Jammed Wayne Dalton Garage Door
By Lance Goens - 11/21/2018 8:00:00 AM
The garage door is something most people take for granted that it will just work forever... with precisely no maintenance... well we might lube the rollers once a decade... maybe. In any case, occasionally even the garage door needs some attention. For instance, the other day my wife let me know that after returning from shuttling the kids that the garage door would not go down. Oh for joy, I get to home-ownership today!
My initial sight-unseen thought was a spring had likely broken. But the door was up.. which means a spring had to help the opener get it up in the first place. So, maybe not. Going into the garage, I observed the opened garage door and of course had to press the button to see if my wife was just "making things up" - I've been accused of assuming that a few times. Alas, in fact, the door would not lower. The opener was sensing resistance to closing and reversed course taking the door back up.
Great, now what? Don't do the following without knowing what to expect: First I tried disengaging the door from the opener to lower the door manually. If in fact the spring(s) had broken here, you may be in danger of the door slamming to the ground and decapitating you... it's in the owner's manual under "How your garage door will kill you." - look it up. So, with this in mind, I common sens-i-cal-ly began lowering the door, prepared to support the full weight of the door.
As the door started coming down, it was not heavy. However, it only traveled about a foot before it stopped completely. It simply would not budge. At this point, I looked at the door tracks to see if there was an obstruction and to my surprise I noticed a yellow piece of paper wire-tied to the side of the rail. It was a card left by the installer that describes how the Wayne Dalton TourqueMaster Plus works and how to reset the "Anti-Drop Device." Awesome... my door is anti-dropping right now, this sounds useful!
The instructions state that you need to inspect the ends of the TorqueMaster Plus to see if the "Drum Pawl" is engaged with the "Cable Drum" (don't worry, I have pictures below). If so, this indicates the anti-drop feature has engaged and your door will not be going anywhere but up. My pawls were engaged with the drums - you can imagine my excitement. Continuing with the reset instructions, it basically states to place a vise grip (I used a couple quick-clamps) on the door tracks on each side to prevent the door from arming decapitation mode - again, refer to the manual. Next, disengage the opener, which I already did while guessing above. With the opener (if equipped) disengaged, and the rails clamped off, the next step is to rotate the Pawl Knob up on each side. If you don't know what a "Pawl Knob" is, see the photo below - basically it's a small dial lever that need to be rotated up.
With Pawls up, the instructions state to move the door up 2-3 inches and then back down to your clamps to disengage the anti-drop feature. It states to repeat this if necessary but I didn't have to. I didn't hear anything that sounded like a disengage, but lets just say I wasn't exactly paying attention to listening for it either. At this point, I checked the Drum Pawls and they were no longer engaged with the Cable Drums so... success!
Next the instructions state to remove the clamps and fear your potential demise. The anti-drop mechanism should be disengaged and it's time to lower the door. Again, be prepared to support the full weight of the door because death, decapitation, and please don't sue. For me the door started lowering... great! End of article...
...except it didn't go all the way down and was again jammed and refusing to budge. NOW WHAT...? I checked the pawls again and they were not engaged with the drums so the anti-drop thing-a-muh-bob was not the problem now.
The clamps are removed, the rails are clear, the door is disengaged from the opener... this thing isn't killing anybody and the instructions are just written in "hire-a-professional" speak. I don't hire pros until I hurt myself at least once so saga continues...
I asked myself, how do garage doors open and close and what part of that operation is failing. Garage doors have cables attached on the bottom door panel on each side that are connected to the springs, and said springs assist in the lifting and lowering of the door. This cable has to retract and extend with each respective open and close of the door. Since there is nothing in the rails obstructing the door, perhaps the cables are jammed.
With the door stuck, I tried pushing each side of the door down. The left side would flex an inch or two, but the right side was very rigid and wouldn't move. So, I assumed the right side is where the problem resided. On the TorqueMaster Plus system that I have, you can see a spool on both ends of the lifting mechanism where the cable attached to the door winds and unwinds. This spool is covered by a plastic cover. So I raised the door back up and went about figuring out how to remove the spool cover to inspect the cable.
On the cover, there are three tabs. Each tab needs to be pried up gently while trying to pull the cover toward the center of the door. After the third tab was pried up, the cover slipped toward the center of the door, but the spool still was not fully exposed. The cover was up against something again so I repeated the process of prying each of the three tabs and it again slid over. Now the spool was exposed and my suspicion was confirmed.
I lowered the door again to it's previous half-way-down position and found the problem... the cable was in fact jammed.
Now I'm not a mechanical engineer by trade, but it's pretty obvious that wrapping a steel cable over a plastic spool is a point of failure designed by Wayne Dalton. In the photo below, you can see that the ribs on the spool are frayed and damaged from normal use. This is not what I would consider a "consumable" part. In my opinion the spool should be made from steel or aluminum... ok, end of the "they don't build it like they used to" rant.
Anyway, with the door up, I put my clamps back on the rail because the next step should be done with some caution. To fix the jammed cable, I would need to unwind it off the spool and rewind it without the jam. So again, with the clamps in place on the rails to ensure the door can't come down, I removed the cable from the bottom panel of the door on this side only. The end of the cable has a loop in it that can be popped off a stud on the bottom door panel. After taking the cable loose from the door, I was able to free the jam and rewrap it around the spool. Once re-wrapped, I reattached the cable to the door by putting the loop back over the stud on the bottom door panel. Make sure the cable loop is fully seated around the stud on the door and it can't be pulled back off because death, decapitation, and please don't sue.
With the jam cleared, the cable re-wrapped and re-attached to the door, I slid the spool cover back into it's position over the spool and removed the clamps from the rails. At this point, the door is once again ready to be lowered. Again, be prepared to support the full weight of the door, but it should go down hopefully all the way.
In my case, the door successfully completed it's journey to the floor. Re-engage your opener if you have one and test the door's operation using the opener. With any luck your door will open and close... and as long as you're in the garage, lube the rollers.
Do you like your Wayne Dalton garage door? Let me know in the comments below.