Are Garage Door Sensors Universal? (Ultimate Guide)

Are Garage Door Sensors Universal? (Ultimate Guide)1

Garage door openers have made it possible to operate garage doors without the need to get out of the car and manually open or close the doors. They are one of those inventions that have made our daily lives a little easier and safety sensors are an integral part of the setup. But are garage door sensors universal?

You will need to know the answer to this question if your sensors need replacing. Will your new sensors work with your existing garage door opener or do you need to replace the opener as well?

In this article, you will find the answer to that question as well as lots more important information on garage door sensors.

Are Sensors For Garage Doors Universal?

The short answer to this question is no. They are not universal and they will only communicate with the same brand of garage door openers. So, if you need to replace your safety sensors, you need to contact the company that manufactures them and the openers. But what if the company is no longer in business? What are your options then?

Later on, in this article, we will explain what to do if you cannot get the same brand replacement sensors. However, first, it is useful to understand how safety sensors work and why they are not universal.

How The Sensors Work

Garage door sensors work using a device called photo-eye. In most setups, there are two photo-eyes, one on each side of the door approximately six inches from the ground. They are infrared sensors that communicate with each other.

The sending sensor sends the receiving sensor an infrared signal to create an invisible line close to the bottom of your garage door. When something interrupts the connection between the sender and the receiver, in other words, gets in the way of the door, the sensors stop the garage door from closing.

Some sensors will simply stop the action while others will tell the door to reverse the motion. The sensors can sense anything from people to pets to any other objects that get in the way.

Types of Garage Door Safety Sensors

Currently, there are two main types of safety sensors available. The through-beam sensors are the most common type and they are installed opposite to each other on both sides of the garage door.

In the retro-reflective system, the sending and receiving sensors are within the same unit and work with a retroreflector installed opposite the sensor. The principle is still the same. If anything disrupts the beam between the sensor and the reflector the door will not close.

Why Won't Safety Sensors Work With All Garage Door Openers?

Why Won’t Safety Sensors Work With All Garage Door Openers?

It would be easy to assume that since all garage door opening sensors work on the same principle, they would be universal. Yet it is not so. The reason they will not work universally is the differences in their communication protocols. These protocols differ from one manufacturer to the next.

What is The Communication Protocol?

The protocol refers to a set of rules used by two or more entities to exchange messages. All garage door manufacturers have unique protocols that facilitate communication between the door openers and the opener sensors. This is why sensors and openers from different brands cannot understand each other.

Some Safety Sensors Will Work With Other Brands

While safety sensors for garage doors are not universal, there are some exceptions where they will work with another make of garage door opener. This is because some brands are under the same umbrella company and therefore use the same communication protocols.

One of the exceptions is safety sensors and garage door openers from LiftMaster, Craftsman, or Chamberlain. Both Liftmaster and Craftsman are part of the Chamberlain group of manufacturers.

Another exception is Overhead Door and Genie where the same sensor works with both companies’ garage door openers. This is because the Overhead Door owns Genie and they share the communication protocols.

Finding The Right Garage Door Sensor

If you need a new set of safety sensors for your garage door, your best option is to visit the company’s website. Most manufacturers sell accessories and replacement parts for their products, including safety sensors. The other option is to look online, for example on Amazon or eBay.

To learn about finding the right sensor for your system in more detail, you can watch this video.

What if You Cannot Find The Right Replacement Sensors?

It is rare, but not impossible, not to find replacement sensors for your door either from the manufacturer or from a large online retailer. This can happen, for example, if the company no longer exists or they have stopped making the particular model. What are your options then?

You can get a universal garage door sensor. Now, this is understandably confusing when earlier we said garage door sensors are not universal. While most brands’ garage door sensors are not universal and they will not work across brands, there are universal sensors available.

You can pair universal safety sensors with any brand of garage door openers. Some manufacturers such as Chamberlain sell universal safety sensors. You can also get them from major online retailers.

Why Your Garage Door Sensors Can Stop Working

Various things can stop your garage door sensors from working properly. Before you start looking for replacement sensors, we recommend you work through the list below. Often the failure is not caused by anything major and can be fixed easily.

1. Dirt And Debris on The Sensors

Because the sensors are located near the ground, they can easily get covered in dirt. Over time, a layer of dust and dirt can form on the sensor’s surface. This will create a barrier between the photo eyes and the door will not operate correctly. Use a lint-free cloth and an all-purpose cleaner to clean the sensors.

How often do you need to do this? It is recommended that you clean your sensors at least once every year. If you live in an area with a lot of dust, for example, in a hot and sandy area, you may need to do this more often.

The Sensors Are Not in Alignment

2. The Sensors Are Not in Alignment

For your sensors to work, they need to be in alignment. Because they are located near the ground, it is easy for them to get knocked out of their original position. To readjust them, loosen the screws on the sensors’ mounting brackets and shift them until the power indicator lights are on. Finish by re-tightening the screws.

3. Check For Obstructions

If your sensors are not working correctly, it could be because the infrared beam is interrupted by an obstruction. Check for obstructions between the set of sensors, such as a toy, rocks, leaves, or other debris. Clear the obstructions and try closing the door again.

4. Damaged Sensors

If none of the suggestions above worked, check the sensors and their wiring. Your sensors may have got damaged by another object or the wires could be disconnected or broken. If the system is old, the malfunction can be down to gradual wear and tear. If you cannot find the fault, you may need to consult a professional.

5. Exposure to The Elements

Extreme weather can affect the functioning of the sensors. For example, freezing weather or rain can leave moisture on them, breaking the connection. If you notice moisture build-up, wipe the sensors dry with a soft cloth. Too much sunlight can also damage the sensors over time.

Repair or Replace?

When you have an issue with your garage door safety sensors, you need to decide whether it is possible to repair them or if you need to replace them. It depends on what is causing the malfunction.

If it is caused by dust, an obstruction or a misalignment, then it is easy to fix yourself. You can fix some wiring issues, too, if you have experience with wiring. Otherwise, contact a specialist to repair the wires.

If your sensors are broken, then you will need to replace them. If you notice cracks on the sensor lenses when you are inspecting or cleaning the sensors, you will likely need to replace them soon.

Do You Need Safety Sensors For Garage Doors?

Do You Need Safety Sensors For Garage Doors?

If you have garage doors that can be opened remotely, you need to have safety sensors. With manual doors, they are not required as you can stop the doors from closing yourself if something gets in the way.

In the United States, safety sensors have been mandatory since 1993. By law, your sensors need to send the door in the reverse direction within two seconds of sensing an obstruction.


If you need to replace your safety sensors, most garage door opening systems are not universal and will only work with sensors from the same brand. However, it is possible to replace the existing sensors with universal ones.

We hope you now have a good understanding of garage door sensors. If you have anything questions about the topic, you can write them in the comments box.

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