Having a garage door opener that constantly jams can be incredibly frustrating. As the opener ages and components wear out, issues like jamming and sticking become more common. However, repairing an old garage door opener is often inexpensive and straightforward with some basic mechanical skills and the right troubleshooting approach. In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk through all the key steps needed to diagnose and fix a garage door opener that won't stop jamming.
Diagnosing the Cause of the Jamming
The first step is to diagnose why your garage door opener keeps jamming. There are several possible causes, which require different solutions:
Worn Out Opener Gear or Chain
The metal drive gear or chain that connects the opener motor to the garage door can wear out over time. As they degrade, the chain can slip and jam on the gear teeth.
Inspect visually for any broken, warped, or severely worn teeth on the drive gear. Also check for loose or damaged links in the metal drive chain. If either component is very worn, replacement is needed.
Obstructed Door Tracks
Debris and dirt can build up in the metal door tracks over time. If the rollers or door panels bump into obstructions in the track, it can cause the opener to jam.
Use a flashlight to carefully inspect along all areas of the track. Look for buildup of rock, dirt, cobwebs, etc. Then use a rag or brush to wipe and clean the tracks completely.
Garage door openers have an infrared sensor system to detect objects obstructing the door. If the sensors are knocked out of alignment, it can confuse the opener and cause it to jam.
Check if the sensors are perfectly aligned facing each other on each side of the door. Re-align them if needed so they can send a clear signal.
Damaged Door Springs
The heavy torsion springs that counterbalance the door can become damaged or worn out over years of use. Weak springs that do not properly lift the door's weight will cause jams.
Inspect the springs visually and check if the door easily rises when disengaged from the opener. Failure to rise indicates worn springs that likely need replacement.
Burned Out Opener Motor
The electric motor inside the opener that lifts the door can eventually burn out and fail. A motor issue will lead to frequent jams, especially when trying to lift heavy doors.
Listen and feel if the motor is laboring or making odd noises. Have a technician test the motor and check for problems like worn brushes or overheating.
Fixing a Jammed Opener
Once the source of the problem is identified, you can move on to fixing the jamming issue:
Replacing the Opener Gear and Chain
If either the drive gear or chain is damaged, replacement is straightforward:
- Order the correct replacement part from the opener manufacturer
- Remove the old gear or chain and uninstall it
- Carefully install the new gear or chain in the proper position
- Lubricate with motor oil to prevent future jams
Be sure to note which specific gear and chain models match your opener. Removing and re-installing the hardware takes basic mechanical skills.
Cleaning Dirty Tracks
To remedy debris buildup in tracks causing jams:
- Use a vacuum to suck up dirt and pebbles in the track groove
- Wipe down each track with a wet rag to clear grease and grime
- Spray lubricant on a rag and polish tracks to prevent future buildup
- Test that the door panels move smoothly after cleaning
Repeat track cleaning every few months to prevent recurrence of obstructions.
Re-Aligning the Sensors
If misaligned sensors are causing the jams:
- Loosen the sensor mounts to adjust their positioning
- Align them directly facing each other on each side of the door
- Adjust up or down so the sensors are lined up about 6 inches off the ground
- Tighten mounts and ensure sensors do not move out of alignment
This should resolve any issues of the opener not receiving the sensor beam.
Replacing Worn Out Door Springs
To handle jamming from weak springs:
- Measure current springs to get their size specifications
- Order matched replacement torsion springs
- Carefully remove old springs and install new ones
- Secure springs to the opener's torsion shaft with clamps
- Test balance by disconnecting opener and ensuring door lifts smoothly
Replacing heavy garage door springs can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Consider hiring a professional if DIY replacement seems beyond your skill level.
Repairing or Replacing the Opener Motor
For an opener motor that is worn out and jamming:
- Try cleaning and lubricating the motor gearcase to improve operation
- Check brushes and bushings for wear and replace if needed
- If motor still does not run properly, it likely needs total replacement
- Install a new 1/2 HP opener motor matched to your model
- Program the new motor with the original remote settings
Be sure to get an exact replacement motor to avoid modification hassles. Professional installation is recommended if you're unfamiliar with electrical motors.
Preventing Future Garage Door Opener Jams
Once any repairs are complete, some general maintenance can help maximize your opener's lifespan and avoid future jamming:
- Lubricate the drive chain, gear teeth, and rollers monthly with lightweight oil
- Inspect the door balance and tracks seasonally for signs of wear
- Clean the tracks thoroughly twice per year to remove dirt buildup
- Check all opener sensors and wires for damage periodically
- Replace the backup battery every 2-3 years
- Update to LED bulbs in the opener light fixtures
Following these garage door maintenance best practices will help your opener stay in smooth working order for many years to come!
When to Call a Professional for Opener Repair
While many common garage opener problems can be DIY repaired, sometimes it's safer to have a professional service technician handle the issue. Consider calling a pro for:
- Replacing large garage door torsion springs
- Total opener motor replacement
- Major repairs after a crash or impact damage
- If unfamiliar or uneasy with electrical/mechanical DIY work
Technicians have specialized tools and expertise to safely conduct more complex garage door and opener repairs.
Fixing a garage door opener that constantly jams is totally doable with some diligent troubleshooting and basic home repair skills. Identifying the root cause, like worn gears, dirty tracks, or broken springs, is the first key step. From there, follow the proper repair procedures like replacing parts, realigning sensors, and cleaning debris. And be sure to follow garage door maintenance best practices to maximize the longevity of your opener. With the right approach, you can get your garage door working smoothly again and eliminate those frustrating jams for good!