Top Garage Door Problems: #2 Photo Eyes

The photo eye in a garage door opening system is an important safety component. Without it, the door can accidently close onto a person or pet, potentially causing serious injury or death. Since 1993, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has required such devices on all garage door openers. The result has been a large decrease in injuries and deaths caused by garage doors accidently entrapping someone.

However, these safety devices are also a frequent source of problems in the functioning of garage doors. Most often, the symptom of this problem is a door which will not close at all or one which closes part way and then opens again. Fixing photo eye problems is often something homeowners can do themselves, or your garage door professional can easily resolve this issue for you.

How Garage Door Photo Eyes Work

The photo eye consists of two devices, one mounted at each side of the door about six inches above the floor. One eye produces a laser beam and the other sensor receives the light beam. When an object breaks the light beam and interrupts the circuit, the receiving sensor triggers the door to reopen, preventing it from closing on the object, person, or pet.

You can test the operation of the photo eye by intentionally placing something in the pathway of the light and then pressing the remote or wall button to close the door. The door should start to close and then automatically retract if the photo eye is working correctly. If there is any malfunction, a genuine safety hazard exists and repairs should be made immediately.

Some garage door openers have a light on the opening mechanism which is mounted in the ceiling. If this light is flashing, it is a sign something is wrong with the photo eye. There are also LED lights on each of the sensors on either side of the door. These lights stay on steadily when the two eyes are aligned with one another. If either is flashing, this is a sign that the photo eye is out of adjustment.

Fixing Garage Door Photo Eye Problems

The first thing to check when the photo eye is not working is whether something is obscuring the lens on one or both sensors. Often, dust, cobwebs, debris, or an object is interfering with the light beam. Gently wiping the photo eye lens on both sides of the door with a soft, damp cloth and then drying them often resolves the problem. In fact, cleaning these lenses every month or two is good preventative maintenance.

If cleaning the lenses does not fix the problem, release the manual emergency lever located in the ceiling. After pulling the cord, the door can be closed manually and you can check the alignment of the two eyes.

Each sensor is held in place on a mounting bracket with an easy-to-turn wingnut. Loosen the nut on the receiving sensor and move it around until the LED light stays on steadily. Then re-tighten the nut, reset the manual release mechanism, and check the operation of the door.

There are also electrical wires connected to each sensor. Sometimes these wires get twisted, pulled, or disconnected by a trash can or other object bumping into the sensor. Make sure the wires are connected to the sensors and that they are not pulled or stretched in any way. If the wires are connected and the LED lights are on steadily, but the door still does not work properly, it is time to call your garage door professional for repairs.

Garage door photo eye sensors are a vital component of the opener system. Malfunctions usually result in a door which will not close without releasing the manual emergency release cord. When photo eyes are not working properly, it is both inconvenient and hazardous. If you cannot resolve the problem yourself, your garage door service professional can get the problem solved for you quickly.