Your Guide to Opening the Garage Door During a Power Outage

Power outages are commonplace today. It could be a summer thunderstorm, a limited brownout, rolling blackouts, or even the effect of a tornado or hurricane. When the power’s out, life feels like it comes to a standstill – no TV, no radio, no Internet except on battery-powered, wireless devices. It’s inconvenient, to say the least. It also has consequences that go far beyond mere boredom. For instance, if the power’s out, you’ll find it challenging to get your car out of the garage if you need to go to the store or experience an emergency.

Houses with garage doors. Thunder and strike storm

Of course, you might have never been in this situation before. In that case, you might not really understand just how difficult it can seem to get out of the garage if the power is out and the opener won’t work.

Accidents happen. Things go wrong. Life keeps on moving, even during a power outage. If you find yourself in this situation and the door won’t open, this guide is just what you need. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to safely open that door and get out of the garage.

Power’s Out? No Worries!

What you really need to understand is this: your garage door opener is electric. If the power’s out, the door won’t open. It remains locked in place. However, there are workarounds here!

First things first

Before doing anything else, make sure that you’re the only one in the garage. Move everyone else back inside the house.

Exercise caution!

When using the workarounds we’ll talk about here, remember that your garage door springs are under a lot of pressure. A misstep could have dangerous repercussions. Always use caution here.

Disconnect the Garage Door Opener

Funny picture: Someone who seemed to have received an electrical shock

Wait a second, you think. Why am I disconnecting the garage door opener when the power’s out? Let’s just say that you need to hedge your bets. If the power was to come back on while you were working on the garage door, things could get difficult very quickly. We’re talking electric shock, being hit in the face by the garage door trolley, and other dangerous scenarios.

Turn on the lights!

There’s no use trying to work in the dark. Go get a flashlight or a LED headlamp so that you can see what you’re doing. We highly recommend the headlamp so that you can work with your hands free.

A picture of Brightest Headlamp, Super Bright 18000 Lumen 6 LED Work Headlight With Red Warning Lihgt 8 Modes Rechargeable Waterproof Flashlight

You can also store a headlamp in the garage so that it’s always handy and you always know where it’s located.

If you’re stuck in the house and need to leave, having ready access to a light is important. It will save you time, effort, and hassle, plus make it simpler to get out of the house with a minimum of fuss and effort. Imagine trying to scour the house for a flashlight, rifling through junk drawer after junk drawer, or trying to get into the attic to locate that light that you know you have, but just can’t seem to find.

Of course, having ready access to emergency lighting is just one step in your preparations. Need further details? Consumer Reports has great tips.

Manual Garage Door Opening: Your Step-By-Step Process

1. Make sure the garage door is closed.

Yes, this one is pretty basic commonsense. If you’re trying to open the door, then it’s probably closed to begin with.

Image of closed garage door from the inside

Never attempt to disconnect your garage door from the opener when the door is open!

There are other reasons that your garage door might not open, outside of a power outage. For example, if the power’s on but the door won’t budge, there’s a possibility that a spring is broken. The door could also be out of balance.

If the door is open and you release it from the opener, it could mean that the door comes crashing down to the floor, possibly with you underneath it.

So, before you do anything else, make sure that the door is not stuck in the open position. If it is, stop what you’re doing and get in touch with the garage door experts asap!

In addition to our first commonsense tip, we have a second no-brainer.

Only use manual mode on your garage door if you really, really have to. If you can wait, do so. See if the power comes back on and then you can open the door with the garage door opener.

Most power outages are pretty short-term, which means there’s 1) a good chance that it will come back on during this process and 2) that you’ll waste energy going to manual mode when it’s not really necessary.

Our recommendation is that if you’re not in urgent need of leaving the house, sit tight. Wait for the power to come back.

2. Find the door’s bypass handle

With most modern garage doors, you should see a bypass handle (rope) hanging from the rail somewhere in front of the garage door opener. Look in front of the opener, not to the side where the tracks are.

With the garage door closed, the rope should be closer to the garage door. Make sure you look at the right thing – with the door up, the rope moves back, closer to the opener.

Image of a garage door opener bypass release handle

The handle is usually red, signifying its importance in an emergency.

3. Pull the handle/cord.

The next step is to pull the cord/handle. This will disengage the trolley from the garage door opener. When you pull the cord, the trolley operator is disabled and you can manually open the door. Without disconnecting the trolley, the door remains connected to the opener, which locks the door in place so that it cannot be opened by hand.

One of our garage door installer testing the emergency release cord

Once you disconnect the trolley, slide it back a couple of inches from the door.

4. Find the lifting handle

With the trolley and opener disconnected from the door, locate the manual lifting handle. This should be located on the door itself. It’s most often found near the bottom of the door but may be installed halfway up the door.

For well‑balanced garage doors, lifting it is simple. You should be able to do this with just one hand, whether you have a single door (9 x 7 feet) or a double garage door (16 x 7 feet).

Note: If you try to raise the door but it feels very heavy, stop what you’re doing. You have a more serious problem.

Let go of the handle and make sure the garage door is closed. Step away from it and ensure that no one goes into the garage. Immediately call to have it checked out. It will need repairs or maintenance at the very least.

It’s time to call your local garage door specialists – don’t wait!

A door that’s hard to open manually is a sign of a deep, dangerous problem. In most cases, this means that one of the springs is broken or has stretched to the point that it no longer functions. In most cases, this happens within five to seven years of the door being installed.

It’s important to understand how your garage door works. It seems like the garage door opener is what actually lifts the door, but the truth is that the springs handle all the heavy lifting. All the opener does is pull it up the tracks.

Understand the Physics Here

Let’s think of things in terms of basic physics. If your door weighs 300 pounds, then the springs must exert 300 pounds of force to make it possible for the opener to raise the door. That puts the springs under a great deal of pressure.

How It Works

Now, let’s say that the springs break and no longer function. Something has to take that 300 pounds of weight. It could be your garage door opener, or it could be you if things go wrong. Without functioning torsion springs, your opener lacks the strength to move the door – it was never designed for that type of lifting.

5. Reconnect your door

Were you able to open the door in the previous step? That’s great news! You can use it manually until the power comes back on.

Once the power is restored, it’s time to put your door back together again. It’s not all that complicated and only requires three steps:

Step 4 went like a charm? Good for you!

  1. Close the door.
  2. Pull the emergency release.
  3. Lift the door by hand, slowly, and feel for it to connect with the trolley.

Once that happens, you just need to press the button on the opener. This will run a cycle and reconnect the trolley, the door, and the opener. Note that this must be a full cycle – open and then closed once more. You’ll know that this works when the trolley and carriage pass one another and a loud click is heard. With this step out of the way, you can get back to using your door as normal.

Opening Your Garage by Hand from Outside

Unable to get into your garage from outside? If there is no exterior access door, we recommend an outside quick release.

Picture of an Outside quick release 1702LM

Without this option, you’re stuck going through the house to get into the garage. This can be pretty dangerous in situations like a house fire. It also makes daily life more than a little challenging.

  1. Find the quick release and unlock it.
  2. Turn the key and pull the tumbler out to release the mechanism.
  3. Manually raise the door until it stops.
  4. Drive the car into the garage and then manually close the door.
  5. Push the lever upward and re-engage the garage door motor. You can also do this the same way you did it in the previous steps when re-engaging the trolley.

There’s a Better Option: A Streamlined Way to Open Your Door Even with No Power

Does it seem like all these steps are, well, time-consuming and annoying? They are. There’s a way around them, too. It just involves changing out your aging garage door opener.

Picture of an included battery backup 485LM

It’s time to make your home more current with a modern garage door opener that includes a battery backup. With this on your side, even power outages won’t keep your door closed (or force you to jump through hoops to get out of the garage).

You will also discover that there are many models of garage door openers available to fit your needs, budget, and sense of aesthetics.

And it’s not just about getting the door open when the power’s out. If you love the world of apps available on your smartphone, you’re also going to love the new LiftMaster garage door opener choices.

You’ll find that LiftMaster (a Chamberlain company) has been dedicated to improving their technology for many years now. Take their MyQ technology as an example. It’s incorporated into most of their garage door openers and allows you to open, close, lock, and unlock the door from your phone. That’s right – your garage door is connected to the Wi-Fi!

What you can see on your smart phone when you have an integrated camera on your garage door opener

This shows what’s possible with an integrated camera on your garage door opener.

However, things are even more advanced today. The LiftMaster 87504-267 delivers an integrated camera with 2-way audio built right into the opener so that you can see and hear what’s going on. You can even communicate with people in your garage from any location.

Not interested in a garage door opener-mounted camera? Don’t feel the need to have a camera on your garage door opener? You can benefit from the LiftMaster 87802 automatic opener, which is a bit lower-tech, while still giving you the best of Wi-Fi-enabled access.

An image of a MyQ alert sent on a smart phone

Get alerts from your door right on your smartphone.

With the MyQ app, you can monitor your garage and even keep tabs on your home’s security. And there’s a backup battery included so you don’t have to worry about being stuck if the power goes out.

Need to maximize space because of storage or because you have a small garage?

A picture of a wall-mounted LiftMaster 8500W with included side lock 841LM and LED light 827LM

This is the LiftMaster 8500W. It’s designed to be mounted to the wall instead of the ceiling and it maximizes your space while offering quieter operation. It comes with all the features you want and need, including a backup battery for peace of mind.

Not sure which to choose? There’s help available!

We’re your local garage door and garage door opener specialists, and we’ll be happy to offer the guidance you need.

Here at Car-Wal Garage Doors, we’re passionate about garage door systems and have been for years. Whether you’re interested in exploring new options on the market, or you already own a LiftMaster/Chamberlain opener and want to maintain it properly, we’re here for you.

Call us at one of our locations.

London: 519-685-9797

Mount Pleasant: 905-304-9700

Guelph: 519-821-4400

Goderich: 519-482-3251

Toronto: 647-492-4739

Get in touch with us today and we’ll provide you with help to find the right replacement model for your home and budget, and we’ll even send you an email quote to make things simpler. And, if you just want some TLC for your existing system, our tune-up service is the right fit.

Why not go for a complete garage makeover with a new garage door?

These garage doors are Princeton P 12, in 9'x7' size, doors and overlays in Ice White Color, 8 lite Panoramic windows. Perfect for the farmhouse and the modern farmhouse styles!

Dig this style? This is the Princeton P‑12 Design in 9' x 7' size and overlays in Ice White, 8 lite Panoramic windows. It’s great for that classic, timeless look.

Explore our 3 Styles and get inspiration for choosing your new garage door. You’ll find options that add to your home’s appearance and value, as well as fitting within your budget. Don’t stop there, though. Our photo album gives you an idea of what we’ve achieved for other clients, and our Design Centre is a fun way to virtually “try on” garage doors for your home. You can change styles, colors, window types, and so much more!

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