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It started out with Joni telling me the garage door opener had a problem. It turned out that the button on the wall was no longer operating the garage door opener; thus when you pushed it, the garage door didn’t go up … or down. It didn’t do anything, no matter how many times you pushed it. I know, I tried.

However, the garage door went up and down when we pushed the remote button in either of our cars, so I knew that it could operate somewhat normally.

I know this is not a real problem in the overall scheme of things, but it’s been many years since I’ve hoisted the garage door before pulling my car out of it. (And, by the way, we use our garage as it is intended: To store our cars, and we have only two. We try to keep the junk that would fill up the garage to a minimum. But that’s just us, unlike many of our neighbors, who keep their $30,000 cars and SUVs outside in the weather and store $500 worth of junk in the garage.)

Joni went down to our local hardware store, Hardester's in Middletown, and bought a new garage door button for about $28. It was all fancy and had lots of bells and whistles. When she called me, I told her I thought that was expensive and I’d go to Steves in St. Helena and see what they had.

I asked for a push button for a garage door opener and they sold me a doorbell button. It was about $6. Joni returned the expensive one and the doorbell button sat on the table by the front door for a few days, waiting for me to replace it.

That day turned out to be a recent Saturday. Out came the old doorbell button, in went the new one. Hook up the wires, press the button and presto, the garage door opener worked. Except it didn’t. Now what?

That’s always the issue with DYIers … do-it-yourselfers … what’s the next step if the first solution isn’t the solution?

I went online and found a phone number for the technical folks at Genie, the brand name of the garage door opener. The recording asked me to verify that it was a Genie and asked me to get the model number of the garage door opener.

This was harder than I initially thought. After opening the garage door, pulling out both cars, putting up a ladder and grabbing a flashlight, as far as I could tell, there was no model number on the unit. I even removed the plastic casing that goes over the two lights. There were several numbers there, but no model numbers.

After about five minutes, the tech person answered my call and asked for the model number. I told her I couldn’t help her and I read off all the numbers I could see, but that didn’t help. But, because the outer plastic covering was red, she was able to determine it was one of two screw-type garage door openers.

After a fairly lengthy conversation, she said she couldn’t help me, because the garage door opener that we had was one she wasn’t familiar with because it was so old. She told me she could transfer me to another tech person, someone who had more experience. That was fine, but when the recording told me that it would be another five-minute wait, I elected to have the tech person call me back and left my phone number.

In less than five minutes, he called me back and we determined a couple of things: the wire that went from the button to the garage door opener was the wrong type: it was brown, twisted copper wire that you’d use for a floor lamp rather than the recommended 18- to 22-gauge two-strand doorbell wire. He said I should replace the wire and that should fix the problem.

If it didn’t though, he said the problem could be a circuit board inside the garage door opener itself. And, he added, Genie doesn’t make those anymore.

Back up on the ladder, I unplugged the garage door opener and loosened the screws to remove the brown lamp wire from the unit. I then removed the wire from the beams in the garage, where it was tacked up, pulling out the staples as I went. It turns out I had 25 feet of wire.

I went to the hardware store and bought 25 feet of doorbell wire for about $5. I took it home, attached it to the button, ran the wire up along the beams, tacking it up with a staple gun, and finally got to the garage door opener. I stripped the single-core wire ... it turned out to be 20-gauge, red and white wire … and attached it to the garage door opener. I plugged it in.

Now the moment of truth. I pushed the doorbell button to operate the garage door opener. Nope, nothing, nada.

I learned one thing for the $11 I spent. The circuit board inside the unit is probably bad. And, if I want the garage door to go up and down, I have a few choices: I could use a remote switch -- not the new switch that I spent most of the afternoon installing -- or I could hoist the garage door up and down manually or I could just forget the whole thing and park my car outside.

Now, that sounds like a real solution.


St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st