Is your door more of a sticking door than a sliding one? Years of use can make these doors hard to open or close. From wrapped and dirty tracks to seized rollers, any number of problems can impede the operations of glass doors. Fortunately, basic DIY skills and the right tools are all you need to tune-up your door to be as good as new. Read on—we’ll show you how to fix a sliding door in a few simple steps.
Tools for sliding glass door repair
The tools you need to complete this project are:
- Flat and slotted screwdriver
- Pry bar
- Reciprocating saw or any type of handy saw
- Silicone lubricant
- Replacement tracks and rollers
- Marker pen
Step-by-Step Guide on how to fix a sliding glass door
If you are having a hard time opening or closing your glass patio door, you might have to remove it from the tracks to diagnose the problem. Other times, cleaning and lubricating the hardware could be all that’s need for the door to slide like new. Follow these steps to fix common sliding door problems.
Step 1. Clean and lubricate tracks
Dirt caught in between the lower tracks is the most common cause of a hard-to-operate glass door.
- Use a soft-bristled wire brush or toothbrush to sweep out the debris trapped in between the door tracks.
- Suck up the remaining dirt using a vacuum cleaner. If possible, use a small hand-held cleaner as it is more versatile and will give you room to maneuver as you clean.
- Spray a silicone-based lubricant along the entire track. Wipe any excess lubrication off the floor. Unlike oil-based lubrication, silicone lubricants do not attract dirt buildup.
Pro tip: If possible, slide the door open when cleaning, vacuuming, and lubricating to reach the track’s hidden crevices.
Step 2. Replace damaged tracks
Aluminum and vinyl tracks are prone to damage following years of use. If your tracks are bent in or out or show signs of extensive wear and tear, your best bet is to replace them. This requires you to remove the door. Here’s how to do it:
- Locate the roller adjustment screws on the moving door panel. These are usually at the bottom or along the edge of the door. Using a flathead screwdriver, unfasten the screws. This will lift the rollers and the door, giving you space to remove it from the tracks.
- Remove the screws at the head stop of the sliding door then, slide the moving panel to the center. While standing inside the house, hold onto both edges of the panel, tilt the top of the door inward, and lift it out of the track. It is best to have someone help you lift the door.
- Take out any screws holding the stationary door panel to the frame. In most doors, these screws are fixed all around the door so make sure to remove all of them.
- Remove the stopper at the top and bottom as well as any brackets at the top holding the stationary panel in place. Slide the door toward the center while firmly holding both of its edges. Angle the panel inward and lift it out of the track.
Pro tip: This is a good time to inspect the rollers at the bottom of the door. Use your fingers to check if the wheels roll properly. If they are in good shape, just lubricate them and they’d be good to go. In case the rollers are damaged, you will have to replace them (check out the section below on ‘How to replace worn-out rollers’).
With the door out of the way, you now need to remove the damaged tracks. Follow these simple steps to get the job done:
- Before popping out the track, mark the location of the existing track rails. Do this on both ends of the door to ensure proper fit when installing the new rails.
- Use a screwdriver to remove any screws holding the bottom tracks in place. Lift the tracks out using a pry bar. If the tracks are firmly stuck in the threshold, cut them into half using a reciprocating saw then lift out with a prying bar.
How to install a new door track
- On a flat surface, lay the new and old track side by side. Patio door tracks usually come in 6ft or 8ft lengths. Mark the length of the old track and use a saw to cut the new one.
- Place the new track in the door rail. The track should line up with the markings you made earlier for the old track. Remember to leave the same size gap between the track and the door jamb on both ends as this helps with drainage.
- Drill screw holes and insert the screws on both ends of the track. Repeat this process to install the other track.
- If the track and rollers are in good shape, reinstall both the moving and stationary door panels.
Step 1. Adjust the bottom rollers
Sliding glass doors have rollers at the bottom that help to move the door along the tracks. When the rollers are loose, the door may jump off the track and when they are seized up, you will have a hard time opening or closing the door.
Follow these steps to repair this problem:
- Locate the adjusting screws at the bottom along the side edges or face of the door. The purpose of these screws is to hold the rollers in place.
- Use a flathead screwdriver to turn the adjusting screws clockwise. This will raise the door slightly giving it extra clearance to glide up and down the tracks.
- If the door jumps off the track, lowering it might help. Use a screwdriver to turn the adjusting screws counterclockwise. This should realign the door and keep it within the track rail.
Step 2. Replace worn-out rollers
With time, the rollers can seize up or break, making it difficult to open and close the door. The only way around this problem is to install new rollers. Follow these steps to diagnose and replace worn-out rollers.
- Remove the moving panel of the door. Check out the above steps on how to remove a sliding door (Replace damaged tracks).
- Place the panel on a sawhorse to safely access the rollers at the bottom. In aluminum doors, the bottom trim can be removed to access the rollers but in modern vinyl doors, the trim is welded in and cannot be taken out.
- If you have a vinyl door, you will notice two screws at the bottom along the edge of the door on both sides. The top screw holds the roller in place while the bottom one helps with adjusting the rollers and the height of the door. Remove this top screw and pull the roller out of the frame. Repeat this process to remove the roller on the other end of the door.
- With the old rollers out, insert the new rollers into the frame and screw them in place. Next, turn the bottom screw anticlockwise to pull the rollers inside the frame. This will make the door easier to reinstall.
- Once you reinstall the door, turn the adjusting screw clockwise to adjust the height of the door to the appropriate height.
Here are extra tips to make this project a success. You’ll also find recommendations on how to care for your sliding door
- Clean the tracks regularly
As you can see, dirt build-up in the track can force you to go through the trouble of removing the entire door. To avoid this, every time you vacuum the house, take some time to suck up any debris that may be trapped in the track rails.
- Fix before replacing the tracks
Sometimes, replacing the tracks might be unnecessary. Before popping them out, check if the rail guide is misaligned. Loose screws can throw the guide off. If this is the case, simply remove the screws, reposition the guide, then tighten the screws back in.
- Buy replacement parts that are similar to the old hardware
Rollers and track kits are not universal. Door roller assemblies vary based on brand, material, housing style, and design type. There are also numerous track kit options such as single, bi-parting, soft close, and multi-parting among others. Whether you are buying in-store or online, be sure to match the replacement hardware with the old one for easier installation.
Repairing your sliding glass door doesn’t have to break the bank
At some point, sliding doors become difficult to operate. The usual culprits are damaged tracks, misaligned rail guides, and worn-out rollers. Fortunately, these problems are easily repairable saving you the trouble and cost of buying a new door.
Admittedly, taking out the door takes up a bit of time and it is best to have someone else help you. But, if you have the necessary tools and hardware at hand, fixing your glass door should only be a day’s work.
Have you tried repairing your sliding door or are you planning to? We would love to hear from you! Please leave your questions and comments below.