Does Your Garage Look Like Aladdin’s Cave to Thieves?

By Diane Tait

Image courtesy Pixabay

If you have an electric garage door opener, you probably enjoy using it to let yourself in when you get home, especially if it’s dark or raining.  Having a modern convenience like this makes most folks feel safe and secure.  With an electronic opener, you don’t have to worry about standing outside in the dark to get inside your home.  You don’t have to worry about straining your back to open your garage door.  What a wonderful world in which we live, right?  Well, that’s exactly the sentiment that burglars feel about electronic garage door openers.  In today’s blog, I’ll show you how these devices make breaking into your home quick and easy, along with 10 ways to keep thieves at bay.

Can your opener be used against you?  One of the quickest and easiest ways to gain entry to a home is through the garage door.  Once inside, thieves have access to tons of valuable merchandise, not to mention your home if the garage is attached.  Whether you park your car in your garage or not, the easiest way for a thief to gain entry is to steal the remote control.  This can be done by breaking into the car itself.  If you park your vehicle on the street, be it at home, at work, or when you go shopping, it takes less than 10-seconds to pop a lock or break a window and lift your remote if it’s left in plain sight.  Armed with the device, your home is like Aladdin’s cave to a burglar who can breeze into your home while you’re away.

Can your garage door opener be hacked?  Electronic garage door openers have been around since the 1920s but didn’t become popular until the 60s.  Then as now, the device transmits a wireless radio signal that actuates the motorized opener.  Back then, all door openers used the same signal, which thieves quickly used to their advantage.  All they had to do was buy an opener and cruise through neighborhoods until the signal opened an unsuspecting victim’s garage door.  The industry fought back by upgrading the devices with a series of 8-12 dip switches that could be set to a unique entry code.  This meant there were anywhere from 256 code combinations on an 8-switch opener to 4,096 on a 12-switch model.  While that sounds like a lot, technically savvy burglars soon crafted devices that quickly tried every combination in less than 10-seconds.  Fortunately for us, today’s garage door openers use a rolling or hopping set of codes that changes every time the door is opened.  However, if you open your remote only to find dip switches, you should consider upgrading your system.

Can a thief open your garage door without the remote? You bet they can and all it takes is a wire coat hanger.  All automatic garage doors come with a manual release that lets you open the door if the power is off or the opener itself is on the fritz.  Dangling down from the track above is the emergency release toggle, which is attached by a rope to the emergency release latch.  Pull the rope or trip the latch and you’ll disconnect the door from the motorized opener.  This lets you open the door manually.  It also gives burglars an easy way to gain entry by using a coat hanger to snag the rope or the latch itself.  A practiced thief can pop the door almost as fast as the homeowners themselves.  The way to defeat this easy out is to take a cable tie and thread it through the emergency release latch.  This will make it impossible for a burglar to provide enough force to trip the latch while making it possible for you to use the release by cutting the cable tie.

Image courtesy Pixabay

What are ten ways to protect your garage from thieves?

      1.      Take the remote control with you.  This guarantees a thief can’t swipe it from your vehicle.  You can even buy a key chain remote that makes toting the opener along with you a lot easier.

2.      If you insist on leaving the remote in your vehicle, don’t clip it to the sun visor or stow it in plain sight. Instead, store it in the glove compartment or stash it under the seat so it can’t be seen by a passing thief.  While it might take you a couple of extra seconds to open the door, at least you won’t arrive home to find that you’ve given burglars the keys to the castle.

      3.      Install a kill switch that powers down the opener.  This way, even if someone swipes or hacks the remote, they won’t be able to use it to open your garage door.

      4.      Secure your door’s emergency release.  This will make it impossible to bypass the electric opener by opening the door manually. 

      5.      Lock the garage door when you go to bed or are going out of town.  The harder you make it for thieves to gain entry to your garage, the more likely they’ll be to leave your home alone and look for another victim. 

      6.      Never leave your garage door open.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people leave their garage door wide open without considering the consequences.  First of all, most garages are full of valuable tools and other goods that can be quickly converted to cash.  Secondly, an open garage door could quickly turn a burglary into a home invasion. 

      7.      Always lock the door that leads from the garage to your home.  You wouldn’t consider leaving your front door wide open, would you?       

      8.      Install a peephole in the door that leads from the garage to your home.  This way if you hear strange noises in the garage, you can look without having to open the door to find out what’s in there. 

      9.      If you have an outside keypad that can be used to open the door without the remote, consider removing it since this is one more way that thieves can hack your system to gain entry to your home without working up a sweat. 

     10.  Consider installing a burglar alarm or video surveillance camera with a motion detector in your garage.  This way if someone gains entry to the garage, you’ll know about it. 

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on homeowner's insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


  1. If you don't close your garage door, don't be surprised when your home gets hit by thieves.

  2. I always check my garage door as the last thing before going to bed!!!


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