How To Fix A Garage Door That Only Opens A Few Inches?

How To Fix A Garage Door That Only Opens A Few Inches

A remote controlled garage door opener is a fantastic tool to have in your home, but it becomes frustrating when it doesn’t work properly. One of the most common issues that people face is a garage door that won’t open all the way.

This problem usually relates to issues with the sensors or springs, although you may realize something is simply blocking its path. A garage door may also get stuck open at only a few inches due to cold temperatures or other faulty electrical components.

While a professional can help you diagnose and fix the issue quickly and effectively, there are a few things you can do on your own to save time and possibly money. Keep reading to learn the most common issues and how to resolve them.

What to Do If Your Garage Door Won’t Open All the Way

If you have time and resources, the best thing to do is diagnose the issue and move forward with your garage door repair as soon as possible. This prevents the problem from getting worse and lets you resume your normal daily activity.

If you’re in a time crunch, check to make sure that there is nothing blocking the garage door from opening (no obstructions), and then open it manually.

To do this from the inside:

  • Turn off the power (unplug your automatic door opener)
  • Unlock the door locks and latches on the outside
  • Locate your emergency release cord (usually a red handle hanging from the center of the track)
  • Pull the cord while the door is closed; it will disconnect and allow manual movement

At this point, you simply lift the garage door from the bottom until it’s completely open. Make sure it stays in place, and then exit your garage and close it from the outside.

Dealing with this issue from the outside is not as simple. While garage door openers have an emergency release kit on the outside, you risk further damage if the issue relates to an obstruction or broken track.

We suggest waiting until you can assess the problem from the inside.

Reasons a Garage Door Won’t Open All the Way

Reasons a Garage Door Won’t Open All the Way

When a garage door won’t open all the way, it’s usually because:

  • You’ve lost power
  • Your garage remote battery is low or dead
  • The sensors are blocked, dirty, or broken
  • The sensors are out of alignment
  • The garage door springs are broken, worn out, or defective
  • The track is misaligned
  • The limit is set incorrectly
  • Cold weather is impeding normal function

While each problem can cause the garage door to only open a few inches, there are usually other symptoms that help you zero in on the issue. Start with the ones that seem most likely and are easiest to diagnose on your own, and then work your way through them.

Lost Power

Make sure your garage door opener is plugged in. We rely on these to function at the touch of a button, and we often forget that a loose power cord can be their undoing.

If the plug is seated properly, check the appropriate circuit breaker. A small electrical surge may have caused the breaker to trip while it was opening, getting it stuck slightly open.

Make sure the breaker is all the way in the ON position. If not, flip it to the OFF position and then back ON to reset the breaker.

Low or Dead Garage Remote Batteries

Your garage door controller and its remote communicate using radio frequency. If the batteries die or are on the way out, they won’t be able to communicate properly.

This can cause your garage door opener to become “confused” and act erratically, potentially only opening a few inches. To fix this issue, replace the batteries in your remote.

If the wall-mounted control works fine but your remote isn’t, try resetting the remote. Search the manufacturer’s manual online to find the specific steps needed to do this.

Blocked or Dirty Sensors

Blocked or Dirty Sensors
Image Credit: genesis_garage_door

Your garage door opener relies on optical sensors to determine whether something is blocking the door. If they detect a blockage, they signal the door to stop moving, and can prevent the door from opening as normal.

While this is a fantastic and essential safety mechanism, it can become a headache when they stop the door due to dirt or dust on the lens. Make sure nothing is in the way, and then clean off the photo eye lens with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Try to open the door again. If this was the issue, it should open fully.

Sensors Out of Alignment

If you detect a sensor issue but cleaning them does nothing to help, make sure they’re properly aligned. The sensors must be directly across to send the right signal to the opener’s control board, otherwise they will send multiple conflicting signals.

While your sending sensor will glow amber regardless, the green receiving sensor may appear dim, flickering, or off if there is an issue.

Check for screws that came loose due to continued use of the opener. Sometimes, tightening these is all you need to get them back on the same level.

In more drastic cases, you need to realign the sensors so they can communicate properly.

To do this:

  • Remove your green sensor
  • Point it away from the amber sensor so the green light turns off
  • Wait 10 seconds for it to reset
  • Rotate the green sensor back and line it up

When the light shines a bright green, secure the sensor in that position.

Broken or Defective Springs

If your garage door opener torsion springs are broken or defective, they will not be able to store enough mechanical energy to lift the garage door. You’ll usually notice other symptoms if this is the problem, such as strange noises while the door is in motion.

A broken torsion spring is something many people pick up on with the heavy sense that something is about to break. This can happen if your opener is overloaded, but it’s also a part that wears down over time.

Because springs are so sensitive, you should reach out to a professional for replacement. They require specific skills to set up and install correctly, and can be dangerous to handle without these skills.

Track Alignment Issues

Any issues with your garage door track can interfere with its opening completely.

Sometimes, the issue is just some leaves or stones on the track that triggers a safety response. Sometimes we’ve caught something in the door or latching mechanism that could damage the unit if it opens completely.

Disconnect your garage door opener before checking for obstructions on the inside and outside. Your search may reveal a broken area of the track or an area where the door has come off the tracks.

If everything appears fine, try lubricating your hinges or rollers and see if the problem persists. A professional eye can help you diagnose the issue further.

Travel Limit Needs Adjustment

You have a limit adjustment screw that determines how far your garage door moves when opening or closing. If this is not properly adjusted as your opener ages or if it’s somehow knocked out of space, your door may not open fully.

Locate this on your opener, then use a flathead screwdriver to adjust. You should be able to turn it one full turn clockwise per three inches needed to raise.

Cold Temperatures Affecting Function

The more the temperature drops, the more you can expect to run into issues with your garage door opener. Most units should be well-equipped to handle temperatures in your region, but an aging unit or extreme temps can interfere with usual function.

Your springs are most affected by the changes. They stiffen as it gets colder, making it more difficult to move and interfering with the ability to absorb energy from the motor.

In these cases, lubricating the springs may help. Otherwise, you need to open the garage door manually until things warm up.

Signs Your Garage Door or Opener Needs Immediate Repair or Replacement

Signs Your Garage Door or Opener Needs Immediate Repair or Replacement

More severe symptoms indicate the issue goes beyond the scope of a simple fix or replacement. These include:

  • Inconsistent or unpredictable behavior
  • Jerking or extreme shaking
  • Auto-reverse failure
  • Visibly broken springs

Electrical issues and broken springs are some of the most dangerous to remedy in a garage door, and you should seek professional help for these repairs.

Keep in mind that garage door openers have a lifespan of around 10 to 15 years. If your unit is older, replacing the entire unit may be a more cost effective and functional option than repairs.


A garage door that doesn’t open properly is an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of your life of luxury. As long as you take the time to diagnose the issue without simply shoving the door open, you will find that it’s often a simple fix.

If you can’t take the time to fix the problem right away, make sure you run through the correct process to manually open your door. This ensures you won’t make the problem worse (or create a new one).

Have you dealt with this issue before, or is it something new for you to tackle? Let us know in the comments!

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