Ghost openings occur when a garage door randomly opens by itself. They are caused by a variety of things ranging from user error to damaged and malfunctioning parts. An open garage door poses a huge security risk leaving your home or business open to intruders and mother nature.
Most people use their openers around work or school schedules, leaving early in the morning and getting back home in the evening. Let’s face it, most of us are in a rush in the morning frantically trying to close the garage door behind us as we are driving away. In that process there are plenty of user errors that may trick us into believing the door has opened by itself. Here are the top reasons I have run into that explain why overhead doors open on their own.
Table of Contents
1) It Never Closed Completely In The First Place
User error is the number one reason that people believe their garage doors have opened on their own. As you hit the remote button to close your door do you drive away as its closing? If the answer is yes then there is a good chance your garage door never completely closed in the first place. Unless you watch your door travel the entire way down and close you can’t be 100% sure it even closed. Operator error is the first place to start when troubleshooting ghost openings.
Travel Limits Adjustment (Up Limit / Down Limit)
If you have incorrectly set up the travel limits (down limit) on your opener your garage door could travel too far hitting the ground and reversing back up. If this is the case you will need to find your owners manual to reprogram the travel limits on your opener. Newer openers have an up arrow and down arrow that get held until the door is completely closed and open.
Photo Eyes (Receiving / Sending) Blinded By Sunlight
We leave for work in the morning (sunrise) and come back in the evening (sunset). The angle of the sun creates a unique situation where the photo eye could get blinded by the sun. Safety beams are mounted close to the bottom of the track 6″ above the floor. As the door is almost fully closed the bottom panel casts a shadow over the photo eye causing a flicker. This is enough to blind the receiving eye, especially in the morning.
- Switch your photo eyes to the opposite sides Pairs of photo eyes contain a sending eye and receiving eye. They are identified by an amber glow light for the sending eye and a green light for the receiving eye. It is possible that the receiving eye is being blinded by the sun.
- Consider purchasing sun shields from Liftmaster (41B873). These shields are installed around the photo eyes to create a sun barrier. You can also try the toilet paper cardboard tube trick.
- Install the photo eyes further away from the opening. Purchase an extension piece that relocates the eyes further from the opening, using the vertical track as a sun shield.
Door Closed On Object
Is it possible something was left on the floor under or over the path of the safety eye beam? Broom handles, bicycles and garbage cans are common objects that get in the way of the door as it is closing. The struts and other horizontal braces higher up on the door could also get caught on something in the garage.
You may see the door start down and drive away, but if the door hits an object before contacting the floor it will reverse back open.
Excessive Force & Vibration
A poorly installed and serviced door could have vertical tracks out of alignment or springs adjusted incorrectly. The door could travel a foot from the floor and reverse right back up. New model openers have excess force detection as a safety feature. If the opener has to work harder than normal to get the door closed it can reverse,. This can be caused by a lot of things. including the springs being too strong or being under too much tension.
Excessive vibration can also cause a lot of problems. As the door vibrates it can temporarily disconnect wiring or even cause the safety sensors to malfunction. Vibration is usually a sign that the vertical or horizontal tracks are installed too tight to the edge of the door – out of alignment.
Frozen Door – Snow and Ice
Garage doors are usually made up of 4 or 5 sections. During snowstorms and excessively cold temperatures ice can build up between the joints of the sections. The groove of the door joint can get filled with snow and ice causing the tongue section to get blocked. This is especially true as water drips off the rooftop and runs down the face of the door – it hits the top tongue and groove joint first.
2) Neighbors Remote or Keypad Programmed To Your Opener
I live in a small gated town home community where all the buildings were constructed and finished one after the other. That also means the garage doors and openers were installed at the same time. The door installer probably hung all the openers and then programmed them simultaneously.
The problem is he inadvertently programmed some remotes to multiple buildings. In other words, I pressed my remote and a few of my neighbors garage doors also opened at the same time. In my case this was easy to spot, but if you don’t live in near proximity you might not notice it. Your neighbors remote or keypad could accidentally be programmed to your unit.
Its also possible that someone programmed their remote to your opener on purpose for sinister reasons. Someone could walk into your garage, press the learn/program button and then their remote control. Within 10 seconds they now have programmed their clicker to your opener. After you leave for work, school or vacation they have easy access to your garage and possibly your home.
3) Bad Logic Board / Circuit Board
The logic board inside the casing is the brains of the unit, directing the critical functions of the opener. Power surges from lightning strikes and other electrical malfunction can damage the board and transformer. If you have a multimeter (VOM) you can check to make sure the the current is constant.
Boards go bad over time just like many sensitive electrical components do. They are expensive to replace as well, especially when factoring in the cost of a home service call. Logic board replacement is prohibitively expensive with the repair costs often being nearly halfway to the cost for a brand new opener. Loose connections on the logic boards can sometimes be repaired by soldering, but this is a task isn’t for the average homeowner. If your opener is over 10 years old with a bad circuit board you should always elect to replace the opener in its entirety.
4) Wiring Loose From Contacts or Shorting Out
Your wall control inside the garage connects to the back of your opener with low voltage wiring. Over time vibration can cause the wiring to come loose from the contacts. Simply slide and secure the wiring back in place and secure it so it doesn’t come loose again. This problem seems to happen frequently on older units with the doorbell style button.
Wires are prone to damage as they are low voltage and have a thin protective coating. Staples are often fastened down too tightly, pinching the wire causing a bare spot. Over time this area can make contact with a metal surface like the opener rail or door tracks. Other objects like garbage cans, shovels and even mice can damage wiring closer to the photo eyes. Any small electrical signal can cause the opener to run – since the wiring is low voltage it doesn’t take much.
Multimeter VOM Opener Wiring Testing
Again, you can check for a short in the wiring with a multimeter. The location you are measuring factors in to if your wiring has a short. If you are checking both ends of the same wire with 0 resistance then current is flowing through the wire. If you are testing the ends of two different wires with 0 resistance reading, that means both wires are connected. Are they supposed to be connected? If not, that indicates a short.
5) Remote Buttons Accidentally Pressed or Stuck
Transmitters have contacts that get worn out over time. The buttons can get stuck down causing the door to open at random points.The same goes for the wall control inside the garage. If you have a tendency of hitting or slapping the button firmly it could be permanently pressed down.
Clickers are often carried in pockets, drawers, center consoles and visors inside the vehicle. These places are filled with objects that could easily come in contact with your remote causing an accidental opening.
Troubleshooting Ghost Opening Checklist
A garage door that opens when you aren’t home or randomly overnight is a huge security risk. If you are experiencing unwanted openings you can attempt some basic troubleshooting and safety measures. If you cannot find a solution its probably time to call a qualified door professional for help. Here are the first things you should do after discovering unwanted ghost openings.
- Make sure your door is actually closing & not reversing just before hitting the floor.
- Immediately clear out the opener memory by holding down the learn button. Then reprogram your remote(s) and keypad.
- If you have an attached garage lock the interior door restricting access to your house.
- Check low voltage wiring for exposed and bare spots or loose connections to the wall control and opener.
- Check with neighbors to insure their remotes and keypads aren’t accidentally linked with your opener. (ask to test them)
- Make sure the buttons to your remotes are not permanently stuck down.
- With the door closed unplug the opener power cord from the outlet while you are away.
Upgrading Your Opener – MyQ Technology
Chamberlain Liftmaster recognizes the security risk posed by a garage door that opens randomly on its own. They developed myQ technology to combat this problem among many others. They now offer an opener that can be monitored on your smartphone from anywhere in the world through a wifi connection. You can set your phone to deliver alert notifications and time stamps whenever the door is operated.
You may have forgotten to close your overhead door completely. No problem, new openers can be programmed with a new timer to close feature. After a specified time period (1 minute) your opener will automatically close itself – very helpful in the event you get distracted or have your hands full.
If you already have a LiftMaster door opener manufactured after 1998, you can buy an 888 LM wall station with an 828 LM internet gateway to myQ enable your current door opener. If you have a LiftMaster model manufactured from 1993 to 1998 adding an 821 LM universal door controller can also make your opener MyQ enabled.