Q: I have a three-car garage and I am having different problems with both garage doors. On the single-car door I have lost the remote, and the larger door sometimes opens by itself. Any Suggestions?
A: I feel your pain. Years ago, I moved into a house and I would come home from work to find my garage door open. At other times in the dead of night, I would hear the hum of the garage door opener and I would bolt up and out of bed expecting to see a thief raiding my garage, but nobody was there.
I thought that one of my neighbors had the same code or frequency I had, so I set up reconnaissance on all my neighbor's remotes, but they were clean. The problem ended up being a bad wall button and after I replaced it, the problem never recurred.
Let's take care of the missing remote first. You can buy replacements for major brands at home centers (they also sell universal remotes), or you may have to contact a distributor for the right one. Write down the model number to be sure you are getting the right remote.
There are two basic ways to program it. The older and less expensive remotes have a row of "dipswitches" that need to be set in the same position as the receiver (the actual opener attached to your garage ceiling). If you check the back of the opener, you will see a row of tiny switches that you can move into the "up" or "down" position.
You can find the matching dipswitches on your remote by removing the battery in the back. Use a pen or other small object to move the dipswitches so that they are in the same positions on both the opener and remote.
By the way, if your opener opens by itself, you can change the positions of the dipswitches to see if that corrects the problem. It may be that your neighbor has the same settings. I would recommend changing them anyway to prevent anyone who might have found your lost remote from entering your garage.
The other method to reprogram your remote is just a matter of pressing a few buttons. First, clear the memory on your opener. There is a button on the back or side of your opener (called the "learn" or "smart" button) with a LED light next to it that programs the remotes and keypads. It is usually red, but it may be yellow or green.
To clear the memory, press this button and hold it down until the LED stops blinking (around 10 seconds). On some units, you hold the button down until the light turns on (about 6 seconds), and then you can reprogram it.
To reprogram, press the button on the back of the opener. When it starts blinking, simply press the remote's button and the LED should go out. You are ready to use the opener. Some manufacturers will have you press the remote button as many as three times before you can use it. You can program additional remotes the same way.
As far as your garage door mysteriously opening by itself, there are many possible causes. The most likely ones deal with either the remote, the button on the wall, or the sensors.
If you already re-programed your remote and the door still opens on its own, move on to the wall button. Temporarily borrow the button from your other opener (assuming they are the same brand) and install it on the problem opener. Wrap one wire around each terminal on the back of the button and see if the problem continues.
If it does, you may have a short in the wiring from the opener to the button. Run a new length of wire from the opener to the button and see if the problem recurs.
If it does, move on to the sensors at the base of the garage door. Follow the same steps: change the sensors first, and if that doesn't work, change the wiring. If one of this works, you may have a problem with the opener's motherboard, in which case you should probably call a professional. Until you figure out this problem, you might want to unplug your opener when you leave the house or go to bed.
Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to: PO Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is: www.pro-handyman.com