Automatic garage door openers are a great convenience, but they can also serve as a weak link in your garage security. Garage door openers are equipped with an emergency release lever, which usually has a cord hanging down. This lever is largely ignored until such time as you lose power and can no longer open the garage door automatically. Pull the lever down, though, and you can raise the door manually.
That same lever can also help you get into the house if you find yourself locked out. This video shows how you can use a clothes hanger from outside to pull the lever inside. Once you do, you can lift the door.
Unfortunately, you are not the only one who can do that, and that's where the matter of garage security comes in. Anyone with a clothes hanger can do the same thing. It’s a pretty easy way to break into a garage, and from there it can be even easier to get into the house.
If you would like to make this easy access a little bit harder or eliminate it all together, here are some ideas you might want to try for increasing garage security. Keep in mind, though, that this only applies to garages and garage door openers that are like that one shown in the video.
Increasing Garage Security
Disable the emergency release lever. In most cases, this is the best way to keep someone from using the coat hanger trick to break into your house. Of course, it also means that you won’t be able to get in this way yourself.
Remove the cord. The cord attached to the emergency release lever is a minor convenience when you need to trip the lever. It is also something relatively easy to grab onto from outside using a clothes hanger.
Lock the release lever. On some garage door openers, you can use a plastic cable tie or some thin wire to tie the level to the carriage assembly it is attached to. The lever always has a hole in it (to attach the release cord) and some carriage assemblies have holes you can run the cable tie or wire through. If yours doesn’t, you can drill a hole. The idea is that you just need to make it virtually impossible for a flimsy coat hanger to be able to pull the lever down, while, at the same time, allowing you to cut or remove your simple lock from inside the garage.
Cover the windows. It is much easier to use a clothes hanger to trip the emergency release lever if you can see what you are doing. Without a clear window to do so, the job requires more time and effort. Even frosted windows will increase garage security, with the added benefit of allowing light to get in.
Forget the automatic garage door opener. Going “old school” will get you added garage security but at the cost of convenience. Disconnect the garage door opener and use a manual latch to lock the door. This means that you have to get out of the car when you get home, unlock the door and lift it yourself. Just like the old days. It also means that someone without the key will not be able to do the same thing.
Install a wireless keypad. I have one of these and I use it often. Whether you’re locked out of the house, or you just want to get into the garage without going inside or hunting for a remote, a wireless keypad is a great addition. Inexpensive and easy to install, you just program the keypad with your code. Then, lift the cover and enter the code and the door opens. Much easier than a clothes hanger, except for those who don’t have the code. With a wireless keypad installed, you might feel more comfortable disabling the emergency release lever.
Install motion sensor lights. Install a motion sensor light or two over your garage door and you will reduce the chances of a nighttime break in through the garage. Most burglars are not too keen on doing their work under a bright light.
Secure the entry door to the house. Many people don’t even have a lock on the door that leads from the garage into the house. That’s because they assume that the garage door provides all the security they need. But if someone gets into the garage, they will have trouble getting into the house if the door has a good deadbolt lock on it. Think of this door just as you do all exterior entry doors in the house, and secure it accordingly.
Don’t leave the garage door remote in the car. Or, if you do leave it in the car, make sure the doors are locked and the remote is not visible from outside. I know that having that remote clipped to the visor is very handy, but it’s also an invitation for someone thinking about breaking into your house. A good way to keep the remote with you rather than with the car is to replace that clip-on remote with a small one that you can keep on your keychain. Check with the manufacturer or your garage door opener for details.
Turn off the power. Without electricity, your garage door opener won’t work. At night, or when you are out of town, you can easily cut the power by unplugging the opener or, if your opener is wired to a wall switch, flipping the switch.