Can You Manually Open an Automatic Garage Door?

If your automatic garage door opener won't work, you can still open it. Here's how to do it easily and safely.

Thankfully, there’s a way to open your garage door if the automatic door opener fails. That’s one less thing to worry about when a power outage happens. You might still have to keep the refrigerator door closed and forget about watching TV, but at least you can get the car out of the garage.

It’s especially reassuring to know if you happen to be working in a garage with no side entrance and the power goes out, there’s a way out. Otherwise, you’d be stuck there unless you could disengage the door from the opener. That’s why pretty much every door opener includes an emergency release cord.

Manually Opening the Garage Door from Inside

If the power goes out while you’re inside the garage, or your door opener malfunctions for another reason, look for the emergency release cord. It hangs down from the trolley, the part that connects the lever arm attached to the door to the overhead track. It usually has a red, T-shaped handle on the end.

Once you’ve spotted the cord, follow these steps:

  1. Pull on the cord to disengage the trolley. (Depending on the model, you may have to pull it sharply toward the inside of the garage to keep the trolley disengaged and prevent it from springing back into the locked position when you release the cord.)
  2. Unplug the door opener. If you don’t, the motor may start running when the power comes back on, making it more difficult to re-engage the trolley.
  3. Unlock the garage door.
  4. Lift the door to the completely open position. Don’t open it partway — it could fall on someone standing in the doorway.

Opening the Garage Door from Outside

If your garage has no side entrance, the door needs an access panel that lets you reach the emergency release cord from outside. This is usually at the top center of the door. It should be locked, so you’ll need the key.

Open the panel, reach inside, find the emergency release cord, then pull to release the trolley. Unlock the door and lift it. As soon as it’s open, unplug the door opener to prevent it from coming on unexpectedly. Here are a few reasons why your garage door isn’t opening.

Garage Door Opening Safety Tips

Garage doors are heavy, and the torsion springs that make them easier to operate are under a dangerous amount of tension. So be cautious when you open one manually.

  • If the door doesn’t move after you unlock it and disengage the trolley, don’t force it. The track could be bent or the springs damaged. You could make things worse by opening the door.
  • Use the emergency release cord only when the door is closed. If the door is open or partially open when you release the trolley, it could come crashing down.
  • Keep the open doorway clear. The door could close on its own in a strong wind.

How to Reset an Electric Door Opener

Once the power comes back on, you need to reconnect the trolley to the overhead track.

Some models reconnect automatically. If you have one of these, just close the door all the way and start the door opener. The process happens by itself.

On other models, you pull the emergency cord sharply in the direction of the door. This releases a spring-loaded lever, and the trolley snaps back onto the track.

Consult your owner’s manual to see which method your door requires.

Chris Deziel
Chris Deziel has been active in the building trades for more than 30 years. He helped build a small city in the Oregon desert from the ground up and helped establish two landscaping companies. He has worked as a carpenter, plumber and furniture refinisher. Deziel has been writing DIY articles since 2010 and has worked as an online consultant, most recently with Home Depot's Pro Referral service. His work has been published on Landlordology, and Hunker. Deziel has also published science content and is an avid musician.