An Automatic Garage Door Opener is Not as Secure as You Think


I remember when my parents got their very first automatic garage door opener. They thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. Among its many advantages, at least in my parents’ eyes, was a more secure garage that would be harder to break into. They weren’t wrong. Back then, garage door systems were fairly new. Burglars hadn’t yet figured out how to circumvent them. But things have changed.

Now that burglars understand automatic garage door openers, they are not as secure as you might think. In fact, an experienced burglar with a block of wood and a coat hanger can breach an automatic garage door opener in under 10 seconds.

You can see it for yourself by watching a video that has been circulating for years. It is really simple if you know what you’re doing. And if you are a criminal lucky enough to approach a garage door with windows, the job is even easier.

Disengaging the Safety Mechanism

So, how do they do it? By disengaging the safety mechanism built into every automatic garage door opener. That safety mechanism is designed as a lock that can be disabled with a simple pull cord. Disable the lock and you can open and close the door manually.

Criminals have figured out that they can disengage built-in safety mechanisms with nothing more than a wire coat hanger. They slip a small piece of wood in between the garage door and door frame to create an opening. Then they thread the coat hanger through the opening, use it to grab the pull cord – or even the lock itself – and give a gentle tug. The safety mechanism is disengaged, and the door can be opened freely.

Removing the Cord Isn’t a Good Idea

Some homeowners try to get around the issue by removing the pull cord. That is not a good idea for two reasons. First, criminals can still accomplish the task by hooking to the lock directly. They do not actually need the cord. Second, the safety mechanism is there for emergency purposes. Removing the cord could create a dangerous situation if a homeowner had to quickly escape while the power was out.

A better way to address the problem is to lock the safety mechanism in the engaged position. Depending on the make and model of the garage door opener, this can be accomplished with a small piece of dowling, a bolt, or even a zip tie. The solution just needs to be something a burglar can’t remove with a coat hanger. Yet it still needs to be easily removed in the event of an emergency.

The Smart Garage Door Controller

Vivint Smart Home recommends going one step further by installing a smart garage door controller. A smart controller gives homeowners remote access to their garage doors. They can open and close the doors with their phones. Not only that, but homeowners can also get real-time alerts whenever the garage door is opened or closed.

Imagine being at work when you get an alert on your phone. You know that your spouse is at work and the kids are in school. No one should be messing with the garage door. The fact that someone has opened it tells you there has been an unauthorized entry. You can immediately close the door and notify the police.

Burglars will always find a way to get around security measures. But homeowners don’t have to make it easy. One thing that homeowners can do is lock their automatic garage door openers in the engaged position. Doing so automatically takes away the coat hanger trick.

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