Garage Door Safety Photo Eye Beams
Garage door safety beams, also
know as photos eyes, are used to protect people, pets and property. When properly working, they will detect
a moving object that either passes through the garage door opening or if
something is obstructing the door opening. The photo eyes are considered a failsafe type of
The garage door opener will not
close the garage door using normal means with the electric opener if a problem
occurs within the safety system.
There are several ways to determine if your photos eyes are faulty. By using a few simple tests and a
little examination, you can trouble shoot and repair the problem with simple
Symptoms of Failure
The tell tale sign there is a
problem with your photo eyes is when you press and release the wall button or
remote control transmitter button and your garage door opener light blinks and
the door will not move in the downward direction. In some cases your garage door may close part way and then
reverse at some point during its travel and return to the open position. When
that occurs, the light on your garage door opener will flash for a brief period
of time. All of these symptoms can
occur on Liftmaster, Sears Craftsman, Chamberlain and Genie brand garage door
openers, so you can use these troubleshooting steps to repair most brands.
How To Troubleshoot the Problem
When your garage door opener
shows the symptoms described above, you can do a simple test to see if you are
on the right path. Start by making
sure your garage door opening is clear from people, pet or objects. Take a moment and examine the photo
eyes closely for any spider webs, dust, debris, etc., and wipe off the lens.
Also a brief note here, blowing leaves in the autumn are notorious for tripping photo eye safety sensors,
check to make sure there are non blowing about your garage door.
Assuming your garage door is in
the open position push and HOLD the garage door opener wall button. Your
garage door should travel in the closed direction and when you let go of the
button it will reverse and the light on the garage door opener will blink.
You can use this process to get
your garage door closed until you can get to the repair.
Simply push and hold your garage
door wall console until the door reaches the closed position. Timing this can be a bit of tricky
procedure and may take several attempts..
Another tell tale sign you have a problem with your photo
eyes that requires a little more investigating is to check and see if the
lights on your safety beams themselves are both lit up and not dark or
flashing. Most photo eyes have one
of the following colored lights: red, amber, green or yellow. In some cases the lights will be the
same color from one unit to the next and in some cases they will have different
If you notice one of the lights on your safety beams is
solid and the other is blinking this can indicate an alignment problem.
Alignment issues almost always are caused by someone or thing bumping into the
safety beams or brackets.
The blinking light is the same as
if you had an object blocking the path between the two beams, so make sure you
look for the obvious.
Spider webs, dust, dirt, &
blowing leaves or paper can cause photo eye problems as well.
A shovel, broom or maybe even the new trailer hitch on your
car or truck maybe simply blocking the travel of the beam.
If you have one or both lights out this can be an indicator
you may have a bad photo eye or possibly a wiring problem. Many of the older safety beams utilized
a plug to connect the sensor to the wiring. The manufacturers thought this was a good way to allow easy
repairs of the sensors but quickly found out this connection ended up corroding
or becoming the weak spot in the system.
The main operator manufacturer, the Chamberlain group, who manufacturers
garage door openers for Sears Craftsman, Liftmaster, Raynor, Master Mechanic
and Wayne Dalton now hard wire the leads into the photo eye. Genie utilizes a screw terminal on
their safety beams for easy change out and connection of the wires.
If you have a door that goes down past half way and then
reverses and you notice the photo eye light blinks or flickers when the door
reverses you most likely have a loose sensor or the bracket that holds the
sensor may be mounted on the track and it causes just enough movement to bring
the eyes out of alignment. You
will want to check to make sure the door track is mounted securely and that the
tracks are not too tight and causing the door to push the tracks over as it
closes. Also make sure the
fasteners are tight on the track and photo eyes. This is a good time to check the plug connection if
applicable. If you move the wire
near the plug and the light flashes you may have found your problem.
When the problem is that one or both lights are not lit,
always begin with a quick inspection of the wiring. A staple through the wire or pinching of the wire, can cause
a short circuit in the system. A
quick way to check your wiring, is to take your photo eyes loose from the
brackets and cut the wire leaving 6”-12” of wire still attached to the photo
eyes and strip back the wire insulation and connect them directly to the power
head where your photos were originally attached. Then while holding them in one
hand so that they are aligned looking at each other, push the remote control
button and release, or if you have a helper, have them push the wall button and
release it. If you can get the
photo eyes to work using this technique, you most likely have a wiring problem.
If both lights are out you may have experienced a power surge
that damage your safety sensors.
Make sure if you replace your safety sensors, you order a surge protector
to insure this does not occur again. We strongly recommend a surge protector as it is an inexpensive insurance policy.
Replacing your photo eyes is a
quick and easy fix. Most kits come
with new photo safety sensors and splicing hardware if they do not have screw
terminals. All you need is a
several simple hand tools such as a screwdrivers, wrenches, wire striper to
remove the insulation from the wire and a pliers to crimp the wire connection
terminal. We recommended using
electrical tape to protect the connections from moisture after the splices have
been made. Some of the most common
part numbers for photo eye safety beams replacement sets are for Liftmaster,
Sears Craftsman, Chamberlain are 414373A(old style with thru bolts),
41A5034(new style with carriage head bolts) and Genie and Overhead Door part
number 37220R. Wayne Dalton and
Challenger uses part number 252118.
Federal Regulations Impacting Garage Door Openers
In 1993, Federal law required
that residential garage door opener (GDO)manufacturers add certain safety
features to their products.
Effective January 1,1993 they
required residential GDO manufacturers to include many new safety features in
their products to reduce the risk of entrapment and or death.
They required the residential GDO
manufacturers to have a reversing feature that would initiate within 2 seconds
of sensing an obstruction, a reversing timer that would open the door to the
full open position within 30 seconds of it not reaching the fully closed
position. A secondary system for entrapment protection, which could be an
external system, such as safety sensor eyes or electrical edge sensing device
or an integral door and operator system that had the ability to determine
excess force was required to close the door and initiate door reversing
sequence with in 30 seconds.
The federal & state laws
applying to the installation and repair of new and existing residential GDO’s
vary from state to state. So, to be certain, you would want to check with your
local municipal building inspection/code enforcement officials to get the most
current applicable law for your area.
There are no federal laws that
restrict you from repairing non-compliant residential GDO’s, but state and
local laws may have different regulations regarding this, so best to check with
your local building code enforcement folks.
You can tell if your unit has the
new safety features by examining the date of manufacture, if it it’s January 1
of 1993 or there after it is required to be compliant with the federal GDO
The safety features on these
residential GDO’s are required to be tested monthly for proper operation.
The automatic reverse feature can
be tested by placing a 1” board flat on the floor beneath the garage door and
closing the door on it by using the door opener button.
The door safety reverse feature should initiate within 2
seconds of the door closing on the 1” board, if it does not the downward force
adjustment should be decreased until the door does reverse with in 2 seconds of
Most states allow the us of a 2 x
4 wooden block, which is nominal 1
½” thick, however, Minnesota and New York require the use of a 1” thick block,
so to be certain use the 1” block for testing purposes. Some states do not
allow you to repair or adjust the downward force, the unit must be tagged with
a red danger tag, the tag nomenclature varies from state to state.
It’s always a good idea to check the safety sensors (photo
eyes) for proper operation. They should mounted be no more than 6” above the
floor. Momentarily, place an object (perhaps a small empty cardboard box) directly
in the path of the photo eye as the door begins to close from fully open to
The door should sense the obstruction, and immediately stop
the door, and initiate the door reverse sequence. If this does not happen, the
safety failsafe is malfunctioning. Immediately, unplug the opener & pull
the emergency disconnect for the door/trolley and contact service personnel to
inspect and repair the safety system .
Do not use the operator until it can be inspected and
Although it maybe an inconvenience to raise and lower your
garage door, it will eliminate the possible danger of entrapment from the door.
Garage Door Opener Replacement Photo Eyes and Safety Beams