How Hard is it to Install a Garage Door Opener?

How hard to install a garage door opener

The Chamberlain garage door opener we installed

When I tell people that we installed our own garage door opener, they look at me like I’m some kind of genius. A professional installation costs about $500 depending on the unit, so it must require some special tools and skills, right? All I will say is that if you have the time, some basic tools and the willingness to learn how to do it, then the answer to the question of how hard is it to install a garage door opener is: as easy as it gets!

As with any other project, there are several steps you need to follow. In this case, you need to first assemble the unit, then install it, adjust it and finally test it to ensure its proper operation.

On this posts, I present the steps we followed to install our chain drive garage door opener. The instructions may vary slightly between the different garage door opener brands and models, however, most of them follow almost the exact same sequence.

GARAGE DOOR OPENER ASSEMBLY

A typical garage door opener comes with the following parts:

  • Garage door opener unit
  • Rail (several pieces)
  • Trolley (two pieces)
  • Pulley
  • Door & header brackets
  • Door arms
  • Hanging brackets
  • Hardware (screws, bolts, pins, washers, nuts, etc.)
  • Chain & Chain spreader
  • Door wall control, remote controls
  • Safety sensors
  • Wires

When it was time to complete the installation, the first thing we did was organizing and identifying all the parts, then followed the next steps to complete the assembly.

How hard is it to install a garage door opener?

We organized all the parts before we started with the assembly and installation

STEP 1: PUT THE RAIL TOGETHER AND INSTALL THE TROLLEY

The rail sections slide into each other and some tabs lock them in place. Slide them all the way in and then try to pull them out to make sure they’re properly locked.

Garage door opener assemble

Garage door opener rail

 

Once the rail is all together, you can go ahead and install the trolley, by sliding it on the same rail.

STEP 2: ATTACH THE RAIL TO THE MOTOR (GARAGE DOOR OPENER UNIT)

As part of the rail, there is an extra piece or bracket that is used to attach it to the motor. Use the provided screws to fasten it to the unit. Then slide in the rest of the rail into it (we did it this way).

You can also put all the pieces together and then just fasten this last bracket to the unit, either way, works just fine.

Once this is done, you can go ahead and attach the chain spreader.

Chamberlain garage door opener

Rail bracket and chain spreader installed

STEP 3: INSTALL THE IDLER PULLEY AND CABLE/CHAIN (FOR CHAIN MOTORS)

Locate the idler pulley opening at the far end of the rail (opposite side of the motor). Place the pulley in place and use the (provided) idler bolt (pulley’s axle) to hold it in place. Then use the provided lock washer and nut to tighten it until the lock washer is compressed. As a last step, make sure the pulley spins freely.

How hard is it to install a garage door opener?

The Chamberlain garage door opener we installed

This particular model has a rail tab (to the left of the yellow sticker on the image below) that has to be lifted to 90 degrees, it acts as a safety stop in case the motor does not stop when it is supposed to. Make sure you check if yours has a similar mechanism.

To install the cable/chain, the first step is to pull the cable around the idler pulley which was just installed. Then connect it to the retaining slot on the trolley using the provided hardware, as shown in the photograph, use a screwdriver to keep the trolley from sliding on the rail.

Installing a garage door opener

Idler pulley and cable/chain

 

Garage door opener installation

Cable connected to the trolley

 

With the cable connected to the trolley, you just need to pull and bring the cable/chain, along the rail, towards the motor. Making sure the chain is not twisted or too loose, engage the chain to the sprocket teeth on the motor unit. Then, once again, making sure it is not twisted, continue pulling it back towards the trolley.

Connect the chain to the threaded shaft using the correct parts. Thread the inner nut and lock washer onto the threaded shaft, then insert the threaded shaft through the hole in the trolley and thread the outer nut onto the threaded shaft as shown in the photograph.

DIY garage door opener installation

Cable and chain connected to the trolley

STEP 4: TIGHTEN THE CHAIN

To tighten the chain, screw in the inner nut and lock washer into the threaded shaft (away from the trolley), then screw in the outer nut (this will tighten the chain).

This manufacturer recommends that the chain is about 1/4 inch from the base of the rail at its midpoint. At that point, we went ahead and retighten the inner nut. Make sure you check how tight it needs to be on yours. Over tightening the chain, may unnecessarily stress the motor.

GARAGE DOOR OPENER INSTALLATION

If you have made it this far, you are about halfway done with the job. The garage door opener is ready to go, just follow the next few steps to install it.

These instructions assume that you have a similar garage/garage door. If they’re not, please check with the garage opener’s manufacturer or consult a professional.

STEP 1: DETERMINE THE POSITION AND INSTALL THE HEADER BRACKET

To determine the position of the header bracket, the first thing you have to do is to measure and mark the center of the garage door. Then, opening the door to the highest point of travel (usually before it lays down on the rails), measure and draw another mark, about 2” inches from the highest point of travel (it should not hurt if it is a bit higher than that).

Drill small pilot holes and use the bolts (provided) to fix the bracket to the wall.

You will need different bolts for concrete walls, it is also not recommended to install the bracket over drywall.

Installing chamberlain garage door opener

Determining the position of the header bracket

 

Installing an electric garage door opener

Header bracket in place

STEP 2: ATTACH THE RAIL TO THE HEADER BRACKET

You may need some help to complete this step.

With the garage door opener on the floor, lift the rail until it reaches the header bracket. Align the rail’s and header bracket’s holes and use one of the (provided) clevis pins to join them together. Secure it with a ring fastener.

Iinstalling new garage door opener

Rail attached to the header bracket

STEP 3: HANG THE GARAGE DOOR OPENER

Attach the garage door opener to the hanging brackets using the (provided) bolts, lock washers and nuts. Then, make sure the garage door opener is aligned with the header bracket and centered with the rest of the garage door.

Chamberlain garage door opener

Garage door opener after attaching hanging brackets

If it’s all good, determine the position of the support bracket (not provided with our opener).

Right after, go ahead and locate the 2x4s or other structural supports and attach the support bracket to them using the (provided) lag screws. Then proceed to attach the hanging brackets to the support bracket.

Garage door opener support bracket

The support bracket we used for this installation

 

Chamberlain garage door opener installed

Chamberlain garage door opener in its final position

STEP 4: ATTACH THE EMERGENCY RELEASE ROPE & HANDLE TO THE TROLLEY

Before you can go ahead and finish hooking everything up, it is advisable to attach the emergency release rope and handle to the trolley.

STEP 5: CONNECT THE DOOR ARM TO THE TROLLEY & THE GARAGE DOOR

With the garage door closed, pull the emergency release rope to disconnect the trolley from the rail. Then, if necessary, move the trolley closer to the door.

For this sectional door, we attached the straight door arm to the trolley using the (provided) clevis pin and secured it using a ring fastener, then did the exact same thing with the curved door arm, to attach it to the door.

Once this was done, both arms were attached together, using the (provided) bolts, lock washers, and nuts.

STEP 6: INSTALL THE WALL DOOR CONTROL, SENSORS AND WIRE THEM TO THE GARAGE DOOR OPENER

This last step included the installation of the wall door control and the door safety sensors. Perhaps the most difficult part of this step is running all the wires from the wall control and sensors to the garage door opener. Depending on how good of an installation you want, you may need some cable fasteners, a low voltage mounting bracket, and a blank plate. It is up to you decide how you want to do it.

Installing a garage door opener safety sensor

Garage door opener safety sensor

 

Once you have all the wires at the garage opener unit, you just need to hook them up according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

In our case, the red and white wires from the wall control went into the red and white terminals. The white wires from the door sensors were twisted together and went into the second white terminal, the white/black ones were also twisted together and went into the gray terminal.

Garage door opener wiring

Garage door opener wiring

 

Lastly, we used some zip ties to tidy up all the wires, including the power cord.

Garage opener wiring

We used some zip ties to tidy up all the wiring

Garage opener wiring tidy up

Garage opener wiring tidied up

GARAGE DOOR OPENER ADJUSTMENT AND TESTING

Before you can enjoy your new garage door opener, you need to make sure it will work correctly. To do that, you may need to do a couple of tests and adjustments as required (remember to re-engage the trolley which was disengaged on STEP 5 of the previous section).

STEP 1: PROGRAM THE TRAVEL & FORCE (IF APPLICABLE)

If after testing the garage door opener you determine that it needs some adjustment, you can do that by following your manufacturer’s instructions. In our case, the up/down travel was adjusted using the three different buttons you can see on the previous image. This particular unit does not allow you to adjust the force limits.

STEP 2: TEST THE SAFETY SENSORS AND REVERSAL SYSTEM

Once you are happy with the up and down travel of the door, you can go ahead and test the safety sensors and reversal system.

To test the first ones, all you have to do is to block the light beam between both sensors. Once that happens, the garage door opener should stop and return to the open position.

To test the reversal system, you just need to get something in between the door and the floor, a piece of 2×4 for example. Once the door hits the obstruction, the garage door opener should reverse. If it doesn’t you may need to adjust the down travel. This is a very important safety protection, especially if you have small children or pets.

Readers, have you ever installed your own garage door opener? How hard was it to get it installed and up and running?

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