Exterior Home Security

4 Easy Ways to Lock Your Garage Door

Before you head out for vacation, make sure to secure your garage door properly.
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A person closing a garage door attached to his house.

Photo: istockphoto.com

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A garage door opener usually provides sufficient security for a garage on its own. However, if you don’t have a garage door opener, want an extra layer of security while away from home, or can’t use your garage opener due to a power issue, there are many other ways to secure a garage door. Some of these alternative methods are as simple as adding a padlock or using tools that already may be sitting inside your garage. Let’s go over four ways to lock a garage door manually, as well as some tips that will improve your garage security overall.

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Before You Begin

While the methods below will help secure a garage door, it’s important to understand that you should never use a physical lock on a garage door while the door is hooked up to a garage door opener. If you attempt to open a garage door with its opener while it’s physically locked or the roller wheels on the door are blocked, you can do major damage to both the door and opener and potentially end up with a garage that won’t open or close. With this in mind, disengage the garage door from the opener by pulling the release cord hanging from the opener track before securing it by locking the door or blocking the roller wheels.

METHOD 1: Use the built-in cross-bar locking system.

A person using a key to lock a garage door from the outside.
Photo: homedepot.com

If you have a lockable garage door, then locking it is easy. With the door closed, simply turn the locking mechanism to lock the garage. Doing so will engage metal bars that slide into holes in the tracks of the door, preventing it from being opened.

METHOD 2: Add a padlock or zip tie to the track.

A person using a padlock to lock a garage door.
Photo: istockphoto.com

If your door doesn’t have an automatic garage door lock or built-in latch, then another option is to use a simple lock as a garage door lock, according to Security Guards Only co-founder Jeff Ketelaars. As he explains it, “To manually secure any garage doors (even those with additional automatic openers), you can use a padlock or zip tie on the door tracks, which will physically stop the door from opening and closing.”

  1. Run the padlock through a hole in the track just above one of the wheels.
  2. If the garage door track doesn’t have holes, drill a hole in the track using a drill with a bit designed to bore through metal. Make sure the hole is large enough to accommodate the thickness of the padlock’s shackle.
  3. When locked, the padlock will block the wheel below it, preventing the door from opening.
  4. Since the padlock will be on the interior of the garage, go with a keyed model and keep the key in the lock to remove the padlock quickly when you need to open the door.

METHOD 3: Use a clamp or vice grips.

A garage door locked with a clamp attached to door tracks.
Photo: Jenny Stanley for Bob Vila

If you need to lock your garage door in a pinch, you can secure it using a tool you probably have in your workshop, a C-clamp or set of vice grips. Place the C-clamp or vise grips on the track of the garage door to prevent the door from sliding along the track.

METHOD 4: Install a locking bar.

A retrofit garage door side lock product installed on a residential garage door.
Photo: amazon.com

If your garage lacks a lock of any kind, you can add a manual garage door lock on the cheap. Locking bars cost less than $20 and can be installed in under an hour with a cordless drill/driver. This device consists of a metal box that attaches to the garage door framing on the side of your garage door. The box holds a metal lever that you can slide into the garage door track, blocking the door’s wheels so that the door cannot be opened.

6 Other Garage Security Ideas

When on vacation, during a power outage, or when simply concerned about security, you can try plenty of other ideas for how to lock a garage door and keep potential thieves from entering your home through the garage. At the least, be aware and check twice, especially if leaving the home for an extended time or as part of your bedtime routine.

1. Secure your opener: The brightly colored release cord that hangs from the garage door opener is a way for thieves to open your garage, Ketelaars says. “I always suggest manually securing the emergency release cord, which usually hangs from the ceiling, to help prevent it from being compromised.” A simple way for thieves to defeat your garage door security is by using a hook fashioned from a metal clothes hanger to grab and pull the release cord from outside the door. Prevent this opportunity by running a zip tie through the holes in the release lever and the opener’s trolley to lock the garage door from the inside. Your opener will still work, and you can easily cut the zip tie if you need to use the manual release cord in the case of a power outage.

2. Close the door: It might seem obvious, but thieves often take advantage of homeowners who forget to close their garage doors. If your garage is frequently left open, the best garage locks in the world won’t protect it. Tim Rader, senior director of product development at ADT, suggests investing in a smart garage door control to receive alerts if the garage door is left open for a certain period. “With this device, you can verify whether you’ve forgotten to close your garage door, and if so, can easily shut it with a press of a button,” he says. “These devices are surprisingly affordable and work with most garage door opener brands.”

3. Bolster security on garage side doors. Side entryway doors on garages are a common target for thieves. If your garage has a side door, bolster its security by adding a padlock with a reinforced strike plate to lock garage door entry from all angles.

4. Cover windows. Burglars can use garage door windows to peer in and see what valuables are inside. Rader explains that covering those windows to prevent this from happening, suggesting, “Adding shades, blinds or curtains, or even installing frosted glass or tinted security film to your windows can prevent burglars from peering inside your garage.”

5. Improve lighting: Thieves don’t like well-lit areas. Keep the lights on your garage door on at night or consider adding a motion-activated floodlight just above the garage door.

6. Lock your garage entry door. Many people rely on their garage door for security and don’t lock the entryway door that leads from the house to the garage. Keep this door locked at night and when you’re away to prevent the garage from being a means of entry to the rest of your home. “We recommend installing security locks or latches inside your garage and on the door connecting to your home,” Rader says. “Depending on your preference, you can opt for a handle that locks either from the inside or outside or choose a double-sided lock.”