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Garage Doors Aren't Automatically OK

June 21, 1997|From Associated Press

If your garage door has an automatic opener, you probably zip in and out every day without a worry or a care.

But don't overlook the obvious: A 300-to 400-pound door moves over your head on wheels, springs and metal track. If your automatic opener fails to reverse when the door strikes a person or a pet, the result could be tragic.

All openers will, if operating properly, reverse if the door hits an obstruction. Openers made before 1982, however, do not have any backup to this system and should be replaced. Post-1982 systems will reverse after 30 seconds if the door fails to complete a close or open cycle.

Since 1993, openers have had to include a monitored backup system--typically a sensor that passes a light beam across the door opening. The door will reverse if the beam is interrupted. A door will not operate if the beam sensor is unplugged or misaligned. The sensor cannot be bypassed except by holding down the wall switch.

If you have not tested your garage door recently, do it today. Safety experts recommend a monthly test.

* Place a 2-by-4 flat on the ground in the door opening. Activate the opener. If the door doesn't reverse when it hits the 2-by-4, refer to the owner's manual and increase the close limit.

Here are some additional safeguards:

* Keep the remote control in the glove compartment of your car.

* Locate well-mounted controls high up, out of reach of children.

* Teach older children how to safely operate the garage door.

* Never allow young children to operate or play with door controls.

* To operate the door manually, use the emergency-release handle.

The safety test described above will tell you if the automatic safety reverse is working. It won't tell you about the door's overall health. Here are some points to check:

* Inspect the door yearly for loose or worn parts. Replace any worn or damaged hardware. The door must travel smoothly to operate well.

* Clean the rollers, pulleys and cables; lubricate them with light oil. Spray or wipe a Teflon lubricant on the weatherstripping where it contacts the door.

* Test the door's sensitivity. Stand outside the open door with your hands at waist level and positioned to catch the bottom edge of the closing door. Activate the opener. If you can't stop (not reverse) the door with minimal effort, refer to the owner's manual to adjust the opener's force level control. (Always set the level at the minimum needed to operate the door.)

* A garage door may use either of two types of springs to counterbalance the door's weight. In one version, an extension spring runs along the track on each side. In the other, a heavy torsion spring stretches horizontally above the garage door.

You can easily check the tension of both types of springs. They should hold the door steady in the half-open position and allow it to move only slowly if the door is released slightly above or below halfway.

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