On August 25, around 5:30 PM we got the keys to our new house. We did not sleep there that night. We were getting ready to go back to our apartment for one last night before we moved in the following day. As the garage was closing, I tried to program my car’s garage opener homelink button, when “boom!” there was a fairly loud explosion and the garage door stopped moving.
The noise had come from inside the garage. Fortunately the door was half open, so I was able to crawl in, just in time to see smoke coming out of the garage door opener. Something had blown inside it. It was time for my first home improvement project. And this was less than 6 hours from the time I bought the house!
After it stopped smoking, I went back to the apartment – fairly certain that the house would not catch on fire. I called my friends the next day to see what I needed to do. They said, just change the garage door opener. “Get a new one, it is not expensive.” So that weekend I got the tools to take down the whole thing so I could take it to Home Depot for comparison. I unplugged the garage door opener and climbed the ladder. As I removed the first bolt, I started to realize that this ‘mechanical’ work would require more muscle than I had. It prompted me to to think of alternate solutions.
I did a small thought experiment. Whenever I tried to turn on the opener, I could hear a murmur but there was no action. So obviously the motor was trying to get started, and was not fully ruined. What could have caused that explosive noise? May be just a capacitor exploded because I had the remote pressed to program my homelink? Possibly.
That is when I noticed four small screws holding down the cover of the opener. I removed the four little screws and took off the cover to get a better look. And sure enough I could see a whole bunch of twisted and and torn shards of paper – almost like a rat had chewed on the capacitor. The glue in the capacitor had caused the paper to stick everywhere making a big mess.
And this was no ordinary capacitor. Certainly nothing like I had seen before. The biggest capacitor I had seen before was may be 3/4 inch tall and a quarter inch in diameter. This one was over 4 inches long and over an inch in diameter. I took some pictures just to make sure I would know how to put it back together.
While the guts of the capacitor was strewn all over the place, the casing was exceptionally undamaged. It was easy to remove. It had a part number on it – 19988a. Around 75 micro Farads. I googled the part number and found it easily. It cost something like $20 a piece. A quick trip to Home Depot yielded no new capacitor. They don’t carry capacitors at all – now I know. And I could not find any “Electrical” store near me.
So I ordered it from Amazon and a week later it arrived. During that week, I opened the door manually. It was very noisy and it was very heavy. I considered upgrading the metal rollers with nylon rollers to reduce the noise. Then I considered replacing the springs to make it less heavy. But I decided to wait until I fixed the opener. Especially because both these changes were a bit dangerous to the uninitiated – given the weight of the door and the strength of the spring.
When the capacitor arrived, I removed the remains of the old one and installed the new one. I wanted to test it before closing the cover. I plugged in the opener and anxiously pressed the button. I had waited a week with bated breath. This better work…
It didn’t!!!! Darn it. What was wrong? It was the same murmur I heard without the capacitor. I could not see from my position if the motor was turning. I actually did not look. Did I just waste money on a useless capacitor and a week on great expectations? Wow, did I think of all that in just 2 seconds? Because that is all it took for me to realize that I had disengaged the emergency latch to make the garage manual
I quickly pulled the red emergency cord up to latch the door back on to the motor’s spindle. This time, when I pressed the button, it worked! And to top it all off it was whisper quiet! Apparently, it is only loud and heavy when it is in manual mode. Ha ha!
All’s well that ends well. Tomorrow the motion sensors arrive. That will be my second project.