replace an existing chain drive garage door opener

jerry_njAugust 23, 2013

I have a pair of Craftsman garage door openers that are about 25 years old. I have replaced the wireless opener on one and the other now needs the same plus some yet undiagnosed repairs/adjustments.

Looking at repair and replacement of the remote wireless opener I started looking a new opener setups at Lowes and Home Depot. It appears I can replace the whole mechanical and electronics with upgrades for only two to three times the cost of just buying and installing a new wireless open/close control.

Thinking along those lines I believe if I buy a similar power (fractional HP) and a chain drive I should be able to reuse all the infrastructure of my old opener. I think I can simply remove the old motor and chain, and install the new motor and chain (adjusting, cutting the chain to the needed length). I will not need to install the angle iron support and pull rod. Here I note the current Craftsman chain connects to a slider that connects to the chain/door and it glides along the "pull rod" (here I mean the iron/steel that runs from the motor to the wall in which the door operates. If that is proprietary the new door may require I use its provided "pull rod".

I welcome any ideas on retrofitting a new opener in an existing system.

Home Depot has a Genie Chain Max 1000 for $120, marked down from $179 as I recall. It comes with two remote controllers and a wall mounted keypad opener, an upgrade from the existing door. I wouldn't be surprised to learn Genie make some of the Craftsman openers.

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Actually, Sears bought controlling interest in Chamberlain Mfg., in the 70's, manufactures of Chamron door operators.

For 4 more bolts you'll have a complete new system.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 9:06PM
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I don't think it would be worth the effort to try to retrofit. DH installed a new garage door opener a few years ago, and simply replaced the whole system - motor, chain, "pull rod". The only thing we re-used was the bracket to mount the motor to the ceiling.

I'm not sure you would save much money by buying just the motor.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 8:43AM
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Thanks I was planning on buying a door kit, has all the parts for a new installation. But, as I have metal work to hang/mount the motor I figure I can reuse that... that said I also have the steel beam running from the motor to the wall the door operates in. I figure I might be able to reuse that as well (not have to go to the work to cut and mount a new one) if I am replacing a "chain" drive with a "chain" drive. Here's where the catch may lie - that steel run is the "race" on which the chain shuttle slides and that may be different on a new unit - typing I think I will go out and look to see if the chain attaches to the shuttle by a "clip" or similar, then the shuttle could likely be reused.

I am thinking "simple and new" as I am confident I can fix the existing door and even if I buy a new opener for a repair upgrade the cost will be about $40. For about three times that much I can buy a new unit with two openers (remotes) and a wall mounted coded opener, not to mention a new motor/chain and a lot of stuff I hope I don't have to use.

Reuse of the hardware cut cut the installation time to a few hours at most, I could spend an hour or two just on a repair.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 9:29AM
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Jerry: I'm not sure how you want to adapt a new unit to your old hardware, but I replaced an old Craftsman with a new Craftsman. The new one came with an adapter to re-use the bracket above the door with the new track and trolley. All I had to do was drop out the old unit, track and trolley and all and then bolt the new one back up and in-place. the brackets for the new unit were all in the same positions as the old one. The only new addition for the new opener is that the new one has the "light beam" safety sensors at the bottom of the door. You will have to add these sensors if you install a new opener because I believe they are mandated by law and the control is built into the logic board and they cannot be disabled.

IMHO, it's well worth it to buy a new one instead of repairing the old one. Hope this helps and good luck.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 9:31AM
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Great, right to my question, even a Craftsman... but I think I'll go to Geni because of a great sale price.

My minimal work idea was to also get away with using the existing trolley and maybe even chain, if the new unit is chain and the sprocket has the same teeth spacing one could (in theory) just swap out the motor and electonics (including light beam safety stop) - I have had to reinstall the long trolley (I think that is what you called what I am talking about) once when the door got stuck somehow (forget now) and tore the mounting out of the wall over the door. As I recall the rail/trolley was not difficult to handle even though it must be about 10' long.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 9:55AM
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I did mine myself. The assembled unit with the track is long enough to rest the unit on one end while you work on the other end. I used a step ladder to rest the motor on while I connected the end of the track.

FWIW, I just saw an ad for a 1/2 HP Craftsman unit with two remotes, a wall control, and a keypad wireless remote (for mounting just outside the door) for ~$150 at Sears.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 1:09PM
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Thanks for the tips, I'm going out shopping in a bit and will stop by the local Sears Catalog store to see what they have to offer. My experience with the 25 year old Craftsman door opener has been very good. I also have a shop full of Craftsman tools (carpentry and mechanic) as well as two operating tractors, a Garden and a Yard (Lawn mower) with a 46" twin blade, nice deck.

So, I am a Craftsman "fan" but realize all bets are really off the Sears of old is gone - not just the catalog - are you old enough to remember the Sears catalog mail order business?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 1:46PM
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Yes, but I have always lived in the Boston suburbs so we had stores very close and didn't really use the catalog.

The "Craftsman " brand has historically been other manufacturers branded for sale by Sears. As said before Sears gdos are Chamberlain. I too have had good luck with the Sears products. By shear volume they keep the prices down.

Despite numerous posts on the interent to the contrary, Sears openers are quite good and reliable. There used to be a poster here named Don who was a garage door specialist by profession. He said that statistically Sears did not have any more problems than any other brand, it's just that they sold so many (and often to Do-It-Yourselfers) that it seemed like problems were pervasive, because all the DIYers were looking online for help.

Anyway good luck with whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 5:38PM
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Thanks, one more learning on modern door openers. The door system I have has a separate (not part of the motor housing) radio receiver that has switches to change the code (manually), it requires its own access to power and when it gets an open/close signal closes a circuit to the motor/controller. I guess it must have at least three wires common, up, down. The new units are silent on any such outside unit they just show the motor assembly, two remotes, a key pad controller, and another controller - plus the beam safety stop. Thus I guess the radio receiver is in the motor assembly.

I noted too that my existing unit is only 1/3 HP, I have two doors on a two car garage. So the 1/2 HP is plenty of power.

Stopping by Home Depot before going to the nearby Sears catalog store I found the subject Genie Chainmax 3/4 HP still on sale for $119.99 down from $179 but next to it is a sales priced 1/2 HP Chamberlain at $109.00, down fro $166.00. It too has two remotes, an outside key pad and a hand unit that can be used to control the door, lights, and even disable the wireless as an extra security feature. I have always turned the power off the the garage doors when on vacation - and use the manual door locks too.

Given Craftsman/Chamberlain seem to be the same horse with different name plates I purchased the Chamberlain. I haven't yet opened the box and likely will not for a few days, so I'd appreciate any information you have on where the radio receiver is located on newer opener systems... as I typed it appears to me the receiver must be included in the motor housing - that would save some wire running making the installation easier.

Sorry for dragging you along, but I assume others are reading along and gaining useful information therefrom,

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 7:34PM
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Checking I see the Chamberlain "multi function control panel" is what I was looking for... a unit that mounts on the wall inside the garage, in my case near the door to the house. It provides buttons to open/close the door and (new for me) to operate the lights and control the time lights are on. This is also the radio receiver, thus it can be disabled preventing anyone from opening the garage door with a remote, legal or illegal.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 8:18PM
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Yes. If it's like my Craftsman, the wall control has three buttons: a big one that operates the door, a round button that operates the light manually, and a third smaller button that will put the unit into "vacation" mode. "Vacation" mode disables the remotes but keeps the interior wall switch activated. The keypad still works, too. There is an LED on the wall control that is lit when the unit is powered. When set in "vacation" mode the LED blinks continuously.

The remotes have three buttons, too. The additonal buttons can be programmed for a second opener or there are radio modules available that can be programmed to work with the buttons. For example, you can plug a module into a house plug with a lamp and then control the lamp from the opener remote. I have my remote button set to work the opener light independent of the door.

Another feature is that you can program the keypad with a temporary access code that will be good for a specified time period. The idea is that if need to let someone into the house once you don't need to give them your programmed access code. You can give them a temporary code that will expire after it's used and retain the original access code.

Have fun.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 9:27AM
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