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A New Opening

It was last fall when I finally gave our garage a makeover; a redo very much overdue.

Once I finished, the garage looked better than when we had first moved in.  But not long after, our garage door opener started acting finicky.  Whether it was due to my renovation work or just coincidental, I could not figure out.

The problem started out that after opening the garage door using the wall switch, our remote opener would not work after we had backed our car out.  And it didn’t seem to act up every time which was further puzzling.  When we would drive back home, our car remote would work just fine to open the garage door.  I knew this kind of intermittent problem was going to be hard to troubleshoot.

So, over the winter, we just dealt with it whenever it happened.  My wife would walk back into the garage, push the wall button, and then come out the front door of the house to her idling car.  I on the other hand, developed a quick garage door shuffle where after backing my car out,  I would push the wall button, scoot across the floor quickly, and then take big steps over the reversing sensors while ducking under the door as it was closing (probably not the safest method).

Then one day when I was working in the garage, I opened the door to get some extra light on whatever project I was doing.  A few minutes later, I heard the opener make a faint click.  I wondered if this was related to our problem.   I walked out to one of our cars parked on the driveway, pushed the remote in the car and voilà, the garage door closed.  Once it closed, I pushed the remote button in the car again and…nothing happened.  With a bit more scientific experimentation, I discovered that until the unit clicked again, the remote would not work.

I told my great discovery to my wife and so we adjusted our behavior and began to open the garage door a few minutes before we planned to leave.  Then once we backed out, the remote would work.  We didn’t have a great solution to our problem but at least we had a workable one.

All my springtime outdoor activities and numerous trips kept me from coming up with a better solution.  Finally, in the middle of the summer, I decided to give the manufacturer a call to see if they could help me figure out what was going on.  I ended up spending about an hour and a half on the phone talking with a technician and trying a number of ideas.  I explained about the “clicking” noise, even timing it a couple of times for him at exactly 4.5 minutes but he said there was nothing that should make that noise.  However, once he suggested replacing the burned-out light bulb in the opener, I finally made the connection.

The bulb comes on whenever the garage door is opened and with the click 4.5 minutes later, the light goes out.  The technician said that it sounded like the logic board was going bad but unfortunately since the unit was over 20 years old, the logic board was no longer produced.  I asked what the remedy was, and he said replace the entire unit.  I asked him if this was something a homeowner could do themselves and he was very optimistic that with their online videos, almost anyone could replace one.

I told my wife that we would have to replace it and that I would wait for cooler weather so we would have to continue our machinations a little longer.  But, then in August the remotes stopped working completely.  Even when we returned after hours, the remotes would not work leaving us with this frustrating closed-door look.

Now it became an even greater irritation because on top of what we had to do to close it upon leaving, we now had to go through the front door just to get in the house every time we drove home.

I did some research and found what seemed like a good replacement.  I weighed the pros and cons of “belts vs. chains” and decided to opt for the more expensive belt drive since it was advertised as being much quieter.  I tried buying it at my local favorite toy store, but they did not carry the model I wanted and so ended up ordering it from my favorite online store.

Before attempting the job, I watched several of the online videos, some produced by the manufacturer and some by individuals.  They were extremely helpful.  If you are considering this job, definitely watch the videos first.

The first step obviously was to take down the old unit with rail and chain attached.  I decided to assemble the new unit right beside it to see how it would compare in length.  Because I have an 8-foot garage door, I had to additionally purchase an extension kit since most garage door opener kits are designed for a 7-foot door.  Once I had the unit assembled, it seemed fairly comparable.

Because I was replacing a chain drive with a belt drive, I had to replace the header bracket over the garage door.  Once complete, I had to get my wife to help me lift it up, her raising the door end of the rail ten feet away and me, lifting the motor unit up on top of a ladder.  This one step is definitely a two-person job.

As I attached the new unit, I saw that it just barely had clearance between the back of the unit and the support beam running the width of the garage.  But it did fit!

The next step was to install the wall switch and the two reversing sensors.  I considered running the new wiring included with the kit but then decided to just tie into the existing wiring since I might likely encounter obstacles trying to pull new wires through the wall and ceilings.  Only problem was the wiring at the unit for the wall switch and the two reversing sensors was three different telephone lines (old school four thin insulated copper wires encased in plastic insulation).  Because these were originally wired into the back of the old unit with no easy access, I had previously cut them just to get the old unit down.

I hoped that whoever had installed the old opener had followed the time-honored practice of connecting solid to solid and white to white no matter what color the wires were.  Turns out, thankfully they did.  All the appropriate lights came in when I connected all the wires and plugged the new unit in.

I recalled from when a service technician had replaced our broken door springs that he had had to “play” with the up and down screw settings repeatedly using a trial and error approach to get the up and down travel just right.  Thanks to modern technology, this was a very simple process of punching a few buttons as the motor “learned” its new door.

The last step was to add an exterior pad (which we did not previously have) for opening the garage from the outside by entering a numbered code, a nice feature to use in the future when I am working outside and need something from the garage.

The first time I opened the door, I could not believe how quiet the motor was.  Our old unit was loud enough to wake the dead and was most jarring to anyone in the playroom above the garage who might be trying to sleep.  My wife couldn’t believe how quiet it was as well.

My replacement process was definitely easier than a brand-new installation where all steps would be required.  I’ve never attempted this type of repair job before, but the online videos really helped me visualize all the words in the manual.  I told my wife I didn’t know if another opportunity would arise in the future for me to again replace a garage door opener but based on this first experience, I would definitely do it again.

So here’s to lots of new openings!

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