Garage Door Repair 101: Automatic Eye Replacement

Automatic openers are one of the most popular convenience features on the typical garage door. To ensure the safety of pets, young children and the unwary, most automatic openers use photoelectric sensors to detect obstacles in the doorway. This prevents the door from closing if something or someone is in the way.

After years of service, these photoelectric sensors may need replacement due to wear and tear. Fortunately, the process is much easier than you'd expect and it only requires a few tools and just a bit of your time.

First Things First

With the garage door open, shut off power to the garage door opener before proceeding any further. You can do this by shutting off the unit's circuit breaker at the main electrical panel. A noncontact circuit tester comes in handy for verifying the power has been shut off. This will reduce the possibility of an electrical shock.

Next, use a stepladder to access the garage door unit. Remove the unit's cover and locate the low-voltage connections for both of the photoelectric sensors. Loosen the terminal screws or press the quick-connect tab holding the wires in place to remove them from the garage door unit.

Removal and Replacement

After disconnecting the wiring, you'll notice that those wires run from the garage door unit back to the photoelectric sensors. These wires are likely attached along the ceiling and walls with insulating staples. Grab a large staple remover and carefully detach each staple. Don't bother saving these staples, as you'll be replacing them with brand-new ones.

Afterwards, it's time to remove the old photoelectric sensors. Start by removing the mounting bracket holding the sensor to the garage door's track. In most cases, the bracket itself is held on with a clip. Loosen this clip and pull the bracket off the track. The sensor itself is held in place with a wing nut. Simply unscrew this nut to free the sensor from its bracket.

Installing the new sensors for your garage door opener goes as follows:

  • Attach the new sensor to the bracket and hand-tighten the wing nut until it remains in place.
  • Reattach the bracket onto the garage door track. Use measuring tape to make sure it sits 6 inches above the ground.
  • Use a staple gun to carefully secure the new wiring that comes with the photoelectric sensors to the wall, using new insulating staples. Use one staple for each 1-foot interval until it reaches the garage door opener.
  • Remove a small amount of insulation from each wire end (unless it comes pre-stripped) and insert the ends into the appropriate connectors. Make sure the wires fit securely into place.

At this point, you can reattach the garage door unit's cover and restore power to the unit itself.

Seeing Eye to Eye

The next step in this process involves lining up both of the photoelectric sensors. The sending eye and receiving eye must have a clear line of sight from one another in order to work properly. Accomplishing this is simply a matter of positioning one eye until it becomes parallel with the other across the doorway.

Simply loosen the wing nut holding both eyes in place until they start moving. Use a level to position one eye and then adjust the other eye by hand until the green or red light indicators on both eyes begin to glow. After both eyes have been properly aligned, hand-tighten both wing nuts until they're firm.

Now it's time to test the new sensors. Place cardboard box or something similarly soft and compactable in the doorway and close the garage door. The new sensors should detect the obstruction and stop working until the obstruction has been removed. If you're still having problems with your garage door opener, you may want to check the limit settings before readjusting the eyes. 

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