Your garage door isn’t automatic without a “brain” – the garage door opener, as well as the “brawn”, the strength behind your garage door-  the springs. But your modern garage door system is so much more than these two components.  Since a federal law was passed, any garage door system beginning on or after January 1, 1993, are required to be equipped with a reverse mechanism for safety from being trapped under the weight of a garage door. A sensor (photo eye) triggers this feature in automatic garage doors.

According to reports received by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), about 73 children between the ages of 2 and 14 have been trapped and killed under automatic garage doors since March 1982. If you’re still operating an older garage door system, Owner & head technician, Hector, of Elite Door Systems can’t stress enough, “upgrade your garage door system for safety today.”

This law not only keeps people safe, but it keeps expenses down, since objects in the path of the garage door are no longer crushed, as a result, the garage door system is spared from damage.  The photo eyes reside on either side of the garage door, about 4 – 6 inches off the ground. They appear like little boxes with a lens, each facing each other. An invisible beam is created between the two.

When an object, such as a bike or child is in the path of the garage door (breaking the invisible beam); if the transmitter is pressed, the photo eyes will sense the object, triggering the reverse mechanism in your garage door opener. The garage door will then stop and reverse to an open state.

With all these moving parts, come upkeep and maintenance. Most garage door repairs and maintenance should be done by a trained professional. There are a few things that you can do to help your system run smoothly though. One of those things is

inspecting and cleaning the photo eyes of your garage door system to make sure they are working properly.

If the alignment of your system’s photo eyes are out of place, and your garage door opener is working properly, your door should not be able to close.  If the photo eyes are dirty, then your system’s reverse mechanism may not work properly. It’s good practice to test your photo eyes at least once a month to ensure they are doing their intended function.

  • With your garage door open, activate your garage door to close it by hitting the transmitter. Hold a long object in the path of your photo eyes to break the sensor beam. The garage door should reverse and go back up.
  • If your garage door doesn’t close, check the alignment of the photo eyes on either side of the garage door. If your photo eyes are equipped with indicator lights, each light on the photo sensors should be solid. If they are flashing, they are out of alignment. If your sensors do not have indicators, visually inspect the alignment. If they appear off, grab a tape measure and check to make sure they are at the same height. Using a level or laser level, check that both photo eyes are pointing directly at each other.
  • If your garage door opener is working properly, it will not allow the garage door to close when the sensors are out of alignment.

Your photo eyes are just dirty:

  • If your garage door reverses, your photo eyes are working.
  • If it does not, quickly move the object out of the door’s path. Check the photo eyes for dirt. Now clean the lenses on your photo eyes with a soft cloth and mild cleaner. Lens cleaner made for glasses works well. Be careful not to scratch the lens.
  • Once you have inspected and cleaned the photo eyes, repeat the test.
  • If it does not resolve the issue, call your garage door tech. Something is wrong.

If you’re not getting anywhere with your tests, something else could be wrong. If your garage door opener’s reverse mechanism is not working, you need to call a professional and have your system inspected. You may need new sensors (photo eyes) or something else might be wrong. Here’s another helpful guide to why your garage door might not work. For more garage door safety tips, visit “Garage Door Safety Tips from Elite Door Systems.”