Garage Door Only Opens A Few Inches? (Possible Causes & Fixes)

Garage Door Only Opens a Few Inches

For the most part, the door to our garage does its job and we think nothing more of it. But when it suddenly stops after only opening a few inches, it can create more than a few questions. Namely “why is this happening and how do I fix it?”

There could be a number of issues at play here. It could be as simple as something triggering the safety mechanism. It could be that the sensor eye is off alignment as well. You may also be dealing with an internal component like the extension springs.

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7 Reasons Why a Garage Door Only Opens a Few Inches

The key is to troubleshoot the issue to locate the problem.

1. Something Is In the Way

The most likely explanation is usually the correct one. For most modern garage doors, there is a built-in reversing mechanism. That mechanism is what keeps the door from potentially crashing into something that happens to be in the way.

Check the sensors. That obstruction does not have to be particularly large. It can be a small toy, for instance. If you think that there is something in the way, simply check out the sensors. If you don’t notice any apparent obstruction, it could be that the lenses of the sensors are dirty. Give them a good wipe and try again.

Clean regularly. In order to save yourself a bit of trouble, try wiping down the lenses once in a while. Dust, dirt, and even spider webs can accumulate over time. Use a damp cloth or cleaning wipe to gently wipe the lens free of any potential obstruction.

2. Defective or Broken Springs

The issue can sometimes be due to an internal component. The tricky part with that is you may not readily notice the issue without a little bit of troubleshooting. Thankfully, there is one fairly easy method for figuring things out.

Disconnect the cord. One sure-fire way to check the continuity of the internal components is to try to open the door manually. Disconnect the cord from the opener and lift up the door manually. It should move fairly easily. If it does not or feels heavy, then the problem is with the opening mechanism.

Whenever there are issues with the opening mechanism, it is best left to a professional. Not only is it better for getting your garage door working once again, but there is danger as well. Garage door springs are quite dangerous to handle. If something goes wrong, it can lead to serious injury or potentially death. Leave it to the pros.

3. Adjust the Force Limit and Simple Travel Limit

Another good place to start is by checking to see if something is binding the door when it opens and closes manually. If you happen to notice no binding, then you may just need to adjust the force limit or simple travel limit.

Travel limit. The travel limit is what controls just how far the door opens and closes while it is in operation.

Force limit. On the other hand, the force limit controls dictate how much pull is required to bring the door to a completely open position.

It is wise to check out the owner’s manual to see how to make these adjustments. Depending on the model or brand of your garage door, there are one of two methods. You will either turn the screws or push in on the colored buttons. If you can’t find the owner’s manual, a cursory Google search should accomplish what you need.

When you are done making your adjustments, it is imperative to make sure that the reverse mechanism is properly functioning. That reverse mechanism is what keeps the door from hitting something or damaging itself.

4. Faulty Logic Control Board

The last thing to check should your garage door open and then suddenly stop is the logic board. The role of the logic board is to receive and then respond to signals sent by any connected remotes or a keypad that may be connected to the garage itself.

If your door is not working properly but there are no obstructions and you can open and close it manually, the logic control board is the most likely explanation. You can try replacing the opener but the more likely solution is to replace the logic control board. If you buy a new opener and it works, that could save you quite a bit of cash.

Reboot. You can also try to reboot the logic control board to see if that works. Like any other electronic component, a simple refresh can work wonders. Try to reboot it a time or two and see if that solves the problem. The last resort should be to replace the logic control board.

5. Garage Door Doesn’t Open All the Way When the Weather is Cold

Cold weather can play havoc on a lot of things. It is possible for the aforementioned issues to creep up from time to time. But when the weather turns frigid, it can further aggravate the issue. Thankfully, there are easily identifiable issues that tend to be attached to poor garage door performance in the winter.

6. Contraction and Shrinking

Perhaps the most common reason that your garage door stops working properly in the winter is due to contraction. Simply put the metal will shrink or contract due to the cold. When it is cold, the space between molecules reduces, ultimately shrinking the metal in the process.

If you feel confident that shrinking and contraction is the cause behind your issues, lubricant is key. Try lubricating the hinges, springs, and any other metal components. In most cases, it should free up those components, allowing your garage door to move freely once again.

Lack of Lubrication

Speaking of lubrication, the grease that is in your door’s components could compact and harden in the cold weather. When that happens, it makes smooth operation a difficult thing to achieve. And if it goes ignored long enough, one of those components can break, requiring repairs.

Proper Maintenance. If your garage door is opening a little or maybe not at all, check the joints and tracks. Make sure that they are properly greased and lubricated. Should they be lacking, wipe out any of the old grease using a grease solvent and apply new lubricant.

Proper maintenance is essential to keep your garage door working properly. That is especially true come wintertime when the freezing temperatures can play havoc on the various components. Start by making sure they all have enough grease to function properly.

7. Broken Springs

The springs play an integral role in the functionality of the garage door. Should any of them break your garage door won’t function properly. At the very least, it may not open all the way. In the worst cases, it may not function at all.

Unfortunately, garage springs can be somewhat rigid and frail. When the temperature gets low enough, it can cause those already frail pieces to become nearly brittle. If you feel that the issue is with the springs, only a professional should handle the job. Dealing with the springs can be potentially dangerous for an amateur to deal with.

Preventative maintenance. No matter what issue you are facing, the simplest plan is to apply preventative maintenance. Keep the problem from happening rather than having to fix it and you will save yourself a lot of difficulty and inconvenience. Moreover, it saves you from spending a lot of money on repairs.

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Related Questions

How Do I Know if My Torsion Spring is Broken?

As you can see from above, the torsion spring is one of the more vital components to any garage door. When it is either damaged or broken, it can make the door work improperly if it still works at all. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for amateurs to know when something is wrong.

Door won’t open manually. The simplest way to tell whether or not the torsion spring is broken is to try to open the garage door manually. Even if it will not open automatically, it should do so manually. If it sticks or feels very heavy to move, the torsion spring likely broken.

See the split. There is also the chance that you will see the split in the spring. It is usually viewable near the opener box on the ceiling of your garage.

What the torsion spring looks like. If you do not know what the torsion spring looks like, it is that long, black spring near the opener box. When it is working functionally, the torsion spring should last for anywhere from 3 to 5 years. Another good way to think of it is that it is rated for about 10,000 cycles. One cycle is the door going up and then back down again.

Call a Professional. When in doubt about the working order of your garage door, a professional is the best bet. They have years of experience to draw upon when looking for issues and will likely spot a bad torsion spring in short order. Moreover, they have the skills and experience to get the repair done sooner rather than later.

Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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