Though a garage door may look like a simple mechanism, it is actually quite complex. Even simple machines that only seem to raise and lower something have several moving parts that must work in tandem.

For example, your garage door springs help shoulder the weight of the heavy door, and your garage door cables hold the two together.

While the intricacies of modern garage doors and garage door openers are stunning machinery, it also means that quite a bit can go wrong with your garage door if you aren't prepared or knowledgeable about how it functions. The experts at Door Power touch briefly on this topic in our garage door installation blog, Three Common Garage Door Problems and Causes.

Now, we're here to do a more detailed look at a common yet incredibly frustrating issue: blocked sensors.

When not taken care of, a blocked garage door sensor can outright stop your garage door from closing.

What Is a Garage Door Opener’s Sensor?

To understand what it means to have a blocked sensor, it is first essential to understand what a garage door sensor does for your system.

Simply put, your garage door’s sensor is a device that projects a thin beam of infrared light across the space where your garage door closes. If something steps in front of this light, it prevents your garage door from closing on top of it and damaging what’s underneath.

This is a great safety measure, but when there is seemingly nothing there, it’s endlessly frustrating.

The two primary units of your garage door opener are two small “lenses” placed near each lower corner of your garage door, often coupled with a small light that indicates if the device is working.

Before you bypass this post entirely because you “don’t have a garage door sensor,” know this: There’s a long history of federal legislation surrounding these devices and suburban deaths before they became well-used.

The majority of modern garage doors have door sensors to keep home and business owners safe.

What Is a Blocked Sensor?

When sensors function as they should, they are essential to your garage door's safety system. Because of them, you never have to worry about anything getting crushed beneath a machine part that can weigh 200 pounds or more.

Thanks to these new rules, garage doors are safer than ever. However, if you are experiencing problems with your home’s garage door sensor, you are right to be concerned about that safety.

Unfortunately, garage door sensors are fallible. While they're a great protective mechanism, if the beam of light between the two units is consistently interrupted when it shouldn't be, your garage door will be stuck open.

The machinery will perceive it unsafe to close—even if there's nothing in particular that warrants protection below it. The result is a blocked sensor.

What Causes a Blocked Sensor?

Unfortunately, a range of things can cause a blocked sensor. The good news is that most of them are simple fixes.

For example, items in your garage can trip the sensor if pushed into its path and left there.

In this case, you wouldn’t need to call a garage door repair technician. Simply clear the area below your garage door and try to close it again. If obstructions were the problem, your blocked sensor problem is fixed.

A dirty photo eye can also be considered a blocked sensor, as it’s dust and grime that are “blocking” the path of the infrared light.

Garage door sensors can sense things as small as a spider, debris, dirt, and even dust. Wipe off the two small lenses attached to your garage door sensor; if your door closes normally, you’ve solved the problem.

Finally, sunlight, at the correct angle, can “block” your sensor from functioning. Because the sun emits infrared light just like your sensors, it can essentially “scramble” their signals, preventing the machine from communicating with itself.

Depending on your garage door’s unique anatomy, this can be a simple fix. Sometimes, a garage door repair specialist will simply need to switch the transmitting and receiving sides of the sensors; other times, they may install a particular product to block the sun.

Toilet paper tubes can be a short-term solution until a pro arrives, but they certainly aren’t visually appealing, nor will they last.

Another reason that your garage door sensor could be blocked is misalignment between two photo eyes. There are often two sides that interact, activating the LED lights on both ends. For the majority of garage door systems, there will be two corresponding lights.

If one of the photo eyes falls out of line, perhaps due to fatigue or physical pressure, it cannot scan the area and could assume that there are safety issues.

How Do I Know If It’s a Blocked Sensor?

Generally speaking, the primary symptom of an ailing garage door sensor is your door's failure to close. Once that is established, look into whether you’ve got a blocked sensor. In addition, your sensor may display warning signs in the form of flashing or off-color lights.

Finally, if your garage is a bit messy, you may also consider tidying up a bit. Items around the garage and disorganization can potentially signal to your garage door sensor that it’s blocked.

If you suspect that your garage door sensor is blocked, check the sensor lights. Depending on the type of garage door you have, one of the lights may flash, dim, or go out if the beam is interrupted.

It's important to note, though, that a garage door that won't close isn't only caused by a blocked sensor—so never try to close a sticky garage door forcibly.

Anything from bent garage door tracks to a misadjusted limit sensor can be the cause, and some of these issues are dangerous for the layperson to try and tangle with. Instead, call a garage door company if you can't quickly resolve the issue.

Door Power: One Garage Door Company for All Your Needs

The team with Door Power in Norwood has comprehensive knowledge of garage doors, from maintenance to repairs to installation, meaning you’ll never need to save the phone number of another garage door company again. Give us a call today at 952-467-3199.