Military Radio Messes With Garage Door Opener

Add this to the list of reasons why you should think twice before moving to Yuma, Ariz., where the thermometer can hit 124 degrees: nearby Marine Corps radio signals can kill your garage door opener.

The Yuma Sun speaks to a man who now has to hustle out in the heat to manually open and close his garage. He wants the company that installed the device nearly a decade ago to fix it.

“I don’t want to change garage doors,” he tells the Sun, stating that he doesn’t blame the Marines for the problem. The story says fixing the opener would cost the man between $50 and $80.

Do you think the company should be held responsible for replacing the opener?

Foothills resident has garage door problem [Yuma Sun]
(Thanks, Ben!)

Comments

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  1. Abradax says:

    No.

    Doesn’t FCC regulations state that a device must accept any interference or something like that?

    Either way 10 years? 50 bucks to fix? Man up and pay the fee.

  2. savashley says:

    I missed the part where he had proof the marine signals killed his door…..and his reasoning for asking the company to fix it?

    • JohnnyP says:

      Or that its still under warranty…

    • Bativac says:

      Yeah, sometimes stuff just doesn’t work anymore, and you have to fix it or replace it. Sounds like he is just trying to get a little attention and a free garage door opener.

    • Rachacha says:

      FTA: Earlier this month, officials at MCAS Yuma informed residents in the Fortuna area of the Foothills that strong radio signals coming from the communications site, which was activated on Aug. 1, can override remote controls that move garage doors up and down.

      The issue is not that the radio signals damaged the opener, it is that the signals from the military base are overpowering the garage door opener signal because of the proximity in frequency. What he is experiencing would be similar to going to a rock concert and not being able to communicate with the person next to you while whispering in their ear.

      • webweazel says:

        I had heard quite a while back that the military “owns” the exact frequencies also used by garage door openers. Anywhere that the military does not use the frequency, like 90% of the US, can use it. If the military DOES step up & use it in your area, tough cookies for your opener.
        True or urban legend?

        • kc2idf says:

          Absolutely true.

          There is oversubscription of the privileges on the electromagnetic spectrum. It usually poses no issue due to the fact that actual usage is pretty sparse, but in case of a collision, there is a pecking order of sorts to determine who has to go off the air.

          As an example, there is a range of frequencies around 27MHz which are used as ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) frequencies, which are uses where communication is not the point (using radio waves to heat or detect field disturbances etc). Secondary to this, there is the Class D Citizens’ Band (the 40-channel CB band we all know of) which must take a back seat to ISM users, but almost never collides. Lastly, the same frequency band is also allowed to be used by “Part 15″ devices (so named because of the part in the communications laws that permits them) at very low power.

          At one point in time, this frequency band was used by radio-control toys and cordless telephones. It may still be used by the RC toys; I don’t know for sure, but I do know that CB took priority.

          Incidentally, there are also a handful of frequencies in that band that are specifically set aside for RC toys, and CBers have no privileges there, though some have taken liberties.

          There are numerous other examples throughout the radio spectrum, including some where ham radio shares frequencies with ISM or military, and where commercial shares frequencies with marine. There’s always a pecking order, designating this as “primary”, that as “secondary” or the other as “tertiary”. The only “gotcha” is that all Part 15 devices (including , most likely, all garage door openers) are last.

          • MauriceCallidice says:

            http://www.i-spec.com/EMC/usa.html

            has some related info regarding Class B and C requirements.

          • webweazel says:

            “Incidentally, there are also a handful of frequencies in that band that are specifically set aside for RC toys, and CBers have no privileges there, though some have taken liberties.”

            A relative flies RC airplanes at a club, which they have been fixing up & getting new members, really improving well within the past two years. Within about 1/4 mile, about 6 months ago, the police department has started on putting up a huge communications tower, and the club members are really sweating the frequencies they are going to use from the tower. RC cars are one thing. They stay on the ground. RC planes are a whole other kettle of wax where interfering frequencies, even intermittent, are concerned.

  3. tedyc03 says:

    This used to be a very common problem when garage door openers were first introduced. I think he should just shell out the money and move on with his life. There’s no need for a news story here.

  4. Liam Kinkaid says:

    The door’s been working fine for almost a decade? Then, no, the company has no responsibility for the door, especially as it seems that their workmanship is not in question.

  5. humphrmi says:

    Nope.

  6. Frankz says:

    It was installed over a decade ago, and NOW he wants them to fix it for free?
    Is he really that stupid?

    Within a few months, maybe up to a year of installation, yes, but not something that was installed before he even bought the house over 9 years ago.

  7. CherieBerry says:

    It’s been 10 years. The garage company is in the clear.

  8. syzygy says:

    Do we really need to comment on stories like this? Come on.

  9. TVGenius says:

    Two issues at play here. First, the FCC giveth and the FCC can taketh away. Thousands of wireless microphone systems became illegal to use this summer, because the FCC decided to take the spectrum they use back. Second, as Part 15 devices, the garage door has to accept interference, as it’s not in reserved spectrum.

    And 124Ëš isn’t as bad as you think. Anything above 110Ëš sucks equally. Though I do find it interesting that human skin begins to burn at 140Ëš.

  10. caknuck says:

    10 years exceeds the life expectancy for most (non-industrial) garage door openers. He should be relatively happy it’s worked this long without issues.

    Any why not blame tha Marines. If they’re jamming radio frequencies used by consumer electronics in the civilian bandwidth, then it is the Marines’ fault.

    • rbb says:

      It is not the Marines’ fault. The garage door opener operates in an unprotected part of the spectrum.

    • rbb says:

      It is not the Marines’ fault. The garage door opener operates in an unprotected part of the spectrum.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Wow, is 10 years really considered old for a new garage door opener? We still have a Craftsman opener from 1967 in our detached garage. It’s still running strong.

      • K-Bo says:

        My parents have had 3 in the last 10 years. 2 of those were due to lighting strikes, but still, nothing else in the house has had to be replaced even 1 time for lighting or anything else in that time.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        If it’s that old it isn’t secure. You should look into a rolling code opener. There are ways to retrofit since you probably don’t want to give up something that has worked that long (it attaches in place of the button and handles the RF. You disable the RF on the door itself… if that can be done.

  11. Daverson says:

    Holy crap, the poor bastard has to LIFT HIS OWN GARAGE DOOR. I don’t how he can go on struggling with the obstacles life keeps throwing in his path.

    • humphrmi says:

      +1 LMAO

    • Sparkstalker says:

      Indeed – is there no end to the suffering this man must endure?

      First things first, though – is Yuma really that boring of a place that this makes the newspaper? Really, do they run stories when there’s a new menu at the high school?

      But back tot he story at hand…some choice quotes:
      “I locked myself out. It will let me out but not in. I can use them inside the garage to open the door, but not from outside the garage.” Now how did this happen? What, does he not carry a key to his house?

      “Until this week, Wilton said, he had been entering his home through a side door in his garage, but since he got locked out, he is now having to carry a key to his front door on his key ring.” Well, I guess that explains it. My heart breaks now knowing that he actually has to carry a key…

      “Unfortunately for Wilton, he inherited the problem with his automatic garage door. He did not buy into it and said he wouldn’t have if he would have been told by the manufacturer about the possible interference.” considering that clause is in just about every electronics manual I’ve ever read, I guess he’ll prefer to live without any electronics. But hey, this should save on his electric bill…

      • syzygy says:

        For such a slow news day, you’d think the reporters in Yuma would have more time to hone their writing skills. “he is now having to” instead of “he has had to”? “if he would have been told” instead of “if he had been told”? Those are only two of at least a half-dozen poorly-worded or just downright incorrect sentences. It’s like the reporter dictated this article, and then posted it without editing.

  12. ShruggingGalt says:

    After 10 years?

    Why is this a story?

  13. dbeahn says:

    “Foothills resident Paul Wilton was aware that radio signals from a new communications site at Telegraph Pass now in use by Marine Corps Air Station Yuma could interfere with his automatic garage door openers. “

    So he believes that the company that installed it should have known that the Marines were going to install a NEW COMMUNICATIONS SITE a DECADE later, and should have planned for that?

    I don’t think so.

  14. maruawe says:

    All they have to do is reset to door opener to another frequency(using a plastic hex wrench)
    the home owner can do it himself with a little incentive. first change the frequency on the motor itself in the garage, then step outside (20) foot should be enough and then dial in the new frequency on the hand opener ..Should take under fifteen minutes.. The paperwork with the garage door opener will have printed instructions…

  15. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    While this single case may sound ridiculous, the bigger picture can be rather unsettling:
    – what happens when some new installation (Marine, Radio Stations, etc) takes away ALL the garage door openers’ functionality?
    – or (to go to a little more extreme) all your cordless phones? (Yeah yeah yeah, I know, those operate on a protected frequency, but as “TVGenius” mentioned, the FCC can just re-open that.

    It could be very much inconvenient.

    • Rachacha says:

      It happened already in the world of professional audio. Wireless microphones used to operate at a frequency that the FCC wanted to use for other purposes. That meant that thousantds of wireless microphone transmitters and receivers had to be thrown away and new ones purchased, at $500-$1000 or more each that is an expensive proposition.

      Manufacturers jumped at the opportunity and were holding “buyback” incentives to encourage users who were in the market for new equipment to come to them.

  16. CharlesFarley says:

    The garage door is a device governed by Part 15 of the FCC regs. The Marine Corp operates as the primary licensee on their given frequencies.

    The Part 15 device must accept the interference and not emit any of its own. He has no recourse with the primary allocation user and limited recourse with the manufacturer.

    Now it may be a question of how the interference is occuring…direct interference, harmonics, etc…

    He should call his local amateur radio club and ask if someone with knowledge on how to abate RFI (radio frequency interference) can come over and assess the situation. Often times it can be as simple as wrapping the garage antenna (a simple wire) around a torrid a few times.

    • tcp100 says:

      This.

      And I do hope you mean a toroid, not a torrid.

      Most folks don’t quite understand this – but the Part 15 wording on the back of each piece of consumer electronics is not just a suggestion, it’s the way things work.

      If a military installation, police station, or even a licensed ham nerd next door causes interference to your TV, cordless phone, Wii, garage door opener, or electronic cat litter box – guess what? It’s your problem.

      Unlicense devices must accept interference from licensed services, and not cause interference to licensed services. This is not the FCC being “mean”, this is to avoid chaos. Wireless spectrum is not unlimited, and has to be regulated, otherwise it’s useless.

      Very few parts of the EM spectrum are reserved for public unlicensed use WITHOUT another primary user having precedence. So, the earlier poster that talked about “civilian bandwidth” doesn’t know what he’s talking about – there is no such thing.

  17. Jonesey says:

    Meh—-50 bucks? I spent that much money on PBR last weekend. Just pay it.

  18. EBone says:

    I live in Scripps Ranch, CA, not far from MCAS Miramar. Our community has the same issue from time to time. The newer openers with the rolling codes seems to alleviate the issue.

  19. Hotscot says:

    I thought this was happening with my garage door since I’m near Edwards Air Force Base in Mojave. However I determined the problem was actually the intensity of the sunlight at certain times of the day. I could open the door, but when I tried to close it the door wouldn’t operate.

    The sun shining directly on the sensor apparently messed it up somehow..

  20. SonarTech52 says:

    Thanks for letting our enemies know that the Marines were testing their new garage door warfare….you know, to have the bad guys stuck at home..

    Sorry guys, Operation Door Jam is cancelled..

  21. selkie says:

    I live very close to Eglin AFB, and we also occasionally get the press releases about DoD testing causing garage door problems. Thing is, no one I know has actually had a problem with this despite the warnings.

    Sounds like Yuma guy is just looking for someone else to pay for a pre-existing condition.

    • dabarak says:

      “Sounds like Yuma guy is just looking for someone else to pay for a pre-existing condition. “

      Darned HMOs… ; )

  22. Weapon X says:

    My garage door opener stopped working and the guy at the troubleshooting hotline told me it was a signal from the military base that is >15 miles away (as the crow flies). He recommended me to buy an alternate frequency adapter to fix the problem. It worked. A little later, I noticed both frequencies worked just fine. A few months later, no frequencies worked. Then both frequencies worked fine, followed by long periods of not working. I called the troubleshooting line again and a more reasonable technician laughed at the military signal theory as the signal would basically have to be next door to cause interference. She recommended me isolate appliances in my garage or anywhere in the house. I quickly isolated it to one specific circuit breaker and then found the culprit. My stepdaughter’s alarm clock was causing the interference. Coincidently, I had installed the new adapter the weekend after we moved my stepdaughter to college. When she was back from a break, the same problem would occur. Crazy thing is all three of my step kids have the same model alarm clock; only one caused the problem.

  23. Difdi says:

    I am sensitive to radio signals (no, I’m not a whackjob, it’s real…I’m intolerant of hypochondriacs claiming to be radio-sensitive for this reason)) and in this one house I used to rent, I’d get a splitting headache for about 30 seconds (super strong migraine) every day at exactly 2:34 pm. A little rabbit hunting led me to an AEGIS cruiser parked at the local naval base. Seems they were running a daily drill with their billboard radar, mapping the mountaintops around the bay as a test exercise. And my house was in the line of fire.

    I knew a complaint would be unlikely to go anywhere (this was years and years ago, long before anybody but nutjobs were claiming the sensitivity), and while I was kinda tempted to go down to Radio Shack and put together a baby Russian missile targeting radar to ping them back with, it never got beyond a temptation (fear of criminal charges pales beside fear of HARMs).

  24. Promethean Sky says:

    I once had a garage door opener that would open and close the door when the neighbor started her weedwacker. We just ‘effing dealt with it. As I recommend this guy does.

  25. outlulz says:

    I used to live in the flight path of LAX. In the 90s our garage door would sometimes open up when a plane flew overhead. I think it stopped happening when we change garage door openers.

  26. Big Mama Pain says:

    The radio signals can also effect newer cars that use them to determine whether your tires are properly inflated-it will ‘trick’ your car into thinking one or more of your tires are low on air and a warning light pops up. There was a neat call-in to Car Talk about that a few months ago. They couldn’t figure out why the woman’s tire pressure light would come on in one particular spot in her commute and determined she was driving past a military base every day.

  27. Patrick M says:

    The same thing happens near Quantico in Virginia. Garage door opener manufacturers used a frequency range that was reserved for military use, but not actually used at the time. When the marines started using it, the openers stopped working.

    If it were a recent installation I’d push for the company to fix it, but after 10 years he needs to step up and get a new opener.

  28. LastError says:

    10 year of use and he wants a freebie? Get off. What the hell happened to people taking responsibility for their own problems and dealing with them? Why is always somebody else’s fault and somebody else’s problem? He ought to be glad the damn thing worked for 10 years and go get another one and be happy.

    As for the interference, the military is the primary user of that band. Everybody else is secondary and has to suck it, basically, and if their system craps ALL over your opener, too damn bad.

  29. dabarak says:

    In a similar vein, there are stories of Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B aircraft (primary mission is Electronic Countermeasures) unintentionally messing with garage door openers, and I believe at times intentionally setting off the radar detectors of cars on the ground. Just rumors – I haven’t been able to confirm the stories.