How to Manually Open & Close a Garage Door

by Product Review Lad | Last Updated: Januar 4, 2022

Automatic garage doors are wonderfully convenient. But what happens when your garage door isn’t opening or closing anymore? Are you going to be trapped within the garage forever? As long as you know how to manually open and close a garage door, everything is going to be okay.

Understanding how garage doors work and some of the reasons why the door isn’t opening or closing is also important. That’s why we’re going over everything, so you can open and close a garage door safely. 

Let’s get started.

How to Manually Open & Close a Garage Door

Safety Tips To Keep in Mind

But first, a word of warning: Moving a garage door can result in injuries or death when not done properly. Keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Use the emergency release handle on the garage door for disengaging the trolley only if the garage door is closed. If you try to use the emergency release handle while the door is open, any compromised springs or imbalance could cause the entire door to drop down rapidly and suddenly.
  • Never use the emergency release without first clearing the area around the garage door of obstructions, including people, pets, and tools.
  • Never use the emergency handle as a way to pull the garage door open or closed. The knot of the rope could unwind, causing you to fall.’
  • Always unplug the automatic open before manually lifting and lowering the door. Otherwise, there is a high chance of electrical shock.

Reasons Why Garage Doors Won’t Open or Close

You can’t know how to manually open and close a garage door without first troubleshooting the reason. If you attempt to open the garage door without knowing it won’t automatically move, you could severely damage the door, get seriously injured, or both.

If you’re struggling to open or close an automatic garage door, it’s typically one of these issues:

  • Loose or broken garage door cables
  • Broken springs
  • Experienced a power outage
  • The door has been moved off the track
  • The door remote is malfunctioning
  • Malfunctioning sensors

How to Manually Open and Close a Garage Door

Should an event occur that knocks your automatic garage door motionless, there are two things you must figure out before moving forward: whether there is a battery back-up and what style garage door opener you have.

Battery Back-Up

If you own a more modern garage door system, you may find that there is a battery backup. This can power a garage door long enough to get in or out of your garage. However, the batteries don’t last forever and are specific to each unit, so you can’t replace them at home once they go bad.

For the sake of security, have a garage door technician inspect the battery back-up regularly and replace it when necessary. That way, you know that even when the power goes out, your door is going to be easier to lift than the manual way.

Don’t have a battery backup? Then you’re going to need to know how to manually open and close a garage door safely. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Garage Door Opener

The next thing you need to double-check is the garage door opener. There are three common types:

  • Square rail
  • T-rail
  • Wall-mounted

Depending on which rail style you have, the way you manually open or close the garage door is going to change slightly. Knowing which one applies to your situation can save you from injury and frustration.

Opening & Closing Garage Door with Square Rail Opener

The first step for every door is to disengage it. In order to do that, you must do the following:

  1. Before attempting to manually operate the door, make sure it is fully in the down position.
  2. Pull down the emergency release cord that you will see hanging from the trolley. When in the down position, the cord hangs at the front of the door. You shouldn’t miss it, unless the cord is gone.
  3. Once you pull the cord, you will hear and see the trolley’s release vertically with a snap and disconnect from the rail.
  4. Now you can operate the door manually.

To re-engage the garage door, do this:

  1. Pull the emergency release cord in towards the door.
  2. Once you do that, the release arm on the trolley will once again be horizontal. This reconnects the trolley with the carriage.
  3. You can then reconnect the trolley to the open by running the opener all the way up and down. The trolley and carriage will reconnect and make the door operate electronically once again.

Opening & Closing Garage Door with T-Rail Opener

The T-rail process is a little less complicated than doors with a square rail. Follow these steps:

  1. As always, make sure the door is in the down position and flush to the floor.
  2. Tug the emergency release cord. If you want to lock the trolley out, you must pull the emergency release down straight then move it back towards the opener. By locking out the trolley, you can manually open and close the garage door as often as you want.

To re-engage the T-rail opener:

  1. Pull the release cord straight down.
  2. The trolley will reconnect the next time you lift the door.

Opening & Closing a Wall-Mounted Garage Door Opener

In order to manually open a wall-mounted door opener, you need to first ensure it is in the utmost down position. From there:

  1. Disengage the lock on the door.
  2. Pull the handle of the emergency release. You will hear a click.
  3. You can now move the down up and down manually.

To reconnect the garage door to the wall-mounted opener, do the following:

  1. Pull the emergency handle down until there is a click.
  2. The door will be reconnected during the next operation.

What Happens if The Emergency Release Cord Breaks?

If you want to manually open and close a garage door, everything needs to be in working order. This includes the emergency release cord. Without this vital component, your door won’t function manually. In order to decrease the risk of truly being trapped inside the garage during a power outage or other emergency, make sure you’re maintaining the emergency release.

Also look for damages to the emergency release cord, such as:

  • Rust or corrosion around the springs
  • Rotten or frayed sections of the release cord
  • Cracked or broken handle

If the cord has any of the above-mentioned problems, you should assume the emergency release isn’t functional. Such damages can make pulling the emergency release cord rather risky. You will need professional assistance to get the garage door to work in this situation.

That said, if the cord itself is the only thing damaged, you can replace it by following these steps:

  1. Cut the old cord and remove it from the mechanism.
  2. Feed the new section of cord through the handle. The handle gives you plenty of room to hold the cord and pull it through. This end will hang from the handle.
  3. Secure the cord to the handle by tying a knot. The knot can be simple, as long as it doesn’t come untied and slip back through the handle.
  4. Feed the other end of the new release cord through the mechanism. You will see on the release that there is a spot where the cord goes through, usually by a lever.
  5. Make sure the cord is about 6 feet off the ground for optimal clearance. Next, tie a knot to secure the top end of the cord to the hole by the lever.
  6. Trim any excess cord. It’s recommended that you singe the end of the cord with a lighter so it doesn’t fray.

How to Manually Open a Garage Door From The Outside

While there are plenty of ways to get out of a garage when the door no longer operates automatically, getting inside is much more tricky. It isn’t usually recommended to open a garage door from the outside without a professional. This is because the process can be dangerous and result in severe injuries.

In the event of a true emergency, however, it is always good to know how to go about it. Opening a garage door from the outside is similar to doing it from the inside. You want to find the emergency release.

From the outside, there is another lock near the top of the door, usually at the center. You will need a key to unlock the emergency release and retrieve what looks like a cylinder. The cylinder is connected to the door opener. By pulling this cylinder you can manually open and close the garage door.

Having disengaged the door opener, you then unlock the door and lift it with a hand.

Again, the process is more complicated than it sounds. Unless you need to get into the garage immediately and can’t wait for help, always opt to have a technician come by.

How to Manually Close a Garage Door When It’s Open

Although most instances begin with a garage door being stuck shut, you may run into the opposite problem. There are many instances where you shouldn’t fix this issue on your own, especially with the high risk of injury.

As long as you are careful, you can get the garage door to close manually with these steps:

  • Locate the emergency cord that is overhead.
  • Pull the cord for the emergency release firmly. You may hear a noise when the cord causes the lever to disengage.
  • Once the opener lever has been disengaged, you should be able to reach up and pull the door closed.

As mentioned earlier, pulling the release cord when the door is open is dangerous. Since the lever is disengaged, the door may rapidly slide shut. Make sure no one is near the door should it come crashing down.

Another problem that you might experience is a door that remains jammed even when the emergency cord has been pulled. In this case, there is something wrong with a torsion spring or roller. You will need a professional to visit.

When You Need Professional Help

There are some instances when you shouldn’t open or close the garage door on your own. Upon examining your garage door the reasons why it isn’t moving, you might notice a problem that wasn’t listed above. In certain circumstances, it is better to call in a professional for assistance.

A professional can deal with the following scenarios:

  • The garage door itself has been damaged or broken
  • Cables are misaligned
  • Broken or damaged door springs
  • The garage door is crooked
  • The door opener motor is damaged
  • The door has fallen off the rail

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, you now know how to manually open and close a garage door. In most cases, the process is simple and doesn’t take many steps. Just remember to keep the door in the down position before starting and seek out the emergency release cord. However, if you notice any severe damage to the door, it’s best to get a professional to help you open and close the garage door.

If you’re looking for a new garage door due to your current one being faulty we really recommend Chamberlain, read our guide here on which to choose.

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