Garage Door Openers Are Not That Hard to Install

Garage door openers are convenient home accessories and come in three basic flavors.

  • Chain drive, the cheapest and the most common;
  • Screw drive, the most reliable; and
  • Belt drive, the quietest.

They work in addition to the springs installed on your door to make opening and closing the door as easy as possible.

A basic garage door opener will open the most common garage door. Typically, the garage door is a four panel door. The four panels pull up from the floor and extend horizontally along a track mounted at the top. A long pull spring (or springs) and some pulleys OR a wind up type torsion spring assists with the weight of the door.

IF these springs are not properly configured, the garage door will not open correctly or easily. You can determine if the springs are installed correctly if you can, with relative ease, pick the door up from the closed position by hand. It they are not correctly installed or something is broken, the door will be heavy and difficult to open.

Usually, the energy required to lift the door should be 20 to 30 pounds. Too little and the door will not stay closed or too much, the opener motor will be damaged by the excessive weight.

If you have determined the door is correctly installed, it’s time to install the opener.
Some items to check before starting:

  • Is there power at the location the motor will go?
  • Is it within 36 inches?
  • Is there a wire running from the location of the motor to an area near the entrance door into the house for the control switch?

You would be surprised how often the answer is no to these questions.

Does the front track “wobble” or move when the door opens and closes? If so, the safety sensors must be mounted on the wall and not the track.

Once you have determined the track is in good working condition, you can start installing the garage door opener.

    1. Open the door and measure the distance from the top of the opened door to your ceiling – both the front and the back of the door. Your garage door opener’s track MUST be a minimum of 2 ½ inches above the open door.
    2. Lower the door. Mark 2 ½ inches above the front of the door. This is the lowest height for the header bracket. Use something like a 2X6 board and run it from the top of the garage door frame to the top of the ceiling using the center line of the door as a reference. This is to support the end of the rail or the track that the chain rides in.
    3. Now attach the door bracket to the back of the garage door. Find the factory recommended location that is the strongest. Reinforce as necessary. Some manufacturers provide extra brackets to reinforce the door to withstand the strain without damaging the door.There should be multiple mounting points for the door arm for support. If you have just one or two bolts holding everything together, in time the door will split if the pull of the opener is not spread out.
    4. Now that you have determined where the pulling point on the door is, attach the header bracket to the wood you set in Step 2.Remember to allow for clearance above the door.
    5. Assemble the garage door opener per the manufacturers instructions.
    6. Insert the end of the rail into the bracket you just installed.
    7. Raise the motor into position above the garage door. Place it on a step ladder and measure exactly where the motor will be placed. Make sure the motor is 90 degrees from the header bracket.
    8. Mount the motor to your ceiling using the manufacturer’s approved method.
    9. Attach the motor to the hangers you just built. Make sure everything is solid and secure.
    10. Attach the door arm to the front of the door.
    11. Now, let’s install the safety eyes to the front of the door frame. Most manufacturers of garage door openers specify approximately 5 to 6 inches above the floor.I personally recommend raising the sensor height to 12 inches. This will hit the rocker panels on your car. At the lower setting, the sensor will look under you car and think it is OK to close the door.If your home is in the path of the sun, consult the instructions about which sensor to install in the shade and which to install where the sun can hit the sensor. This will avoid some “interesting problems”.
    12. Wire the sensors and the remote switch per your manufacturers instructions.
    13. At this point check all the wiring and the mechanics to see if anything is wrong. Make sure there is no wiring in the way of the door and that nothing can get caught by the door.
    14. Plug the electrical cord into the outlet. Nothing should move.
    15. Now press the door switch and watch the door open and then close.
    16. Some garage door openers have limit switches on the tracks. But most do not. Follow the manufacturers instructions for your door.

Use rough service light bulbs as the vibration of the opener motor will drastically shorten the life expectancy of a regular light bulb.


Take a 2 x 4 wood board and place it on the ground where the door closes. Press the down button on the remote. The door should close. When it hits the 2X4, it should stop and then reverse. If it doesn’t, the door needs adjustment.

This is protection for your child or even the hood of your car to minimize damage. If the door does not reverse and open, follow the manufactures instructions to clear the problem.

Everything is working now except the remotes. Usually there is a button inside one of the covers on the garage door opener mechanism. Usually there are some instructions that will make the programming easier for you.

Accessories for your garage door openers: How about an outside remote keypad (For when your mother-in-law locks you out while you are mowing the yard – which mine has done!) OR a remote monitoring system that lets you know when the garage door is open from within the home?
How about the ultimate accessory? Everyone has heard of using a tennis ball on a rope, hanging from the ceiling of your garage that will hit a specific location on your car, say the rear view mirror on your windshield. How about a more up to date vehicle locator? An IR laser system that will sense the heat of your car, turn on a laser that will guide you to park the car in the same specific location time after time.

This device is mounted on the ceiling and will shine a red laser to a specific location you want. Mine points to a button on the dash. When the beam hits that specific location, I know the car is exactly where I want it. The car is completely in the garage and there is room on both sides to get in and out.

Dave Altman

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