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How to Check for an Auto-Reverse on the Garage Door in Pre-1993 Homes

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Before you purchase a home, there are many things that you should inspect. One item that you'll want to carefully check if you're purchasing a house that was constructed before 1993 is the garage door opener. Here's why, along with how to inspect it.

1993 Regulations Require Auto-Reverse

In addition to making sure the garage door opener is working properly, you'll also want check that it's equipped with important safety features. Specifically, you'll want to look for a properly functioning auto-reverse.

In 1993, the Consumer Product Safety Commission passed new regulations governing garage doors. The regulations require that manufacturers of garage door openers include auto-reverses on their openers. Thus, all garage doors built afterwards, by law, should have these auto-reverse features. Those built before 1993, though, may not because they weren't legally required.

A garage door might have any of three different kinds of auto-reverses: control buttons, electric eyes and contact sensors.

Look for a Control Button

Checking for a control button is easy. They're located on the garage wall and usually look like a normal button that you'd press to open or close a garage door.

The difference between a standard button and a control one is that the control button must be continually held down the entire time the garage door is closing. If it's released, the door will begin opening.

To see if the garage door opener of the home you're looking at has a control button, open the door, press and hold the button that closes the garage door, then release the button. If the door begins opening once the button is released, the garage door is equipped with a control button that's working. If the door continues closing, it either doesn't have a button, or the feature is broken.

Look for an Electric Eye

An electric eye auto-reverse uses a laser to ensure there's nothing in the path of the door when it's closing. Most of the time, the laser is just off the garage floor and scans across the opening of the garage door. If anything breaks the beam of the laser while the door is closing, the door will immediately cease closing and start to open.

If the garage door has an electric eye, you'll likely find a small box-shaped rectangle on one of the two tracks that the door runs along. The box should be just above the floor. This is the laser. To check the electric eye, open the garage door, start to close the door, then place an opaque object across the door's opening, close to the floor. If the object stops the door from closing, then there's a working electric eye. If the door doesn't stop, the eye is broken.

Look to see whether the box is askew, as that could indicate that the laser is askew and could be fixed with a simple adjustment. If the box isn't askew, there may be a bigger issue.

Look for a Contact Sensor

If the garage door opener has a contact sensor, you probably won't be able to see it, but you can still test for it. To check for a contact sensor, you'll need a rigid tool. The handle of a hammer or a screwdriver works well. As the door is closing, use the tool to push against the bottom of the door.

If there's a working contact sensor, you won't have to push hard to make the door cease closing. If it continues closing, stop pushing and get out of the way of the door; there's no working contact sensor.

Negotiate a Lower Sale Price

Hopefully, you'll find one of these three contact sensors on the garage door opener of the home you're interested in, even though they weren't required when the home was built. If you don't, you may want to add a sensor to the opener after purchasing the home, as they could prevent something or someone from being crushed by the door. You can find out how much installing a sensor will asking a company that installs garage doors for a quote.

Once you know how much putting an opener in will cost, you might manage to negotiate a lower sale price. Explain that you'll want to put an auto-reverse on the garage door, especially since they've been standard since 1993, and show the current homeowner how much the installation would cost. The seller might take the entire amount off of the sale price, or they might agree to give you a fraction of the installation cost off of the home's sale price. 

For further information on your options, contact companies like J & R Garage Door Company Inc.