Prevent Garage Door Break-Ins


Introduction: Prevent Garage Door Break-Ins

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...
It is easy to break into most home garages in just six seconds. All that is needed is a coat hanger and a little practice.

Videos at YouTube show how it is done. 
  1. Straighten a coat hanger, but leave a curved hook on one end.
  2. Push the hooked end of the wire through the weather seal between the frame of the house and the top of the garage door in the area shown by the red arrow. (It is possible to push some garage doors inward at the top to create a gap large enough to insert one's own hand into the garage.)
  3. Catch the emergency release lever (yellow arrow) and gently pull until the lever releases.
  4. If necessary, hook the red cord and pull it to release it or pull it toward the door where it can be grasped by the hand and pulled.
As concerns the advisability of providing a "how to" on breaking into a garage with a coat hanger, over 1 million people have already viewed the video on YouTube. Some of them live on a street near you, and they are not all honest. The emphasis here is on how you can prevent being a victim of a six second break-in.


Step 1: Two Solutions

One of the available videos shows an easy solution to this security problem. Notice the two green arrows. Place a thinner nylon zip tie through the hole at the end of the release lever and through a hole in the body of the traveler (upper green arrow, technically a "screw drive shuttle assembly"). Cinch the zip tie up. It will be strong enough to prevent manipulation of the release lever by a wire with a hook, but will break if the owner pulls downward on the red release cord with both hands and a little body weight.

That may work on many garage door openers, but this one is a Genie screw drive opener, and it has no hole in the traveler. I could drill a hole through the body of the traveler, but I would want to know more about the internal structure of the traveler so I do not weaken it or damage something inside.

My plan is to add a shield around the release lever. That process begins with making a cardboard pattern. Notice that I have trimmed one corner of a piece of cardboard so the edge is now parallel to the opener's track. The gap indicated by the orange arrow is smaller than it appears. A spring clamp temporarily holds the cardboard in place. See the yellow arrow. (The release lever is in the released position in the photo.)

  • Cardboard for a pattern
  • Masonite
  • 3/4 inch pine
  • 2 bolts 1/4 x 3 inch with washers and self-locking nuts
  • 3/8 x 5 inch bolt and nut
  • Marking pen
  • Rule
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Wrenches

Step 2: The Pattern

I marked around the end of the release lever to determine the pattern I needed. (Actually, I found later I had not made the pattern large enough and had to move the line indicated by the blue arrow about an inch farther in the direction of the blue arrow.) Notice that I also marked the position of two holes in the adjustable door arm. See the yellow arrows. These holes will be used to mount my shield pieces.

Step 3: Make the Shield Covers and Spacers

The thickness of the traveler requires spacers from 3/4 inch pine, one on each side of the door connecting bar. I drilled 1/4 inch holes. The holes in the door connecting bar are considerably larger. The smaller bolts in larger holes will allow some fine adjustment at the end.

Step 4: Shields in Place

I used 1/4 inch bolts, washers, and self-locking nuts to mount the shields and spacers on the door connecting bar. Any attempt to hook the release lever with a hooked wire will fail because the release lever is protected from both sides. The hooked wire will simply slide off of the Masonite side shields. This provides most of the needed protection against break-in, but it is still possible someone might hook the red release cord and manage to pull it. I did move the large tag down so it would not provide a way to hook the release.

The second photo shows that the shields are not in the way of anything when the garage door opener operates.

Step 5: Rope Protection

After quite a bit of thought, I decided to install a steel bolt that restricts the movement of the release lever. I want to keep someone from opening the release lever by pulling on the rope.

After thinking back on decades of garage door opener use, I can remember times I needed to release the garage door from its opener track so I could troubleshoot a problem. Never have I needed to pull the emergency rope as if seconds count and doing so would prevent some catastrophic event. In this case, "emergency" is a relative term. I can easily get a step stool from another corner of the garage and remove the bolt.

To place the bolt, I viewed the end of the release lever and placed the drill bit so it appeared to be just under the bottom of the release lever. After drilling the first hole, I let the top of the bit rest on the bottom of the release lever and pushed the second hole through the other Masonite shield. 

I considered some kind of pin I could remove by pulling a cord, but it would either fit loosely enough that the bad guys might be able make the lever release, or they could hook and remove it to gain entry, after all.  

My solution to the problem of the six second garage door break-in is not perfect. It is secure, but it requires getting and using a step stool when I would need to release the traveler from the door arm. 



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    To be clear, zip ties are illegal. It is a violation of Federal Regulations and also violates UL Code 325. A great option (and it takes the same amount of time to install as a zip tie) is the Garage Shield. With the average home invasion having in ⅓ of break-ins, and the average cost at $2500, a Garage Shield is a wise investment!

    Alex with:

    2 replies

    Horseshittery. UL325 is a standard and does not have the effect of law.

    What federal regulations are you citing?

    A thief with a longer wire or a wire that wrapped around the rope would easily defeat your shield. That's probably not your average tweaker looking for things to fence to support his habit, but your product isn't infallible.

    Expat, go to website and you'll see the video by CBS news proving that the device works. As for being able to get around the shield, any criminal can circumvent a security system if they know ahead of time it exists. That said, the garage door company along with CBS proved even knowing the device was in place, couldn't not bypass The Garage Shield. As for the federal regulations, feel free to contact industry oversight at DASMA and IDA for more details on the regulations and the push to have zip ties removed.

    Will come in handy when power is out and we're stuck outside

    Sorry for the delayed response! Anyway, the problem isn't the "smash and grab" thieves that leave both Noise and Evidence of their intrusion, alerting you of their presence. Your risk is waking up in the middle of the night with an intruder in your bedroom, because they entered your garage and thus home without alerting you in anyway (smashing glass). Food for thought...

    I see two types of thieves:
    1) "Smash and Grab" Thieves that want to be in & out of your home quickly. They don't care about breaking windows or making noise because they will be gone before the police arrive.
    2) Contemplated Thieves looking for an opportunity in which they can be discrete. Something allowing them to be undetected while they take their time and grab as many valuables and leaving no sign of intrusion.

    Then there's a 3rd category that is really scary to consider...Home Invasions. Individuals that want to break into your home undetected while you are there, hoping you don't hear them while your'e sleeping or watching TV.

    So while I agree to your statement in respect to the Smash and Grab mentality, I would argue that it doesn't apply to the other two scenarios.

    As for the break a window and grab the rope, you might want to consider buying some spray on window tint from an auto parts store to help hide your garage door interior.

    Zip Ties are really dangerous, no Fire Dept in the country would recommend using one. See our Zip Tie section on our Garage Defender website. We have a much safer solution. Check us out at

    Alex Wolfram
    Garage Defender, LLC
    Solution to the 6 Second Garage Door Break In

    1 reply

    your company's device is ingenious. But, when I was discussing garage door break ins with someone, he said most thieves just break a garage door window. As good as your device is, I do not see that it would stop a thief who breaks a window like many garage doors have.

    Absolutely brilliant. Best low-cost (or otherwise-) solution I've yet seen. Many thanks. Should be on SharkTank :)

    1 reply

    Thank you. From what I see, Shark Tank is for people who want to market a product. I am not doing that.

    This is an interesting i'ble. I've never seen anything quite like this before. In my experience (garage door tech 10yrs) most thieves just break the glass and grab the release cord. The truth is if they really want to get in, they'll find a way.

    If you set your trolley back too far and make your operator arm longer, you run the risk of damaging your top panel. Your operator arm is supposed to be nearly straight up and down in the closed position. That way, when your door starts up your arm is pulling up before it pulls back. The arm in the picture should be shortened up a bit to prevent this same type of damage (glass sections are expensive). I would also suggest you lube those springs with some light silicone-based lubricant spray. Looks like its never been done (should be done at least once a year).

    2 replies

    haikuordie said, "I would also suggest you lube those springs with some light silicone-based lubricant spray. Looks like its never been done (should be done at least once a year)."

    Good advice haikuordie. One of my springs broke on a 10' high door. Luckily, I was not under it, but it does not have an electric lift and it came down HARD. I do believe that's why it broke so I keep the new spring lubed after that.

    Thank you for the information, especially about the silicone lubrication on the spring.

    Good instructable. I gives me ideas to think of securing my garage. I do have to use my release a few times a year. Power outages etc.

    1 reply

    Thank you. I think I use my release even less than that, maybe once every five to seven years or less.

    Thanks Phil this is fascinating. I going to implement on my garage door. I have a little metal rod with a cotter pin on the end. It's left over from some other project I cant recall. I'm going to substitute that for the bolt. Thanks again.

    1 reply

    Thank you for looking. I have told people I do not need the perfect protection against break in. I only need something better than what my neighbors have so vandals go to their houses instead of mine.

    I like this, thanks for the 'ible. perhaps you should link some of the videos so we can see what's going on.

    1 reply

    There is a link to a local news story in step 1 and it leaves very little to the imagination, plus it demonstrates a fix I mentioned. For more, search for the six second garage break in at YouTube. Thank you for looking.