Sliding Patio Door Won’t Work – Here’s What To Do

Here’s the thing, no one wants to remove an entire sliding glass door whenever there’s a hiccup going on and the door won’t open or close. The thing is, one glance around the internet and that seems to be the prevailing opinion—just remove the door. 

Well, there are several things that can cause a sliding door to not work, and removing the door is only one solution. We’re not going to tell you to start removing the door unless there is no other solution. It’s a pain and if you can fix it without taking it off, so much the better. 

With that being said, sliding glass doors operate on tracks and one of the first things you need to do is look carefully at the track. Not just the bottom track either. There’s a top track as well and you’d be surprised at what might get in there, especially if you have kids

Sliding Patio Door

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What To Do When Your Sliding Patio Door Won’t Work

Clean the Tracks

You can do quite a bit of track cleaning without removing the door. Get a strong suction vacuum in there and clean it out, top and bottom. A good compressed air can will blow out any trash directly under the door and the rest is easily accessible.

If you have something large stuck under the door, you’ll have to remove the thing, unfortunately. 

Adjust the Rollers

Assuming you have a clean track (more on that and removing the door below), most sliding glass doors have a hidden feature most people don’t even realize. At the bottom of the sliding glass door’s frame, there are usually two trim caps.

They might be made out of aluminum, some other kind of metal, or wood, depending on the material comprising the frame around the glass. If you remove these tiny little trim caps, you’ll have access to an adjusting screw, which manipulates the rollers up and down.

Carefully observe how the door runs along the track and ensure that it’s even. If you can, place a level on the bottom frame of the door, assuming it has enough lip to set the level on. Only make adjustments in increments of a quarter turn.

A clockwise turn raises the door and a counterclockwise lowers it. Make sure that both sides are even and what you do to one screw, you also do to the other. 

Add Lubricant

Here’s another option before we get to removing the door entirely. But, you need to ensure the tracks are squeaky clean before you get started with the lubrication part. Only use lubricants with a silicone base.

Anything else acts like a magnet for every kind of dirt and debris imaginable. Spray it under the door as much as possible and along the tracks. Try moving the door back and forth over the clean, lubricated tracks. 

Remove the Door

Unfortunately, if you’ve eliminated everything else, you’ll just have to remove the door, like it or not. The heaviness of a sliding door and the occasional refusal of the rollers or the door stop to cooperate often make this task difficult. Hopefully, you can remove yours quickly and cleanly.

You’ll need a screwdriver (most likely a Phillips Head), possibly an Allen wrench, something to pry the trim caps off, a rag for cleaning, and a utility knife.

  • Remove the trim caps
  • Adjust the screws so the rollers are completely retracted
  • Remove the stop molding at the top (if applicable)
  • Remove the door stop (located at the top and again, if applicable)
  • Hold the door in place as you work or use a second person to help
  • Allow the top of the door to lean toward you and lift it out of the bottom track
  • Be careful as they are usually pretty heavy and awkward

Once you have the door removed, you have full access to everything. You can adjust the rollers and visually confirm they are in good working order or need to be replaced. You can also see the entire track now and clean it thoroughly.

You should also take the time to clean the bottom and top of the sliding door as well. If you need to change the rollers, it’s often a fairly simple process, with only a couple of screws holding each roller in place. 

If the wheels are just jammed up, a good cleaning and a little elbow grease will get them working again. Afterward, all you have to do is reinstall the door, which is often more of a pain than removing it. Simply reverse the above steps and have fun with that. 

All Things Considered

Sliding doors are simple contraptions and most of the time, if they stop working, it’s due to dirt and debris caught up in the rollers.

You’d be surprised at how often you can clear this up with a little cleaning and possibly some lubrication. You won’t even have to remove the door. 

When you do have to remove the door, be sure to double-check your work and cleanliness so you don’t have to do it again.