It’ll open, trust me. Just keep… WAIT!

Disclaimer: Following any recommendations or procedures that I state here is at your own risk. I am not responsible for your actions. Always seek a professionals advice! Seriously, you’ve been warned!

Final Word: Here is where I tell you the final results so you don’t have to read the whole blog post.

The problem was found to be a neighbors WiFi router which was flaking out. a quick power-down of the device yielded a working garage door opener AND my WiFi access on the 802.11G channels began to operate outside of my home. The problem still partially exists only because my neighbor do not want to buy a net router. The intereference has subsided on the garage door opener signal, but the 802.11G is still no better.  I’ve moved to 802.11n exclusively to get away from the failing routers drifting signal.

Note to all: The problem with interfearing wireless devices is not new and apparently is quite common with garage door opener signals. In this case the neighbors wireless 802.11g router is failing and there is either signal drift or the transmitter is leaking other frequencies.

Fixing a garage door that won’t listen:

When someone stops listening to you, you can either stop talking, speak louder (assuming they have old age hearing loss) or throw something at their head.  What do you do when a garage door opener stops listening to remote control signals?  Ah, It’s not a good weekend unless there is another major project to take care of in the house. This weekend has been no exception as a garage door opener has decided to only listen to remote controls from 4′ away or less. Think of it like this… imagine NASA being out of communications with a landing space shuttle it was already on the ground at Cape Canaveral.

Inherent security? Yes, this is great for home security since it would require a significant signal boost to open the door from the outside – in addition to the scrambled code. Without a signal booster and random code it means that you have to be inside the garage to open the door by remote.  Not exactly ideal if you  want to open the door from the outside to pull a car in.

Here are some things I checked out before going crazy with repairs and ordering parts:

A) Double check the issue is not isolated to a single remote.

1) Try using both remote controls

2) Try opening the door using the outside key pad control

The idea here is to make sure other remotes are not working as well. If you have different results between remotes, such as one requires 2′ of distance and another remote works up to 30′, then this may indicate a battery problem or a bad remote.

B) Try resetting the codes

1) briefly press the purple (if craftsman) button to cause the “programming” led to light.

2) press and hold the bad remotes button within 30 seconds. Hold it until the main lights blink or you hear a double click.

3) Try pressing the button again and if it works, do it a couple of times at increasing distances to verify that all is right in the world.

4) You could clear all codes – see the manual on how to do this on your unit. (typically performed by pressing the program button for 30+ seconds until the light goes off)

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS:

Neither scenario A or B worked for me – we even picked up a new battery just in case multiple remotes had dead batteries. No-Gots!

RESEARCH TIME:

This led me to do a little research to find out what may be going wrong . Other than non-existent diagnostic LED status’ and only an assembly drawing in the manual, there is VERY little information obtainable on the web that would indicate a problem that I have caused.

I found that it is possible to replace the circuit boards that house the electronics for the radio control.  In my case the belt driven Craftsman 139.53915D opener had an upgraded replacement board that could be ordered. The new board is sold with the entire side panel and is listed asReceiver logic board assembly. Complete with: Logic Board, end panel w/ all labels, light socket”. It appears the the manufacturer doesn’t want repair professionals messing with the circuit board independently. I can understand this – when was the last time you saw a repair person wear a resistive grounding strap when working with any electronics? Anyone? Anyone? Beuler? Bueler?  I rest my case…

Links to Parts and diagrams:

I was able to find the replacement parts listing with prices on this model at http://www.searspartsdirect.com and searched on the model # 139.53915D

Here is a link to Sears Parts Direct.com that shows the whole unit and the various parts :    http://www.searspartsdirect.com/partsdirect/showSubComp.pd?imageUrl=http%3a%2f%2fc.searspartsdirect.com%2flis_png%2fPLDM%2fP0801034-00003.png

See part #17 in the diagram, it’s the circuit board, but when ordered you get #5, #6 and #17… Oooo… don’t forget about those labels too!! Woot!!!

NEW/UPDATED PART NUMBER: Hmmmmm……

In my case the main controller board and side assembly were orderable by a similar part number but with a “-2″ extension which indicates that there is a new version or possibly a new manufacturing date indicator – we may never know.

Old Part # 41AB150 (no longer available)

New Part # 41AB150-2

Cost of the part is $99 plus shipping. Not bad if it works, since the alternative is to scrap the whole unit and buys a new on for almost $300 – Guess which one I chose? If you guessed $300, try again…

ACCESSING THE PARTS THAT ARE ASSUMED BAD:

The Craftsman mode 139.53915D is serviceable in a few easy steps with only a philips screw driver.

A) UNPLUG THE POWER!!!

B) remove the right light diffuser – two plastic buttons and it flips down easily

C) make sure you are on the side that has the signal connectors and the purple programming button. Now remove the light bulb – careful it may be hot.

D) There are 4 philips screws in the corner of the side panel. Remove them and put them in a safe place.

E) wiggle the side panel off and be careful not to overstretch the wires at the top on the inside.

At this point I’m now holding the side panel that has the circuit board. The top two power and signal connectors are removed put aside while being carful not to touch the large capacitor.

F) Again. Do not touch anything inside the unit unless you know exactly what the consequences are. Although the power is off, the capacitor COULD hold a charge that packs a punch. (I’m guessing your on a ladder looking at your or are 9 feet tall). Either way – DON’T TOUCH IT!.

WHY DID IT FAIL TO BEGIN WITH?:

Acts of any said deity, lightning, circuit creep, and possibly simple radio interference.

All of the first three are unavoidable in the most extreme circumstances, but if you suspect radio interference then think about what you may have turned on in your home recently. Also, consider  what your neighbors may have  recently powered up. Ask them if their garage door openers are being problematic too.  It could help your narrowing of the problem.

OTHER MODIFICATIONS:

I did not modify the opener in anyway as of this posting as a self preservation tactic more than fear of electricity. I f I make any “cool” modifications to the opener that are not easy to use, I’m only going to hear about the issues later – that’s what happens when you get married. ;-)

Though the integrity of the system is being kept, I did place a lightning arrest module at the ceiling outlet which the opener connects to. This is a non-typical item which also has terminals to provide surge protection for the control lines to the door opener. in theory, a nearby lightning strike  will not damage the opener. Yes, lightning strikes a mile away can radiate energy to damage equipment.

HOW DO I KNOW DISTANT LIGHTNING SENDS SERIOUS E.M.F.?

In addition to being an Electrical Engineer by degree there is a whole other story that involves bare feet on a  garage floor while leaning on a metal garage door rail durring a lighting storm! (I will never do that again!)  For the record I had really high grades in college, but that doesn’t compensate for good ol’ common sense. (Grin)

DID THE REPLACEMENT WORK?

I will update this posting in the next week with the results. (TO BE CONTINUED….)

UPDATE 8/18/2009

Nope… New controller and power module installed and performance is exactly the same.

Now investigating environmental changes. First suspects are local power, WiFi and radio induced noise.

- Power cut off to entire house except garage circuit – no change.

- WiFi was also cut off during the power shut down – not a suspect now.

- Radio – Well, there is a radio tower 1/2 mile way that messes with side channels of other FM stations… A possibility, not likely.

- Radio Transmitter – A neighbor recently installed an invisible dog fence. This sort of correlates with the time the garage stoped responding. Will ask for it to be powered off for a test when they are back in town.

(To Be Continued – again)

And now it works again! NOOOOooooo!!!!

The verdict it that there is no verdict.  Sunday came around, my neighbors returned, and before i asked them to turn off thier invisible dog fence I wanted to verify there was still an issue.

The silly thing works perfectly now!

Well, now what? Well, another neighbor said that thier wirless router was flaking out on them. Could that be the culprit – possibly being an intermittant source of interfearance in the 315MHz frequency range?

The only way to figure it out, it to wait for the door to fail reciving the remote’s signals again.

Verdict:

“Error cleared while testing. ” (I can’t ell you howmany times I heard that statement while working in a NOC, but this time it’s true! ;-)   )

 

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