While garage doors are made of heavy materials like metals and wood, they are designed with components like torsion springs that do the heavy lifting. As a result, you often don’t feel the weight and can lift the entire thing with one hand or just a few fingers.
Unfortunately, some of these key components can fail for various reasons, keeping the garage door from operating properly.
When your garage door only opens a few inches, it could indicate that one of the key components has a fault. This article explores the possible reasons for such a problem and how to fix them.
Garage Door Only Opens A Few Inches – (Why and How to Fix it)
If your garage door opens only a few inches and then stops, the likely culprit is a defective spring assembly.
The torsion spring in your garage door is responsible for lifting the garage door and carrying its weight. It stores the mechanical energy required for lifting the garage door back to its fully open position.
This essential component works together with the garage door system of cables to perform its function. It is typically mounted on the horizontal bar above the garage door, where it twists and tightens during closing and unwinds when opening the door.
For this operation to be seamless, the torsion spring must be set correctly to counterbalance the garage door’s weight.
When the setting is not right, one of the problems you are likely to encounter is the garage door opening only slightly.
Reasons why your garage door opens only slightly
While a defective torsion spring assembly is typically the most common cause of a garage door opening only a few inches and then stopping, multiple other reasons could cause the same problem.
It is a pretty common problem, especially after servicing the garage door. So it helps to know what might cause such an issue to be better prepared when it happens in your home or business.
Notice that this problem can be one of two kinds:
- A defect related to the motor unit of your garage door opener and;
- A defect related to the door itself. This involves a defective garage door component such as the springs.
Below, we look at the common problems related to the motor unit and the garage door itself.
Defective torsion springs
The torsion springs are responsible for carrying the weight of the door when lifting it up. When closing the garage door, the coiled spring will twist and tighten on the bar passing through its middle.
This coiling creates the tension that the spring releases when opening the door, lifting it in the process. However, the spring can fail to operate the door properly due to two main reasons:
Broken torsion springs
If the torsion spring on your garage door is broken, the door loses the mechanical energy required to lift it.
Your garage door opener may not have the required lifting power to pull the entire weight of the garage door without the help of the spring. As a result, the door may open only a few inches before stopping in its tracks.
Rusted torsion springs
Notice that the springs are made of metal, so you are always advised to keep them adequately lubricated. However, if the springs stay without oiling for a long while, they may develop salt crystals or rust, preventing smooth spring movement.
The impeded movement can lead to jamming of the springs and stopping the door from opening as expected.
You can always tell when your springs are out of lubrication when they squeak while operating the door.
It is always best to respond to any speaking sounds promptly by oiling the door before it stops working at all.
Such preventive maintenance can save your garage door from suffering a total failure. However, once it fails and starts stopping on the tracks, ensure you call a professional to fix it before you resume preventive maintenance.
Damaged or rusty rollers
Damaged rollers are uncommon but not an unlikely cause of the problem of the garage door opening a few inches.
The rollers are the functional wheels inside the door brackets that enable the garage door to glide along the tracks. They need oiling to work smoothly.
However, if the rollers stay without lubrication for too long, they may become caked and balky, eventually jamming in their tracks.
Such damaged rollers can impede garage door movement and cause it to stop on its way up when you attempt to open it.
You can tell whether the rollers are the problem by manually opening the door and observing the movement. If the springs are sound, but there is resistance, the rollers or misaligned tracks may be the source of the problem.
For damaged rollers, replacing them may be necessary. However, if they are simply caked with grime, lubricating them may fix the problem.
Garage door tracks can fall out of alignment for any number of reasons. If repeated use and other forms of mechanical force cause the rails to fall out of shape or become bent, the bad shape can impede the garage door movement.
The garage door requires a clear path to glide in the tracks. If they shift or become bent, the door can start rubbing against the walls of the tracks. If the problem persists, the door can get bound in the tracks, stopping its movement and potentially causing it to open only slightly.
You should be able to tell if the tracks are out of alignment by eyeballing them. Other signs of misalignment include unpleasant noises and inconsistent garage door movement. These are all signs that you could read before the door breaks down and stops working.
If you cannot see any problem that way, you can use a level to test the alignment.
Once you detect the problem, you could attempt to repair it with a rubber mallet. Here is a detailed article on adjusting garage door track alignment that could help.
While fixing misaligned racks is typically a DIY task, don’t shy away from calling a professional if you do not feel confident about the repair.
Stiffness due to cold weather
Sometimes chilly winters have a toll on the metallic components of garage doors. The weather can cause essential garage door parts like the tracks to constrict, leaving little room for the door to travel.
When your door only opens a few inches before stopping, and it is winter, constricted garage door parts may be responsible. The cold weather can cause the rollers to get stiff or the tracks to contract.
Both problems can hinder the garage door movement and likely keep it from opening fully. Sometimes it may not open at all.
Frigid weather can also inhibit the communication between the garage door and its opener. As a result, the weather sometimes makes the opener less sensitive and unwilling to open the door.
However, you can fix this problem yourself by adjusting the opener sensitivity. Ensure you consult the user manual for instructions on adjusting the garage door opener sensitivity.
We also recommend oiling the rollers when this problem occurs. The lubrication can turn things around and restore normal functioning to the opener and door.
Faulty logic board
The logic board is like the brain of the motor unit of any garage door opener system. Like any computer system, this component can wear out over time and become defective.
Such a defective ‘brain’ can send the wrong instruction to the moving parts of the system, leading to such malfunction as a door that opens only slightly.
The best solution to a faulty logic board is a replacement. You can replace the logic board or the entire opener. Alternatively, you can let an expert diagnose the problem and assess the level of damage before deciding what to replace or fix.
Garage Door Only Opens A Few Inches – How to Diagnose the Problems
Now that you know the culprits that might cause your garage door to open only a few inches, here is a simple way to diagnose each.
Knowing how to diagnose the problem on your own may not help you solve it, but you will have more details about it when placing a service call. Such details can lead to better quality and a more speedy solution.
Step 1: Try operating the garage door manually.
This first step is to determine the location of your garage door problem. The problem can either be related to the motor unit on your garage door opener or the garage door itself.
Some of the problems related to the motor unit on the garage door are fixable through a DIY approach. This means you can resolve some of these problems on your own.
However, problems related to the garage door, such as a broken torsion spring, are better left to the experts. Attempting to fix such an issue without the necessary tools or expertise can lead to accidents.
- Start by pulling the emergency release cord (often red in color). Pulling this cord disconnects the garage door opener from the garage door through the attachment point to let you operate it manually.
- Slide the door along the track and observe the movement for any resistance. Now that you have removed the automated carriage, the door should move effortlessly along the carriage.
- Smooth and easy movement of the garage door when you open and close it by hand indicates properly working springs. This means the torsion springs are not the issue.
Step 2: Observe the garage door springs if there is resistance
If you feel resistance when opening or closing the door manually, it would mean the problem is not related to the unit but a component of the garage door itself.
The most likely scenario is that the torsion springs are not working properly to counterbalance the weight of the door.
- Examine the torsion springs. These are typically coiled on the horizontal metal bar mounted above your garage door. This is where to look.
- The damage may be hidden, so ensure you look closely to see if the spring is broken anywhere.
- A good torsion spring will be continuous with no visible damage. In contrast, a broken torsion spring should have a visible breakage point. Additionally, your garage door may have two of these springs, so you should examine each of them.
- Examine the extension springs. These ones extend on each side of the garage door, stretching out above the door’s track.
- A good extension spring will look normal, while a damaged one will be visibly warped or have over-extended coils.
Step 3: Contact a professional if you see a warped or broken spring
You may not be able to fix a damaged garage door spring unless you are a technician yourself. So, this problem is better left to an expert.
A garage door technician will examine the springs and diagnose the damage further before deciding on the best solution. In any case, they should help restore the normal functioning of your door and advise on the best way to maintain the various components.
If you opt to buy a replacement spring on your own, the supplier may ask you to carry the damaged spring.
This requirement is typically intended to help them replace it with an exact match while also showing that you are savvy with the springs, as they can be dangerous to work with.
The video below elaborates on how to fix a garage door that won’t open all the way but only a few inches
Why Won’t My Garage Door Open All The Way In Cold Weather?
As weird as it may sound, cold weather can significantly affect the performance of your garage door. Added to the common garage door problems, the cold weather can only aggravate the problems.
If your garage door won’t open all the way in cold weather, the problem may be a lack of lubrication, contraction or shrinking of the metal pieces, or broken springs.
Here are the potential problems and ways to diagnose them.
Lack of Lubrication
Cold weather can harden the grease and make it compact, which influences the smooth operation of your garage door. If your garage door does not open in cold weather, check the grease on the joints and tracks. Wipe out the compacted or hardened grease using a grease solvent and apply a new lubricant.
As an advantage, ensure you have applied enough grease as your garage door will open smoothly in cold weather if the amount of grease is high. Proper lubrication is one of the main means of maintaining your garage door in cold weather.
Your garage door won’t open all the way or properly if it has broken springs. Your garage door’s tension springs can be fragile and rigid. For instance, a temperature change, low temperatures, can result in broken springs, affecting the closing or opening of the garage doors.
In that case, you need to seek professional help to fix the springs and avoid being hurt, especially if you are a newbie.
Shrinking or Contraction of the Metal Pieces
The metallic parts of your garage door can shrink or contract, another reason for your garage door opening only partially. The metals shrink or contract in cold weather because the space between the molecules reduces.
The contraction of metallic parts such as hinges or springs can be resolved by applying lubricants to the parts for smooth operations. Use a silicone-based lubricant as it is a perfect lubricant in cold weather.
Misaligned or Warped Tracks
During the cold weather, the contraction of your garage door can pull it off the track, causing partial closing or opening. In addition, the cold weather or humid conditions may cause the warping of the tracks.
The changes in weather conditions can result in your garage door going off the track and hence won’t open or close fully. If this is the situation, you can get the door back to the track by yourself or contact an expert for professional service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my garage door only opening partially?
When your garage door is only opening partially, the problem may be with the travel or force limit. You need to adjust the two as they are the primary culprits to a garage door that won’t open all the way. Also, check if anything is binding the door when it is closing or opening.
Why won’t my garage door open more than a foot?
Your garage door may not open more than one foot if there is an object on its path. Garage doors are equipped with safety sensors that stop and reverse their directions whenever objects, small kids, or pets are in their path. The sensors prevent the doors from shutting on any object.
Thus, when your garage door stops when closing, check for any possible blockage on its path.
Why does my garage door stop halfway?
Your garage door may stop halfway due to inappropriate limit setting. Garage doors are equipped with limit switches that control the amount of force the doors are allowed to exert when closing or opening. However, if the setting is wrong or inappropriate, the door might stop midway showing its job is done.
Check on the limit switches and adjust them to the correct settings when compounded with the garage door problem stopping halfway.
Why does my garage door keep stopping when opening?
A garage door that stops when opening may have stretched or broken tension springs. Check on the springs and if they are stretched or damaged, consider calling a repair expert to fix them.
If you are sure to have the knowledge to fix it yourself, take precautions not to get harmed or permanently destroy the door.
When a garage door only opens a few inches, the problem might be related to the garage door or the opener system. Often, a broken torsion spring may be responsible for the malfunction. However, other factors like stiffened parts due to chilly weather and misaligned tracks can also be responsible.
Knowing how to diagnose the problem can help you decide better whether to fix it yourself or call for professional assistance.
Whichever the case, we hope this article helps you understand this common garage door problem better. Leave a comment in the comments below if you have any thoughts or additions to share.