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What Is a Universal Garage Door Remote?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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A universal garage door remote is a device that can be programmed to work with a variety of garage door openers. They are often popular as replacement units for those who need another remote control. Often, finding original remote controls to work with specific garage door openers can be a time-consuming process.

All garage door openers work in a similar way. The automatic garage door is connected to a motor, which then pulls the door open or lets it down using a chain connected to the door. The door is also on a track. The remote simply gives the command to raise or lower the door.

If a remote is lost or becomes damaged, the quickest way to replace it is often the universal garage door remote. This remote can be programmed to work with a number of different garage doors. In most cases, a universal remote should work with the most popular brands of openers on the market. The packaging will often provide information as to which brands and models it will work with.

However, there may also be cases when a universal garage door remote will not work with a certain door. This may be because the opener is an off brand that is not supported by the remote, or it may be because the security features associated with the opener do not allow for it to be used. When this type of remote is not compatible, the only option is usually to get another one from the manufacturer.

The garage door remote is usually programmed using one of two methods, or a combination of both. The first method is to use the switches inside the remote and find the one that works with your particular brand. The garage door opener may also be able to program the universal garage door remote through the push of a button on the motor housing. Detailed instructions are usually included in the remote opener packaging that detail how to accomplish the task with certain popular openers.

Like most remote control openers, a universal one can come with many different options. They have from one to three buttons. These buttons can be used to control multiple doors or doors and automatic gates. The power source for the remotes is a battery. Some are standard 9-volt batteries. Others may be run on other types of batteries, such as those commonly associated with watches and other such electronics.

How To Set Universal Garage Door Remote

Every manufacturer provides remotes set to operate the units they make. However, suppose you have lost one or want an extra. In that case, you can select a universal device to activate the opener already installed in your home. There are many options available, and how to set universal garage door remotes will be described in detail on the instruction sheet that comes with the one you purchase. Nonetheless, they all use the same principles and are not difficult to understand.

The garage opener's motor turns on via an electronic code sent by the push of a button. To reprogram current remotes or add one with universal features, you need to access this code by pressing the Learn Button on the mechanism. This allows your new remote to register the code and connect with your garage. You can then decide which button you wish to program on the remote. Then, set the remote to activate the garage by pressing that button. If available, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

While setup instructions will vary, they all follow this pattern. Each has specific instructions on setting the clicker, including how to access the code and which buttons to press. If your system also has an external keypad, you must reprogram it.

How To Program a Universal Garage Door Remote Control

Not all universal remotes are compatible with every opener, and you should check yours before purchasing. Once you have bought one, study the instructions in the package. If you are programming multiple devices, save time by ensuring you have them before you begin.

The Learn Button (or Smart Button) on the motor of your garage door opener can be a variety of colors: green, purple, orange, red or yellow. The color indicates which type of universal remote will work with your machine. If you can't immediately locate the button, check the outer case or beneath the plastic cover over the motor's light. Here are the steps to program your new universal remote:

  1. Safely place a sturdy ladder where you can access the motor, then press the Learn Button.
  2. IMPORTANT: Are you simply adding a new one, or are you reprogramming all your remotes to work on a different code?
  3. If you add the universal remote as a new device and do not wish to reprogram others, only press the Learn Button on the motor for one second.
  4. Alternately, if you are reprogramming everything, press and hold the Learn Button for about 30 seconds to clear the previous code.
  5. Next, push and release whichever button on the universal remote you are programming.
  6. You may need to press this several times because of the manufacturing design. Some will program with one push. Some require three and can need even five presses.

The indication that you have succeeded can be a light coming on or a click from the motor. Either way, you will know when you press the button and the door goes up. Voila!

How Do Universal Garage Door Remotes Work?

All garage door openers use infrared radio signals to communicate between the electric motor and the remote that operates it. This is activated when you press a button. The engine then starts a track-and-pulley system installed on the ceiling. When the door reaches a certain point on the track, the system automatically stops. It can also be stopped at any height by pressing the button again.

Because garage doors can weigh more than 400 pounds, safety measures are legally required to be included to prevent accidents. As a result, infrared sensors are installed on either side of the garage about 6 inches above the ground. These sensors prevent the door from descending if there is an obstruction, such as a child's bike.

Universal remotes are designed to function with various openers. However, there are circumstances when one won't operate a particular brand, and you should check in advance. There may be multiple buttons to command different doors or even electronic gates. They all use batteries for their power source. Although these may be tiny lithium batteries, like what is used in watches, or standard 9-volt batteries, they usually need to be replaced every two years. Nevertheless, they are convenient as extras for family or guests and sometimes easier to purchase than exact replacements.

If you left a remote control in your vehicle during a trip to the mechanic, valet parking, or any time someone else had access, you should reprogram it. Reprogramming will reset the code and prevent access to your home and potential theft.

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Discussion Comments
By andee — On Jul 13, 2012

I used to use a universal garage door remote more often than I do now. I have a car where I can program my garage door into a panel on my visor. This is wonderful because I never have to worry about losing a remote.

I still keep the universal remote around to have as a spare. There have been times when this has come in really handy. If I have company staying with me, I always let them use the universal remote so they can park inside the garage as well.

I hardly ever go in my house through the front door, but always enter in through the garage. If my next car doesn't have this same programming capability, I will go back to using the universal remote again.

By myharley — On Jul 12, 2012

I would be frustrated without our universal garage door remote. This came with two remotes and we keep one in the car and one in the motorcycle.

Before using the universal remote I would have to climb off the back of the motorcycle every time to open the garage door. Now we can just pull up to the garage and I don't have to get off the motorcycle.

We have three sections on our garage and each one of them have a different door. It is nice because you can choose which door you want to open or close without all of them going up at the same time.

By burcinc — On Jul 11, 2012

I think universal garage door remotes are great, especially if you have a really old garage opener that no longer manufactures remotes. That was the case with me and when my remote control broke, I thought I would have to get a whole new opener for the garage.

I saw the universal garage door opener remote at the store, it was really affordable and decided to try it out. Even if it didn't work, I wouldn't feel like I wasted money. I just followed the instructions on it and quite amazingly, it worked!

I just kept pressing on the button and eventually the garage door moved! What's more is that I have two garage doors and it worked for both of them. The only minus I can think of is that the range is kind of short. You do have to be pretty close to the garage for it to work, but I really don't mind. I saved so much money thanks to this remote.

By turquoise — On Jul 10, 2012

@ysmina-- I don't know why your neighbor had trouble programming it, it's very easy! I did it all by myself and it only took a minute.

What you need to do is take your universal garage door remote to the garage door opener. Press down on the learn button on the opener for twenty or twenty five seconds to clear the current programming. Then, press on the universal remote's button and press the learn button on the opener again. You should see the remote blink for a few seconds which means it's programmed.

So easy! I'm sure you'll have no trouble doing it if you follow the directions. By the way, which brand are you thinking of getting? There are several major brands like Skylink, Liftmaster and Chamberlain universal garage door remote. They all work equally well. I'm currently using Chamberlain and I'm happy with it.

By ysmina — On Jul 10, 2012

We didn't lose our garage door remote, but we need a second one now for my wife to use and keep in her car.

I've been doing some research and I found out that the universal garage door remote control is compatible with my garage door. What I'm worried about though is the programming.

I was talking to my neighbor about this the other day and he said that he bought a universal garage remote but wasn't able to program it despite using the manual. Are these garage remotes really that hard to program? Do I need some professional help to get it to work with my garage door?

I was hoping that I can just buy the remote and start using it right away but it seems that it's not going to be so easy.

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