Your garage door takes a lot of abuse, especially in the winter. When I lived in Pennsylvania it was common for our garage door to freeze and get stuck in the cold winter months.
While garage door openers can’t freeze, it’s common for the doors themselves to be so cold that they can’t open. Usually, the problem is in one or two weak points where water was able to penetrate and freeze.
The garage door itself might freeze closed, and there may be other issues preventing the opener from working, such as weather-damaged sensors or thickened grease, but the garage door opener itself will not freeze. There are many things that can go wrong with your garage door and its opener during the cold months.
Luckily, most of them are easily fixable.
Here are some of the things that can go wrong with your garage door during cold spells or deep freezes and some suggestions on how to solve the problem.
What To Do If Your Garage Door Is Frozen In Ice
The most common reason garage doors freeze closed is because snow gets piled up at the bottom and turns to ice. You probably won’t notice until you try to open the door and the motor and chain start to move but then jerk to an abrupt stop.
If you think that your door is frozen to the ground, do not continue to use the garage door! You’re not going to be able to power your way to break the ice and you may even damage your garage door opener’s motor.
Try these tips instead:
- Disengage the opener from the door first: Every garage door will have an emergency release cord. It’s usually a red cord that hangs down from the center track. Once its disengaged, you can try to open the door by hand. But be careful, you don’t want to pull too hard and rip the weatherstrip.
- Use a hammer and block of wood: If you can’t pull the door open, 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 just enough to allow the door to start moving.
- Use an ice scraper: If the ice doesn’t run the length of the door, you can try scraping it away until the door is free. Just be careful not to damage the weather stripping at the bottom of your door.
- Use a hairdryer: If there is an outlet nearby, you can try blow-drying along the bottom of the door. Make sure not to stay in one spot too long, though, or you risk heat damage to the door.
- Use boiling water: The tried and true method is pouring boiling water along the bottom of the door. The key is to thoroughly dry off the weatherstripping at the bottom of the door. Otherwise, it’ll freeze again if the outside temperature is cold enough.
Ice Between Door Panels
A similar problem is when ice forms in between your garage door panels.
Most garage doors have multiple panels that fold in as the door goes up the track. If the sealing on the door has deteriorated, it’s possible for moisture to get between them and freeze, causing your door not to move.
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.
Once the door can move again, make sure to wipe down the space between the panels. If you don’t, there is a good chance the panels will freeze again overnight.
If this happens often, you may want to check the gutters on your home. It’s possible that water isn’t draining properly and running over your door.
How Cold Weather Affects Your Garage Door
Garage door openers can’t “freeze”, but there are still problems that can come up in extremely cold weather.
Metal starts to contract as the temperatures start to drop. Once that happens to your garage door, it may make it harder to open and close.
If you live someplace with extremely cold winters, a regular maintenance and lubrication is critical. You can’t stop the metal from contacting but easing the friction between parts will help.
Most garage door manufacturers recommend lubricating the rollers, hinges and arm at least once a year. You can see this article where I share my five-minute garage door maintenance routine. It’s a good idea to do it in late-fall so the grease is fresh for the beginning of winter.
One part of your garage door that you should not lubricate is the track itself.
After time, grease starts to break down and can thicken in cold temperatures. If you have greased the tracks of your door, it is possible that it will not open because the grease has become too thick for the door to move through the track.
The track should be cleaned, however. It’s a good idea to spray the track with regular WD40. It’s a water-repellent and will help prevent ice from accumulating on the garage door track.
Ice On Garage Door Sensors
Another common issue is ice and snow buildup around your garage door sensors.
Cold weather can wreck havoc with the sensors that detect whether there is an obstruction under the door. If the sensors aren’t functioning properly, then your door won’t open.
If there was a sudden drop in temperature, the cold weather can cause your sensors to fog. This can also happen if you have a garage heater which keeps the inside of the garage much warmer than the outside air.
When fog develops on the sensor, it thinks that there is an obstruction and will not allow the garage door to open or close. You can usually solve this easily by wiping the sensors off with a soft cloth.
In some rare instances, the cold weather might also cause the sensors to crack. It is not likely, but extremely cold temperatures may cause damage to the sensors preventing your garage door from opening or closing.
If you are sure that the problem is your sensors and wiping them off or removing any possible obstructions does not fix the problem, you may have to replace the sensors.
How To Prevent Your Garage Door From Freezing Shut
There are a few things you can try doing on a regular basis if your garage door freezing to the ground is a consistent problem.
- Open the door: opening the door once or twice a day will help prevent the bottom of the door from sticking to the threshold by not giving moisture time to build up and freeze.
- Shovel away the snow: the quicker you can get the snow away from the garage door, the better. If you wait until later in the day, the snow may begin to melt, causing puddles at the base of your door. You don’t want to give the water time to settle between the door and threshold.
- Apply a silicon-based lubricant: if you put a silicon-based lubricant on the weather seal at the bottom of the garage door, it should prevent it from sticking to the cold ground. If you don’t want to go out and find special lubricants, try grabbing some cooking spray from your kitchen cabinet and spray it on the bottom of your door.
- Check weather stripping: if you have older weather stripping, it is possible that it has become cracked and worn. This will allow water or moisture to get in and freeze. If you notice any cracking in your weather stripping, you should have it replaced.