Over the weekend I resurrected my trusty old garage door opener. It’s an older Chamberlain door opener, nothing fancy at all, but it stopped after lifting the door about 8″ on Friday morning as I went to take my wife to work*. When it stopped, I hit the button a couple more times; it moved a little, and I could hear the motor turning, but it obviously wasn’t going up. So I gave the emergency cord a yank, backed out, got her to work on time, then popped the cover off when I got home; this is the sight that greeted me.
Yup, that main gear was shot. There were white shavings all over inside the thing.
My first thought was that it’s time to replace the opener; I had no idea how old it was — it was in the house when we bought the place 15 years ago — plus I had no idea what it took to replace that gear or what else might be worn out. Later in the morning Caleb & I went shopping, and I was ready to plunk down ~$200 for a new one, when I noticed a generic-looking bag on the shelf that had a nylon gear that looked a lot like the worn one in my opener, plus a new worm gear and a bunch of other hardware for about $25. The package said it was for Chamberlain (and a few other brands) door openers, so I rolled the dice & brought it home. I did a Google search for replacing the gears; it turns out this is a pretty common failure mode, and replacing the bad gear is pretty straightforward. Most of the time it’s only the large gear that needs to be replaced; the worm gear is fine, as are all the associated hardware bits. I also found you can buy just the gear for a lot less than the ~$25 I spent, but would probably have to order it; I wanted to get it fixed that day, so I just tore into it.
I followed the steps in one of the videos to pull the gear and its shaft out the top, then pounded out the pin keeping the gear in place. I was planning on just replacing the gear, but then noticed a little wobble in the shaft; the bearing at the top was worn to a bit of an oval; there was a fresh bearing in the kit, so I just replaced it. After reassembling it all I put the shaft with the new gear back in place and bolted it back up. I plugged it back in to test everything and got a loud POP! and a flash. Crap. A closer look showed that one of the screws holding the gear & shaft in place had pinched an orange wire; that was the wire for the light. Crap. It looked like the only thing that had happened was the wire itself had acted like a fuse and burned about 1/4″ of the conductor, so I put a splice in there and tried it again. It worked! Cool!
But… when I put the drive chain back on the sprocket on top I found that it would only spin a few revolutions in either direction before stopping and flash the light bulb a few times like there was something breaking the electric eye at the door. There wasn’t anything in the way, and the sensor showed a green LED, so that wasn’t it. I also noticed a green LED on the back of the unit would flash five times, pause, then flash five more times… Trouble code. I did a Google search on that; others had had the same problem, and had cured it by resoldering some cold joints on the controller board. I pulled the board out, resoldered a half-dozen joints, put it back together, and it worked! I’m not sure if the shorted wire had caused the solder joint problem or was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, but either way I’m glad that fixed it.
Almost like earning $175 for my troubles. 😉
* I don’t always take my wife to work, but was planning on changing the oil in her car that day. She was glad that she wasn’t driving when the garage door failed like that, because she had no idea how to open the door without the opener. She knows now. I wonder how many other wives — or guys — aren’t aware of that…