Simple Steps to Thaw a Frozen Garage Door in 2023

When I lived in Pennsylvania, it was common for our garage door to be frozen shut in the cold winter months. However, unless your garage door opener is covered in ice, it’s typically not the problem.

Usually, the reason for our frozen garage door was one or two areas along the bottom of the door that allowed water to form ice between the rubber seal and the garage floor. I’ve also seen where ice formed in between the individual panels on the door and froze them shut.

Occasionally, the garage door might be frozen shut, but the problem wasn’t the door itself. Other issues, such as weather-damaged sensors or thickened grease, can prevent your garage door from opening.

During the cold winter months, several things can go wrong and make it look like your garage door is frozen shut.

Luckily, most of them are easily fixable.

Here are some things that can cause a frozen garage door during cold spells or deep freezes and some quick ways to fix them.

How to Fix a Frozen Garage Door

The most common reason for a frozen door is that snow piles up at the bottom and turns into ice.

You likely only notice once you try to open the door. The motor and chain start to move, but your garage door quickly jerks to an abrupt stop.

If you think that your garage door is frozen to the ground, do not continue to use the garage door!

Garage door openers don’t have enough horsepower to break the ice. You’ll usually end up damaging the door’s weather seal or even your garage door opener’s motor.

Garage door emergency cable

Try these tips instead:

  • Disengage the opener from the door first: All modern garage doors have an emergency release cord. This is typically a red cable hanging down from the center track. Once it’s disengaged, you can try to manually open the door. But be careful. You don’t want to pull too hard and rip the weatherstripping.
  • Never pour hot water on the door: Your first instinct might be to pour boiling water on the ice to make it melt faster. Don’t. Not only will the water freeze almost immediately, but you’ll weaken the rubber seals and possibly even the garage door panels.
  • Use a hammer and block of wood: If the door doesn’t open easily, place a block of wood against the bottom of the door and gently tap it with a hammer until the ice breaks. The goal is to weaken the ice enough to allow the door to start moving.
  • Use an ice scraper: If the ice doesn’t run the length of the door, scrap it away until the garage door is free. Use caution, so you don’t damage the weather stripping at the bottom of your door.
  • Use a hairdryer or heat gun: If an outlet is nearby, you can try blow-drying along the bottom of the door. Don’t stay in one spot for too long. You can potentially cause heat damage to the door.
  • Use WD-40: WD-40 prevents rust by repelling water. This also makes it an excellent de-icer.

Ice Between Door Panels

Another common cause of a frozen garage door is when ice buildup forms between your garage door panels, freezing them shut.

This is usually caused by oversized gaps or deteriorating seals between the panels. Because the ice is actually inside the door, it’s a little harder to get out.

The best solution is to apply gentle heat, like a hairdryer, until the ice melts.

Again, never pour hot water on your frozen garage door!

Once the door can move again, thoroughly dry the space between the panels. If you don’t, there is a good chance the panels will freeze again overnight.

If this happens often, check the gutters around your home near your garage door. It’s possible that water isn’t draining properly and running over your door.

How Cold Weather Affects Your Garage Door Opener

A garage door opener can’t “freeze,” but very cold weather can still cause problems.

As the temperatures start to drop, metal starts to contract. When that happens to your garage door, it may make it harder to open and close. 

Regular maintenance and lubrication are critical if you live someplace with frigid winters. You can’t stop the metal from contacting but easing the friction between parts will help.

Most manufacturers recommend lubricating the rollers, garage door hinges, and door arm at least once a year. 

In this article, I share my five-minute garage door maintenance routine. I like to do this in the late fall so the lubricant is fresh for the beginning of winter.

The track itself is one part of your garage door that you should never lubricate.

Grease starts to break down and can thicken in cold temperatures. If you have greased your door tracks, it may not open because the grease has become too thick for the door to move through the track. 

It’s a good idea to clean your garage door track regularly, however. 

Spray the track with regular WD40, which is a water-repellent, not a lubricant. This will help prevent ice from accumulating on the garage door track.

I tested several silicone and white lithium sprays to see which was the best garage door lubricant. See which one won!

Ice On Garage Door Sensors

Although less common, another possible issue is ice and snow buildup around your garage door sensors.

These sensors detect whether there is an obstruction under the door. If the sensors aren’t functioning correctly, your automatic garage door opener won’t work.

Sudden temperature drops can cause the sensors to fog. This can also happen if you have a garage heater that keeps the inside of the garage much warmer than the outside air.

Fog and ice on the lenses can trick the sensor into thinking there is an obstruction, so it won’t allow the garage door to open or close. You can solve this quickly by wiping the sensors off with a soft cloth.

In rare instances, the cold weather might also cause the sensors to crack. It is not likely, but freezing temperatures may cause damage to the sensors preventing your frozen garage door from opening or closing.

If wiping off the sensors and removing any possible obstructions does not fix the problem, you may have to replace your garage door sensors.

How To Prevent Your Garage Door From Freezing Shut

If your garage door consistently freezes to the ground, there are a few things you can do.

  • Open the door: Opening your garage once or twice a day will prevent moisture build-up, not allowing it to freeze. This will help prevent the bottom of the door from sticking to the threshold seal.
  • Shovel away the snow: Ice is less likely to form around the bottom of your garage door if there’s no snow. By waiting until later in the day, the snow will begin to melt as temperatures rise. Once it cools off again, that moisture will form ice. 
  • Use rock-salt or Ice melt: Before each snowfall, I like to sprinkle my favorite ice melt in front of my garage door and underneath the bottom of the door. The salt won’t harm the weather seal, but it will help melt ice that accumulates overnight.
  • Apply a silicon-based lubricant: Silicon-based lubricants on the weather seal at the bottom of the garage door will prevent it from freezing on cold ground. If you don’t have any silicone lubricants, use some cooking spray from your kitchen pantry. 
  • Check weather stripping: Older weather stripping may be cracked and worn, allowing moisture to get in and freeze. Replace any cracked weatherstripping as soon as possible.
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Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.