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How to Manually Unlock a Garage Door (Without Damaging It)

Updated
Don’t get locked out of your garage after a power outage. Learn how to open the door manually.

Most garage doors are electrically operated these days. But what do you do when the power shuts off? If your garage door opener doesn’t have a backup battery, you will need to know how to manually open the garage door.

We decided to show you how to open a garage door without power and give you hints and tips to make it easier.

Opening Your Garage Door After a Power Outage

  1. Open the garage door from the inside using the emergency release cord.
  2. Try looking for an emergency release lock on the top part of the door in the center.
  3. Pull the cord inside the release lock to disengage the door.
  4. Without a release kit, slide a long wire with a hook on the end and snag the emergency release cord inside the garage.
  5. Reset the garage door once the power comes back on by pressing the open button with the door closed.


Why Won’t My Garage Door Open?

At some point, knowing how to unlock a garage door will get you out of a scrape, especially if you’ve had a power outage. But before telling you how to get that door open, here are some common causes of why the door sticks.

Weather Conditions

Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can severely affect how your garage door operates. The door mechanisms, like the rails, expand and retract, causing damage. If this happens, you may need to call a technician to make the necessary adjustments.

Another reason could be that the door is frozen. If you live in a colder climate, you will be familiar with the damage that ice and severe frost can do. Even if you have a backup battery, it may not work if the temperature plummets.

Lithium batteries are notoriously fickle in cold temperatures and struggle to hold their charge. If the power fails, you may not be able to rely on the backup power to get you out of a hole.

A Broken Cable

Your garage door operates on a cable system, and if it breaks, it’s game over. If you suspect you are dealing with a broken cable, bite the bullet and call in the pros.

Springs and Drums

The springs take a lot of punishment and are prone to failing. You should inspect them as part of your pre-winter maintenance check. The drums lift the door via cables, and these can become blocked.

Again, for the best outcomes, it is a wise idea to call in the professionals, especially if your garage door opener is still under warranty.

Blockages

Your garage door may look robust, but in truth, the slightest blockage could cause it to stop working. Leaves, small stones, and even kid’s balls can get lodged in the rails. Check the rails, rollers, and hinges for obstructions as part of your maintenance inspection,

Sensor Obstruction

The tiniest object could cause the sensors to stop working. The sensors sit on either side of the garage door and are open to the elements. It is crucial that you keep them free of debris because even a spider’s web could cause a malfunction.

Also, cut back any foliage that might hinder the sensor’s performance, and remember to give it a regular clean.

Chain and Trolleys

The chain is a vital part of the garage door mechanism. It lifts the door, so it can become worn or weaker through the motor’s vibrations.

You probably open your garage door at least twice a day. That equates to over 700 operations every year.

Likewise, the trolley carriage wears out with daily use, so it might be an idea to inspect it as part of your maintenance program.

How to Open a Garage Door from the Inside

Unless you want to wait for the power to come back on, you’ll need to know how to open the door manually from the inside. Luckily, garage door openers come with fail-safe mechanisms that let you operate the door without a remote.

Top Tip

Before you disengage the mechanism and try the Plan B approach, check that nothing has tripped on the main circuit board. It could save you a world of trouble.

What You’ll Need

  • Garage door key.
  1. Make sure that all the locks and latches are unlocked. Trying to open a garage door with the locks engaged won’t work, no matter how hard you try.
  2. Disconnect the power supply to the garage door mechanism before you start. If the power comes on while working on the door, it may reconnect and open or close.
  3. Locate the red overhead emergency release cord. You will find it hanging from the center rail of the garage door track. It attaches to the trolley, which connects to the garage door.
  4. Pull the cord, and the garage door should disconnect from the trolley.
  5. Lift the door, making sure that the trolley stays inside the rails. Exit the garage and pull the door shut.

How to Manually Open a Garage Door from the Outside With an Emergency Release Kit

If you’ve pressed the remote and that sinking feeling has washed over you, all is not lost! Before you reach for the cell phone, call the boss and tell them you will be late; here’s a handy method that might save your bacon.

What You’ll Need

  • Emergency release key.
  • Garage door key.
  1. Locate the emergency release kit. It is a small exterior lock located near the top of your garage door in the center. This lock holds an emergency release cable. To open it, you’ll need the corresponding key.
  2. Turn the key and remove the emergency lock tumbler. This reveals the emergency release cord.
  3. Unlock the garage door by turning the key and twisting the handle so it is vertical.
  4. Now pull the emergency release cord while lifting the door handle.
  5. Pull the door so it lifts, giving you access to your garage.

How to Manually Open a Garage Door from the Outside Without an Emergency Release Kit

If you are one of the unfortunate people who have a garage door that lacks an emergency release kit, don’t panic. We have another technique that should open that garage door in no time.

This method works best for garage doors with windows in the front because you can see inside the garage.

Important Point

If you have a garage with a rear entrance, it makes sense to enter that way and use the release cord to open the garage door.

What You’ll Need

  • Flashlight.
  • Long piece of strong wire.
  • A ladder.
  • Garage door key.
  1. Place the ladder in the center of the door, ensuring that you allow enough of an angle to make the ladder stable.
  2. Prepare a long wire, shaping a hook on one end.
  3. Feed the wire into the gap at the top of the garage door, using the flashlight to brighten inside.
  4. Snag the emergency release cord using the hook end of the wire.
  5. Pull the release cord to disengage the automatic opening mechanism.
  6. Unlock the garage door using the key.
  7. Remove the wire and ladder, and lift the garage door.

How to Reset a Garage Door After a Power Outage

After a power outage, like most other electronic devices, you will need to reset the garage door opener once the power comes back on. Here’s how to do it:

What You’ll Need

  • Garage door key.
  1. You should only attempt this once the power comes back on.
  2. Make sure the garage door is closed and unlocked using the garage door key.
  3. Once the garage door is closed, plug in the door opener, and press the open button on the remote. Use firm pressure while holding it down. If your garage door opener has a separate open and close button, use the close one.
  4. The garage door opener will start to reconnect by itself. Don’t interrupt this process, or you may have to start again. The chain will move the trolley into the correct position as it connects with the arm that raises and lowers the door.
  5. Test the door opener by lifting the door. Then close the door to check that all the functions are operational.
  6. Do it manually if your garage door opener does not have an automatic function to connect the trolley with the arm. Pull the emergency release cord and raise the door by two or three feet. When you hear a click, the arm is reattached to the trolley on the opener.

Safety Precautions

Whenever you work on mechanized systems, you should always take precautions and adopt safe practices. Accidents can happen even when the risks look minimal.

Unplug the Door Opener

Unplugging the electric garage door opener when trying to open it from the inside will prevent injury. If the power comes back on while the system is disengaged, the door opener may kick in and move the door.

This could be dangerous, and it makes it harder to reconnect the door.

Know When to Call a Pro

If you’ve disengaged the trolley and the door is still stuck fast, it might be an issue with your springs. Springs are dangerous to work with because of the tension they are placed under. Call in the pros if you suspect the problem lies with a broken spring.

Don’t Pull the Emergency Release Cord With the Door Open

Check that the door is closed before engaging the emergency release cord. Vigorously tugging on the rope could cause the garage door to come crashing down. If the door is open, it is better to wait for the power to return and re-engage the mechanism.

Don’t Leave Your Garage Door Unattended

Leaving the garage door unattended while it is disengaged from the automatic mechanism is dangerous because it could come slamming down. Even a slight gust of wind could cause the door to swing shut.

Use the Manual Lock

When there is a power outage, the automatic lock no longer works. Use the manual lock to keep your belongings safe.

Tips for Opening Garage Doors

Opening your garage door should be as simple as pressing a button, but when things go wrong, we all need a helping hand. Knowing the hints and tips that help you deal with a garage door malfunction is vital.

Use Boiling Water

If the temperature is colder than a snowman’s fridge, try unsticking your garage door the old-fashioned way. Pouring warm or boiling water on the locks and areas where the door comes into contact with the ground melts the ice.

Use Antifreeze

Spraying antifreeze on locks is a great way of dissolving the ice quickly. It works on cars, so why not garage doors.

Grease the Chain

Keeping the chains greased is a great way to ensure the mechanism stays in good working order. It reduces friction, which could cause the chain to wear out faster. You also put less strain on other elements of the garage door opener.

Keep the Instructions Handy

Attach the instruction to the wall next to the opener switch using a clear plastic wallet and tape. This helps when you get a malfunction and need to reset the system or troubleshoot the problem.

It also reduces the risk of damaging the garage door opener if you operate it incorrectly.

Inspect the Garage Door Monthly

Prevention is better than the cure, so inspect your door mechanism at least once a month. Inspect the cable for fraying and the springs to ensure they are in good working order. Open and close the door to check for obstructions.

Clear leaves and other debris away from the sensors and check the chain for wear and tear.

Install a Backup Battery

If your garage door opener lacks a backup system, it may be worth upgrading and installing a battery pack. It ensures that the door keeps operating even with a power outage.

FAQs

How Do You Lock a Garage Door During a Power Outage?

Engage the emergency release cable and close the door. Then grab a C-clamp and place it above a roller halfway up the door. Lock the clamp in place, and the door will not open.

How Do You Open a Roller Door Without Power?

Roller doors are no different from other garage doors. Unplug the electrics, engage the emergency pull cord, and you’ll hear the lock click open. Now you can raise the door in the normal way without a key.

How Do You Open a Garage Door With a Broken Spring?

You will need to engage some help to achieve this. Grab two ladders and two pry bars. Place the ladders on either side of the door. You will both need to stand on the opposite sides of the door and insert both pry bars.

Push and lift with all your might. At this point, you could damage the door mechanism, but that’s the risk you need to balance with getting the door open. Once the door lifts, wedge it open with the ladders.

Why Can’t I Open My Garage Door Manually?

The most common cause is the springs are either damaged or broken. It could also be a result of wear and tear on the chains. Another common reason is that the rollers could have come out of the rails.


As One Door Opens, Another Closes

Electric garage door openers make life so much easier. You can access the garage without getting out of your car, and it saves you from getting wet in the rain. However, when you have a power outage, you need to know how to open the door manually.

Learning this skill will enable you to get in or out of your garage, and you can reset the system when the power comes back on.

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Headshot of Mark Weir

About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.