How to open garage door when power is out
October 24, 2021 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been given a 'backup' key, and the key undoes the lock in the garage door, and then…. I am to do something else to get the door open, without breaking someone’s garage door lift system. I don't know what that something is.

Thanks to the bomb cyclone I and many many neighbors are without power. I have lived here for just a couple months. My landlord is out of country and is not easy to contact.

There’s a lock about 5.5 feet off the ground in the middle of the door. The key ‘opens’ that, by which I mean the entire lock cylinder comes out of the hole towards me, and is attached to a metal wire (exactly the kind of metal wire you would expect would be used to pull, say, a garage door). About 8-10 inches come out without me pulling.


1. Am I supposed to pull MORE of the metal wire out towards me? or at this point has it ‘done its thing’ and I should just try lifting up the door?I did try pulling on it, hard, but I didn’t feel it ‘give’ at all.

2. Have also tried lifting the door. It was very reticent. I could only get it about 6 inches off the ground. It’s a large door, a two-car-garage door, but again it felt like it was pushing back more than it wanted me to pull. It felt like that was more than just gravity. My lift up did not produce any momentum towards further pulling.

Making all this even more fun, it's pouring down rain.

Thanks for the help
posted by armoir from antproof case to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Assuming you can get into the garage, you can disengage the opener. There is usually a plastic bobber at the end of a rope, suspended from in front of the opener itself. You just pull on that, and then the garage door should slide easily on the track in manual operation. The door will still be heavy, but it will move more freely. (And when the power comes back on, eventually, you'll need to operate the opener a few times before it reengages.)
posted by DrGail at 2:29 PM on October 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

The doors I have seen sometimes have two things that keep them from moving. A lock on the outside that will keep the door from moving, period, because it is locked to the the frame. And then on the inside there's a handle to pull that disconnects the door from the (now non-functional) electric drive. On our door it's a big red thing on a red cord, impossible to miss. Once you pull that the door should slide reasonably well, if it's been adjusted properly. Since you're getting a lot of resistance, my guess is that your door is still connected to the drive, and it's pushing against the internal resistance of the motor. I know you're renting, but garage door adjustment is pretty cheap, I think the service we used charged $100 to tune it up and the sound is so much more pleasant now. They would certainly be able to get your door open. Your problem is why code in some places requires a backup battery so that the door can still be operated normally in case of a fire or earthquake.
posted by wnissen at 2:31 PM on October 24, 2021

Response by poster: I can’t get into the garage separately. The garage door is only entrance . I presume the wire that come out with the lock is intended to disengage the opener. Maybe it already has and I need to lift harder. But I don’t know and am concerned about breaking the apparatus.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 2:32 PM on October 24, 2021

Best answer: Here are the installation and operation instructions for a keyed garage door emergency release: Emergency Release Kit (Keyed Garage Door Lock). Normally, if you have access to the inside of the garage, you release the door as mentioned by DrGail above. The metal wire attached to your lock cylinder is connected to the emergency release — you need give that wire a significant pull. Here are the exact instructions from the linked page above:
  1. Insert the key, turn it 1/2 turn and remove the entire inside lock assembly. This allows access to the cable, which is connected to the carriage release device on your door opener.
  2. Pull out on cable/cylinder to disengage the carriage release allowing manual operation of the garage door.
  3. Replace the cable and lock assembly after disconnecting the carriage by inserting it into the housing and turning the key 1/2 turn to the locked position and remove the key.
  4. Manually open the door.
  5. Reconnect the door opener carriage release device as per manufacturer’s instructions.

posted by RichardP at 2:34 PM on October 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, pull on the cable to disengage the door from the opener so you can lift it by hand.
posted by jon1270 at 2:35 PM on October 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you RichardP. That lock is exactly what I’m dealing with. Going to head back out now and give it a good pull.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 2:36 PM on October 24, 2021

The lock barrel is attached to a carriage that rides the powered train that lifts the garage door. When the barrel falls out, you pull the wire and that disengages the carriage from the train. Once that's done, you can lift the garage door by hand by grabbing the door at the bottom and lifting up.

The force on the wire needed to disengage the mechanism is pretty substantial, but should not be so much that you feel like you might break the wire. It's possible you've already done this bit.

The force needed to lift the door once the carriage is disengaged can be pretty big, depending on the garage door. My current door takes two people to lift.
posted by caek at 2:38 PM on October 24, 2021

Response by poster: Got it! I had to pull the cord rreeaallly hard.
Thanks all for the info. And now I also have the info for fusing it back up when the power is back.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2021 [7 favorites]

General tip for everyone - always keep your fingers away from the track - I had an elderly neighbour and I was helping him open another neighbours garage door during a power outage (he was picking them up from the airport using their car) - and, he cut the tips off 3-4 fingers because he was thinking the track was preventing the door from opening. (It was just that he was not able to pull the cord and lift the door hard enough - there was no track blockage)
posted by rozcakj at 7:31 AM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

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