everyone has safely exited the garage you should very carefully return the garage door to the fully closed position and lock it (or block it) until professional help arrives.
If you have ever been stuck inside your garage due to a stuck door you will know that it is not a pleasant experience at all, particularly if your garage door decided to jam on an extremely hot or very chilly day, or if you have neglected to clean up your garage and there are all sorts of critters lurking in there! Your garage door is probably used many times every day, year after year, many of us would never even think about checking that it is operating correctly, or even lubricating the moving parts. Regular maintenance will not only greatly reduce the risk of your garage door becoming stuck; it may even save you some money in the long term. Here are a few of the essentials.
Attempting certain maintenance service on a DIY basis can put you at risk of serious injury and should only be carried out by a professional, check your owner’s manual before commencing. It is crucial that you DO NOT TOUCH any bolts painted red or the torsion springs. ALWAYS contact a qualified garage door technician if you are unsure.
A thorough visual inspection will often reveal an issue before it’s even started to become a problem, check that everything is moving smoothly and symmetrically and listen out for any telltale scraping or vibrating noises.
Check the hardware
Inspect all brackets, tracks, hinges and bolts and tighten where necessary with a screwdriver or a socket wrench.
The simplest part of a maintenance schedule is lubrication; it takes very little time and can make a big difference to the life span of the moving parts of your garage door. Follow your instruction manual for full details but basically you need to grease the opener’s chain and use a spray lubricant on the overhead springs.
Inspect the rollers
Check the rollers for wear, chips or cracks, remove and replace as necessary. NEVER touch any roller brackets that are attached to the cable system, this should be left to the professionals.
Visually inspect the cables
NEVER touch the high tension cables as doing so will put you at risk of serious injury! ALWAYS call in a professional technician if a visual inspection reveals any wear or damage.
Test the safety features
To check the safety features of your garage door are working correctly you will need to test them. For a mechanical safety feature place an item, such as a small box or a brick, on the ground in front of the door and start to close the door, the door should reverse and go back up again as soon as it touches the item you placed there. For a photo eye safety feature you should start to close the garage door and wave your hand or your foot in the door’s path, the door should reverse and go back up again.
We recommend that you contact your garage door supplier or a local professional garage door technician to service and maintain your garage door and its operating system if you do not have the time or the confidence to carry out this type of maintenance.
We hope it will never happen to you but if it does, we trust the information in this article will prove useful to you in the event that you become stuck inside your garage.