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man opening a locked garage door from the outside

How to Open a Garage Door from Outside & Prevent Break-ins

It’s fairly easy to break into garage doors from the outside in as little as 6 seconds! Most people don’t realize this and leave their garage door unlocked without a second thought. This is a huge mistake – you could be inviting burglars into your home without knowing it.

In this article, we provide you with 4 ways to easily secure your garage door from the outside and prevent and deter burglars from gaining access to your property. Spending a few minutes now could save you and your family lots of heartache in the future.

How Thieves Break into Garage Door from Outside

If you’re like me, it’s shocking to hear this is even possible. The fact that it can be done so easily and quickly is even more appalling! Don’t believe us? Watch this short public service video clip to see it happen with your own eyes.

With only a couple of household items that we all have laying around, thieves can open the garage door almost instantly and with very little effort.

The fact is, an automatic garage door opener has an emergency release handle that allows you to open a garage door manually and be able to get your vehicle out in the event of a power outage. Once you release the emergency latch, the center rail engaging the garage door motor is no longer connected to the center track. Unfortunately, thieves have learned how to compromise this emergency latch and make it the garage door’s weakest point for attack.

There are actually two methods for outside entry through your garage door, but both use a coat hanger to take advantage of the emergency release kit.

How to Open a Locked Garage Door from the Outside in 3 Easy Steps

There are legitimate reasons you might need to open your own garage door from the outside. This could happen if you lock all the house doors and rely on the garage door as your entry point. If there is a power outage, an automatic door opener wouldn't work, so you'll have to open the garage door manually.

Here are the 3 steps to open a garage door without power from outside:


Small Wedge
Coat Hanger

1. Pull the coat hanger so that the hook is at one end. This will leave you with a long, wire hook.

2. Insert a small wedge or doorstop in the top crack, towards the middle of the garage door. The provides just enough gap to fit the coat hanger through.

3. Fish the coat hanger through the gap and towards the garage door track above. Feel (or look if you have a window) around until you can hook and slowly pull on the emergency release lever, releasing it from the rail and allowing the door open.

how to break into garage door from outside

As I mentioned above, there are 2 slightly different methods to open a garage door from the outside using a coat hanger to slowly pull the emergency release. The 2nd technique doesn’t even require the wedge, just the hanger.

In this way, you push against the door at the top and fish the coat hanger through with a bend towards the garage door opener, trying to catch onto the emergency release cable rather than the emergency latch located above. Both have exactly the same results, an unwelcome, open garage door.

Preventing Garage Door Break-Ins is Possible

I’m sure you agree with me after seeing that for yourself that something must be done. Garage security is a must, and there is good news after all. Thwarting thieves from breaking into your garage door is also easier than you think. Although garage door openers are vulnerable, there are a few ways to protect your garage and house by following the safety tips below.

4 Ways to Secure a Garage Door from the Outside

Our families and possessions are important to us. You’ve worked hard for everything you have, and we must do our due diligence to ensure their safety and security are always #1. Garage doors are one of the weakest links in your home’s security, but we’ll do something about that today. Here are four ways you can prevent and deter thieves from attempting to break into your garage doors.

1. Garage Door Shield

Introducing the Garage Shield, a quick and simple way to secure your garage door from most would-be burglars. This product is made entirely of plastic, so it’s lightweight and will never rust or rattle. This is a simple device that installs in less than a minute, mounting directly to the center rail, also called a j-bar, on your existing garage door opener.

The company behind the Garage Shield is Veteran-owned and the product is proudly made in America! Once in place, the shield becomes a strike plate that prevents intruders from accessing the emergency lever needed to release your garage door and pop it open.

garage shield

It’s a really good idea and it does a great job to deter thieves most of the time, but there is a drawback to the Garage Shield. In some applications, it’s not long enough to extend down past the top of the garage door. While it does still protect the latch, it won’t guard against someone hooking the emergency release cord towards the handle and pulling it until it pops open the garage door.

thief hooking emergency release cord to break into garage from outside

2. Zip Tie

Yes, you read that right. A small zip tie (costs less than $1) can be used to connect the latch to the rail above, holding it firmly in place. This is usually enough to prevent the wire coat hanger from being able to pull and to release the emergency latch. This is another great idea and will stop most attempts at breaking in and manually opening to access garage doors. You’re probably thinking that is not a bad way to lock your garage doors, right?

zip tie used on garage door to prevent break-in from outside

Again, like the Garage Shield solution above, it’s not the “perfect” solution. For one, the whole reason the emergency release kit is there in the first place is to allow you to disengage the garage door from the automatic opener so you can get out during a power outage. While there are several videos on the web showing that the small zip tie will break under immense pressure, what they don’t always mention is that this is very difficult to do if there’s a car inside, forcing you to pull at an angle. You also may need a young child or elderly person to pull the release cord to manually open the garage door during an emergency someday.

For the reasons, a zip tie is not the best solution for securing your garage doors. Not to mention, insurance companies and federal regulations aren’t going to like this solution either, so it’s best to try something else.

3. Garage Security System

Another deterrence idea would be to get a security system installed in the garage. There are inexpensive options like the Ring Alarm or even cheaper, generic brands that have garage door sensors and alarms. If you already have an alarm on your home, you can likely just add a garage door sensor to your existing system. This allows you to set the alarm so that it sounds off if the garage door is unexpectedly opened. It’s a good bet that if a thief opens your garage door and an alarm starts going off, they’ll probably head for the hills, post haste.

Again, there’s a drawback though, while this is a great deterrent from stealing your stuff, it doesn’t physically do anything to stop them from breaking in to begin with. A protective system like this is great and definitely won’t hurt your security, but this works better as an enhancement to other measures that do something to physically prevent a break-in.

4. Garage Door Deadbolt

Yet another option to strengthen your garage door security is through a deadbolt made specifically for garage doors. These automatic deadbolts wire into your garage door opener and the safety sensors so that the lock tumbler secures the door in place when it’s closed. This small lock doesn’t allow anyone to manually open the garage door when activated.

We recommend the SureLock Automatic Garage Door Deadbolt Lock. This product is universal and compatible with any overhead door with an automatic opener that plugs into 110vAC, even those with a backup battery feature. It mounts to your existing garage door track and automatically locks when the door is closed and releases when the garage door opener calls for the door to go up. Since its operation is automatic, SureLock is so convenient that you forget it’s even there!

surelock automatic garage deadbolt system

In the event of a power outage, SureLock has a manual release lever that will allow the door to be opened. And no, unlike the emergency release cord, this override cannot be accessed from the outside in any way.

Wrap Up

We hope that this article clearly shows the importance of garage door safety and security. In addition to the 4 options listed above, There are several other partial solutions for added security as it relates to your garage door. Here are a few that we suggest considering:

  • Always lock the door between your house and the garage
  • Never leave an open door unattended
  • Install motion-sensing lights outside your garage
  • Add security cameras around your driveway

You can’t be too safe these days, and many of the ideas we’ve provided today are either relatively inexpensive or won’t cost you a single dime. It’s more of an awareness and being prepared, taking all necessary precautions to secure your garage door from the outside.