My Garage Door not Opening but Motor Running [Troubleshooting Tips]

An image of a garage door in use

Owning an automatic garage door is all fun and games until one day you click the remote’s button and nothing happens. The feeling is even worse if you’re in a hurry or on a tight budget and can’t picture the dent in your pocket after you incur the cost of repair services.

The good news is that you can remedy the situation with a few tips. This article explores the possible causes and solutions to your garage door not opening but motor running.

Let’s get to it.

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Garage door not opening but motor running

Experiencing problems with your garage door is common, especially if it has served you a long time. Dealing with a malfunction of the entire garage door system is one thing, but having a jammed garage door while the motor is running can be confusing.

When your garage door is not opening but the motor is running, it usually indicates a disconnection between the garage door and opener. You might have pulled the emergency release cord and disengaged the trolley from the opener’s carriage. As a result, when you click your remote, the motor runs but doesn’t communicate with the door.

Therefore, before panicking, check if the trolley has disconnected from the carriage. You can re-engage the door by pulling the emergency cord downwards and towards the drive unit until the trolley clicks into position. Subsequently, click the remote to check whether the door opens.

Otherwise, approach the situation with an open mind, considering that the problem could lie within the garage door, the motor, or the connection between the two.

Let’s start by troubleshooting the garage door.

How to Troubleshoot the Garage Door 

Step 1: Operate the door manually

The first step to troubleshooting the door is to ensure you close the door, then locate the emergency release cord. The garage door communicates with the door through the trolley, from which the emergency release cord hangs.

By pulling the emergency cord, you disconnect the opener and the door, allowing you to operate the door manually. Try opening and closing the door manually to check whether it still sticks. If this is the case, then the door itself has a problem.

Step 2: Inspect the garage door track

The track connects the opener to the carriage. It serves as the path along which the trolley glides as the door opens and closes. Therefore, any misalignment or crookedness of the rails or accumulation of debris could obstruct the trolley, and the door won’t open. 

Check if there’s any dirt on the track, wipe it off with a damp cloth, and use WD-40 spray for stubborn particles. Also, ensure the track is intact by removing and re-fastening the screws that hold it. You might as well re-assemble the rails with the help of a rubber mallet for best results.

Step 3: Check the torsion springs, cables, and pulleys.

The torsion springs bear most of your garage door’s weight and ensure that it balances. You can expect a spring to break once in a while following all the heavy lifting. These springs come as a pair and complement each other. When one of them is broken, the motor runs, but the door won’t open because the remaining spring can’t do the lifting by itself.

Upon manually operating the door, you will notice that it closes uncontrollably, indicating malfunctioning springs. If this is the case, it is advisable to seek professional repair services rather than attempting to fix the springs yourself. The same applies to damaged cables and pulleys for safety reasons.

Once you troubleshoot the door, you can start with the garage door opener or the motor itself through these steps:

How to Troubleshoot Garage Door Opener/Motor 

Step 1: Assess the opener’s remote control.

Before you resort to disassembling the drive unit, ensure you rule out the less complicated probable causes first. This includes ensuring your remote control is within range, and the antenna is in good condition. Additionally, replace the remote control’s batteries and check whether this resolves the problem.

Step 2: Ensure the opener is compatible.

Have you replaced your garage door opener lately? If yes, then incompatibility of the opener with your garage door is a probable cause. Newer garage openers in the market today exhibit intriguing features, but this doesn’t mean that any of them can enhance the convenience of your garage door.

Be sure to consult the manufacturer on whether the opener is compatible because your garage door’s weight could be overwhelming. In such a case, seek professional guidance to enable you to find a suitable opener for your garage door.

Step 3: Inspect the safety sensors

An ideal way to confirm safety sensor alignment is to check whether they are blinking green or red. Green lights indicate the sensors are in line, while red lights indicate an obstruction or misalignment.

In this case, start by dusting the sensors with a cloth to eliminate dust particles and remove any obstruction from the doorway. If this doesn’t solve the problem, re-align the sensors by loosening the screws and fastening them again. Consider positioning each of them six inches above the ground for accuracy.

Step 4: Adjust the travel limit settings.

The travel limits dictate how far down or up your garage door goes. Incorrect settings could cause the garage door to go too far down while closing, causing it to stick. In such an instance, consider decreasing the down travel setting. You can consult your manual to locate and adjust the travel limits accordingly because the procedure varies slightly depending on the model.

When you establish that neither the opener nor the door is the culprit, it means there could be a disruption of the engagement between the two. The trolley is the point of communication between the opener and the door because it lifts the garage opener through a chain or belt.

If you signal the opener to open the door and see the trolley moving, but the door stays put, it might be time to replace the trolley. Fortunately, replacing the trolley is a safe do-it-yourself task that you can perform with the help of your manual. Consider finding a replacement for any other broken garage door parts, such as the rollers.

When all else fails, reach out for professional garage repair services because the inner components of the motor could be defective. It isn’t advisable to open up the motor unit as you could end up voiding the warranty or worsening the problem.

A video showing how to troubleshoot garage door opener/motor

How to release and reset the emergency cord on a garage door

One thing to love about an automated garage door is that it gives you options. Thanks to the emergency release cord, you can easily switch to manual operations in case of a hitch. Understanding the anatomy of your garage door system is the foundation of enabling you to release and reset its emergency cord quickly.

The garage opener features a track with the drive unit at one end and the carriage at the other. A trolley attaches to this carriage and connects to the garage door via the arm bar. You can operate your garage door automatically thanks to the trolley, which slides back and forth along the track.

Also emerging from the trolley is a red emergency cord. You can use the cord to disengage and re-engage the garage opener through these steps:

  1. Ensure you close the garage door first before disconnecting it from the opener. Failure to do so could result in the garage door tumbling down and can cause severe injuries.
  2. Locate the red emergency release cord, usually dangling from the trolley.
  3. Gently pull the cord downwards and then toward the drive unit until you hear a click sound. The click signifies that you have disconnected the trolley from the carriage and can now manually open and close the door.
  4. Similarly, pull the cord downwards, but this time toward the garage door, if you want to revert to automatic operation. You should also hear the click to indicate that the trolley has reconnected to the carriage.
  5. Finish up by operating the opener with the remote control to restore automatic function.

What do you do when your electric garage door won’t open?

Electrical appliances are bound to malfunction at some point, and your garage door isn’t an exception. It is among the access points you use more frequently, which increases its likelihood of breaking down. However, before you fret, ensure the basics are in check by ensuring the power is on, and the remote control is within range.

More importantly, check if you accidentally pulled the emergency release cord and failed to reinstate it to restore automatic operation. Also, eliminate any nearby devices interfering with the remote’s signal and try replacing the batteries on the remote control or keypad.

Check if the LED light on the wall console is blinking to confirm if you locked the opener from inside. In this case, long press the button on the wall console to unlock the door. Otherwise, reprogramming the remote should do the trick.

If these don’t remedy the situation, troubleshoot the garage door parts one at a time, starting with the track. Ensure it is intact and devoid of any debris that could obstruct the trolley. Follow up by checking for any gaps within the torsion springs, in which case you will have to seek professional assistance.

Don’t forget to check the rollers, pulleys, and cables for any defects to establish whether you will need a replacement. Also, confirm if the travel limits are accurate and align the photo eyes. If these garage door parts are in good condition, but the door still fails to open, the motor could be broken. In this case, you will have to resort to manual operation as you seek professional repair services for ultimate results.

How do I know if my torsion spring is broken?

The torsion springs above your garage door play a crucial role in supporting the door’s weight. Experiencing broken torsion springs, especially after using your garage door for an extended period, is therefore inevitable. If your garage door malfunctions, consider inspecting the springs, as they are more likely to cause the problem.

The simplest way is to observe the springs for any gaps. The gaps indicate that the spring is broken. Also, if this is the case, you will notice that the cables are all over the place because the springs keep them intact.

Typically, the springs should help you bear the weight of the door. If you notice that the door’s weight is unbearable, it’s time to repair the springs. An ideal way to confirm whether the springs are broken is to operate the door manually by pulling the emergency release cord.

Another vital sign to look out for is how far up the garage door goes and how smoothly it closes. When the springs break, they cannot adequately support the door’s weight. Therefore, you may find that your garage door opens halfway, then jams, or worse, it doesn’t open. In addition, the door might fall to the ground uncontrollably during the closure, exposing you to injury.

A noisy garage door that opens slowly can also indicate broken springs, which tend to be very loud. Breakage of the springs will result in them struggling to lift the door. For this reason, you may notice that your garage door opens unusually slowly.

All these factors, plus a garage door that exhibits imbalance, can indicate that the springs are broken. In each case, it is advisable to reach out to a professional for assistance to prevent accidents.

Why is my garage door clicking but not opening?

The most probable cause for your garage door clicking and failing to open is an obstruction of the safety sensors. The obstacle can be anything ranging from a few dust particles to the accumulation of debris. It could also be an object in the doorway. The sensors usually produce a clicking sound whenever something disrupts their light beam.

Therefore, it is advisable to dust and re-align the photo eyes to restore their beam of light so that they can stop producing the clicking sound. If adjusting the photo eyes fails to solve the problem, assess the garage door rollers.

You probably open and close the garage door at least twice daily, meaning the rollers are subject to friction daily. If you haven’t replaced the rollers in a long time, it may be time to do so. Otherwise, have a professional look at the garage opener’s motor unit as it could be failing.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What does it mean when a garage door opener just clicks?

When your garage door opener clicks, it indicates that something obstructs it from opening or closing. Before you resort to complex solutions, ensure you haven’t locked the door from inside. Also, check whether the trolley is connected to the carriage because you might be operating the door manually.

In addition, the part of the garage door that deals with obstacles is the safety sensors. Any obstruction of the safety sensors will make them prevent the garage door from opening or closing for safety reasons.

Why would a garage door stop working?

Before you conclude that your garage door isn’t working, try replacing the batteries if you haven’t done so in a while. Otherwise, the garage door would stop working for many reasons, the most common being poor maintenance and prolonged service life.

Failing to perform routine maintenance practices such as cleaning and lubricating the garage door parts can make the door jam easily. Also, a garage door is heavy, and using it for a long time without replacing worn-out parts could exhaust it.

Why is my garage door chain not moving?

If you just installed a new garage opener only to operate it and realize that the chain isn’t moving, you may have overtightened it. Ensure the pulley rotates freely so the chain can move effortlessly.

Also, using a garage opener that can’t withstand the weight of your garage door is likely to overwhelm the chain. For this reason, the chain could wear out faster and eventually stop moving, forcing you to make a replacement.

What does a yellow light mean on a garage door sensor?

When the garage door sensors blink yellow, it’s time to re-align them because you might have accidentally knocked them out of place. If this happens, dust the lenses with a cloth, then make sure the sensors are in line. You can do so by enduring each is at least six inches from the ground.


It is safe to say that the garage door system does a lot of heavy lifting; therefore, it is no surprise when the system malfunctions. However, not to worry because, in most cases, you can effectively troubleshoot the system yourself and restore its functionality.

Fixing the problem through the steps above is easy if it lies within garage door parts other than the springs, pulleys, cables, or the motor itself. You will want to consult a professional for safety reasons if the problem involves these parts.

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