How to Repair You Sliding Door

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Cleaning your sliding door track and simple repairs to help maintain your sliding glass door.

A sliding door should be able to be operated with one hand as most people are carrying items in or out of the house. Dirty rollers are the main reason sliding doors get stuck. Mud, food, and water can get into the track and rollers. It takes about an hour to repair your sliders and this works for wood, vinyl, and aluminum doors. Replacement parts are available from home centers, hardware stores, or online, and from retailers that sell new doors of the same manufacturer.

If your door does not operate well after these repairs, than you may have a settlement problem, a rotting sill plate, or just poor installation. At this point you may need to hire a professional contractor to determine the best way to correct the problem.

Tools and parts needed:

Flat screwdriver, sawhorses, putty knife, wood block, rags, pliers, new roller assemblies, denatured alcohol, silicone spray, paraffin wax, and weather stripping.

 Lowering the door

 Remove the Door

Lay a drop cloth on the floor and pop off the two plugs covering the roller adjustment screws at the bottom of the sliding-door frame.

Insert a flathead screwdriver into each hole and turn the screw all the way counterclockwise. This retracts the rollers, lowering the door.

Sometimes the slider can be lifted off the lower track at this point, but if there is not enough room, you will need to remove the head stop.

You should set up two saw horses with a drop cloth to set the door onto. Remove grilles and shades as necessary. Slide the door completely open and locate the head stop screws on the top inside track and remove. Have someone nearby to support the door as it can fall off the track with the stop removed.

To remove the door stand inside and lean the top of the slider toward you and lift it off the bottom track. At this point you may need additional help to set the door carefully onto the saw horses.

  Pry out the roller assemblies with a screwdriver

Checking the Rollers

As stated earlier, the rollers are the cause of most sliding door problems. To remove the rollers, use a flathead screwdriver to gently pry each roller from its pocket in the bottom of the door. They are usually not held in place with any fasteners, since friction and the weight of the door keep them where they belong. If they are bent, damaged, or wheels are missing, then you will need to replace them. They are commonly found at home centers or hardware stores. They can also be found online.

If the wheels are not damaged, then you will only need to clean and lubricate them. Scrape any dirt from the wheels, then clean them with denatured alcohol and a rag. Then lubricate only with silicone spray, which doesn't hold dirt. To reinstall, align each roller's adjustment screw with its access hole and tap in the assemblies with a hammer or rubber mallet, using a wood block to protect the wheels. Once they're set, retract the rollers as far as possible to make resetting the slider easier.

 Roller assembly

Cleaning the Tracks

You should wipe the head track and the outside face of the removed head stop with alcohol and spray with silicone. Vacuum loose debris from the bottom track, then clean thoroughly with alcohol. For the bottom track, scrape any dirt out of the corners or inside the groove of the track. Check the track carefully to see if there are any nicks, as these will damage the wheels over time and may cause the door to become difficult to operate. If the track is nicked, use a file to remove any burrs or gauges. The bottom track needs a more substantial lubricant than silicone; rub it a few times with a block of paraffin wax, which is available at more supermarkets (canning aisle) and hardware stores.

Checking the Weather Stripping

If your door has damaged weather stripping where the sliding and fixed panels overlap, loosen its staples with a flathead screwdriver, then grab one end and pull it and the staples off the door, prying gently with a putty knife. Sometimes this weather stripping is inserted into a groove similar to T-molding. You may need to special-order this type from a supplier for your type of sliding door. If it is stapled weather stripping, remove any remaining staples with pliers, and pound the broken ones flush with the door face with a hammer. The strip on the jamb side is generally glued. If it's damaged, pull it off and scrape the adhesive residue with the putty knife, taking care not to mar the finish.

Where the sliding panel's frame overlaps the fixed panel, orient the new weather stripping with its flap facing as indicated on the instructions. Align the top end with the shadow line of the head stop, and secure the flange tightly along the door's edge.

Weather stripping on the bottom will need to be screwed into place if the holes do not line up, or if the original stripping was glued on. Drill a 1/8-inch-diameter pilot hole at each of the holes in the flange and drive the screws provided. Do the same on the fixed panel so the two strips interlock.

Glue the jamb-side strip in place with a plastic adhesive.

Resetting the Door

Have the head stop and a screwdriver nearby. Set the door back on the bottom track and tilt it up. Brace the door with your body and reattach the head stop. Don't leave the door unattended until the stop is installed. Roll the door to within a half-inch of the latch-side jamb, then turn the roller adjustment screws until the door is parallel to the jamb. If the latch does not line up with its receiver on the jamb, adjust the receiver by loosening its screws and moving the plate up or down. You may also need to raise or lower the roller assembly wheels equally if there is not enough adjustment in the receiver pocket.

Operate door normally and check the wheel operation at the bottom to see if there are any bumps or hitches in its travel on the track.

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Daniel Snyder

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