According to a recent survey, only about 7 percent of Americans don’t regularly lock their doors. However, despite this clear commitment to home security, many homeowners fail to take measures to secure what may be every home’s largest potential weakness: the garage door.
The ability to quickly enter a garage provides would-be burglars the privacy to rifle through your tools, vehicles and many of the other items commonly kept inside. And garages with an interior entry door can also allow burglars to take their time when jimmying this interior lock to access the rest of your home. Read on to learn more about a few of the more common security weaknesses among garage doors, as well as the specific steps you can take to improve the security of your own garage door.
Common Security Weaknesses
It’s important to leave your vehicle securely locked if you park outside your garage. You may want to keep your garage door remote with you in your bag or purse instead of leaving it in your vehicle, as many cities have noted an uptick in vehicle burglaries by thieves who steal garage door openers and later return to ransack the home.
Even if you do make a habit of locking your garage’s interior door, someone with unfettered and undetected access to the garage could steal tools (or use these tools to break down your door), commit vandalism or even steal your car.
Some reformed burglars have testified that they can open garage doors from the outside in as few as six seconds with just an unfolded wire coat hanger inserted into the emergency release lever, giving them the freedom to pick your garage’s interior door lock at their leisure and without worrying about the prying eyes of nosy neighbors.
While you may assume an automatic garage door with an electronic opener provides sufficient security from outside break-in, some of these electronic openers have a significant vulnerability that can allow them to be “hacked” with a simple children’s toy and a few minutes of observation.
Many older garage door models use a fixed code, which means only a single code is ever used to signal the door to open or close. On the other hand, more modern automatic garage doors use a “rolling” code, generating a unique code each time the door is opened and closed and making the signal far more difficult to reproduce.
Hackers who are within a certain distance of the garage door at the time the opener is pressed can pick up a fixed code, then “clone” your remote by programming a children’s toy with the same radio frequency as the garage door remote. These miscreants can then return to your home at their leisure, using their children’s toy to let themselves in without arousing suspicion or triggering any alarms.
Improving Your Garage Door’s Security
Fortunately, despite these security weaknesses, rendering your garage door just as impenetrable as your home’s other doors doesn’t need to be an expensive or time-consuming process.
Lock (or Disable) Your Emergency Release Lever
The most popular way for burglars to quickly break into a garage is by engaging the emergency release lever. Ordinarily, this lever allows you to open your automatic garage door even if the power is out or the motor is malfunctioning; however, if accessed from the outside, it can also allow a would-be burglar to push up on the door by using relatively little force.
Many garage door companies sell locks that attach to your emergency release lever, preventing it from being accessed from the outside while still allowing you to use it from the inside for its intended purpose. Alternatively, you can simply unhook your emergency release lever, but doing so could potentially prevent you from using this lever if a true emergency does occur.
Upgrade to a Rolling Code
If your garage door is more than a couple of decades old, it likely still uses a fixed code. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to protect against breaches of a fixed door code without upgrading your garage door to a rolling code.
Fortunately, this should only require the replacement of your garage door’s motor, rather than replacement of the entire assembly. This process can usually be performed in under an hour, allowing you to easily schedule it for an evening or weekend when you’ll be at home.
Depending upon the age and condition of your garage door, upgrading your motor might be a good opportunity to thoroughly inspect your door for any other potential weaknesses. From the springs that protect your garage door from crashing to the ground to the pulleys and tracks that keep it securely in place, time and exposure to the outdoor elements can lead to rust and other issues.
Replacing rusted or weakened springs, straightening bent tracks and lubricating chains are all ways in which you can keep your garage door in good working condition and secured against break-ins for years to come.