How to Repair Sliding Glass Door Rollers
When to Repair Sliding Glass Door Rollers
Eventually every sliding glass, or patio, door will need help. They get harder and harder to open and close over time and the most common problem is that the rollers they slide on simply wear out. The door used as an example in this article finally got so hard to move that children could barely open it and the handle broke off from excessive force. It was (past) time to do something!
The most obvious first effort should be to clean the track out - remove any debris, small rocks or gravel, etc. Vacuum the track thoroughly and see if there is any improvement - this is sometimes all it takes and is quick and easy to do.
If cleaning the track doesn't work, try to adjust the rollers. This is part of any repair work and is explained below with pictures showing where the adjustment screw can be found. While adjusting the rollers sometimes helps, it is usually an indication that they are wearing and will need replacement in the future. Rollers on the example door were adjusted some time back, and it worked for a couple of years, but eventually just plain needed replacement. If replacement is necessary, begin by removing the door from the track.
Removing the Door From the Track.
While it may be necessary to remove the outer door first, this is not usually required. In nearly all cases the upper track of the door is deeper than the lower track and the door is not so tall that it actually reaches the top.
This is so that the door can be picked up enough so that the roller assembly can clear the bottom track. Removal is generally quite simple; raise the door further into the top track and pull the bottom towards the inside. If the inside room is a hardwood floor or even vinyl tile flooring it is recommended that some kind of cover be provided to sit the door on so as not to scratch or dent the flooring. Continue this process until the top of the door comes free from the upper track and removal is complete. If you have trouble doing this it may help to adjust the rollers completely up into the door; see the final paragraph for instructions on adjusting the rollers.
Sliding glass doors can be quite heavy and it may help to use a pry bar to lift it. In addition it may require help to carry the door or even to slide it on the floor. When the door is removed, it is best to lay on a carpeted floor on its edge as shown in the photos ; the work to be done will be easier.
The example door had a major problem in removal; over the 30 year life span of the door both the floor and ceiling had warped very slightly. It wasn't enough to prevent operation of the door, but the upper track had a very slight bow downwards and the bottom track had a similar bow upwards. The result was that the door could not be lifted enough to clear the bottom track even with a prybar.
The answer was to use a small grinder and very carefully remove a small amount of metal from the bottom track. The very upper portion of the track on the inside was removed down to floor level; when the door is installed it still fits below this level and is thus still supported but would now clear the lower track when raised into the upper track. If you have trouble getting the door high enough to slide the bottom out you might check for this problem.
Replacing the Rollers
The roller assemblies are visible in the bottom of the door, near the sides (see photos). Although typically held in place with a single screw your door will likely be slightly different and you will have to find the screw(s) that hold the assembly.
Remove any screws holding the roller assembly in place and remove that assembly. At this point there are two options; either replace the entire assembly or just the roller, with replacement of the entire assembly preferable as it is much simpler. Individual rollers are available, but will most likely require using a drill to drill out the rivet holding the current roller in place and fitting a new roller into the assembly.
Whether buying either an entire assembly or just rollers, an exact replacement is necessary; while assemblies may well be similar they are very unlikely to actually work if not identical. Take the assembly to the store or use exact measurements to find a replacement. Replacement rollers may have a screw and nut arrangement to hold them in place instead of rivets; make sure that there is sufficient room for the screw and nut if you are replacing just the roller. In the example, a local home improvement store had both; a pair of rollers was $6 while two complete assemblies were only $7. The choice was obvious and two complete roller assemblies were purchased. Amazon offers many such roller assemblies and an example is shown below. There are many more, but make absolutely sure you are purchasing the correct assembly for your door.
Fit the new assembly (or the old one with new rollers) into the door frame in the same manner they came out and put the fastening screws back into the frame. It is wise to adjust the rollers up into the door as far as possible to make installing the door easier; the next section gives those instructions.
The door is re-installed the same way it came out: insert the door into the upper track and slide the bottom of the door over the lower track. The center of the door should line up on the section of track the roller rides on, but it can be moved later if you find during the roller adjustment phase that it isn't centered properly.
Roller Assemblies from Amazon
Adjusting the Rollers
The final step in the process is to adjust the door rollers. Using a screwdiver (probably a phillips type), turn the adjustment screw until the door itself is raised just slightly off the bottom track. As the adjustment screw is turned it pushes the actual roller wheel down which is what pushes the door up.
This screw will probably be turned in a clockwise motion to move the roller down and the door up, but it may be necessary to turn it the other way depending on the assembly that fits your door. Expect the screw to turn quite easily for a few turns but then get considerably harder to turn as the roller comes into contact with the track and begins to raise the door. It may help to raise the door very slightly with a screwdriver or prybar as that will make it easier to turn the adjustment screw. Just don't raise it so far that the roller comes off the track and allows the bottom of the door to move sideways.
Adjusting this screw is done to accomplish two things; to raise the door so that it does not drag on the bottom and to plumb the door. After the door is raised and sliding freely, shut the door and adjust one roller again until the door is square with the door frame. The edge of the door should just touch the door frame all the way up and down the closed side.
Re-install the exterior door if you have moved it and the task is complete. You have successfully completed your task of sliding glass door repair and installed new patio door rollers. Your door is ready for many more years of service and it didn't cost an arm and a leg to do it.
Questions & Answers
Can I move a fixed patio glass door from the left side over to the right side? I don't want to open my door from the right side anymore. I want to open it from the left side.
It might be possible with some doors, but keep in mind that the latch, and the cutout in the frame for that latch, is generally on the right (looking from the inside).
Hello, how can I determine what brand our 20-year-old sliding glass door is to replace the wheels with the correct replacement?
I'm sorry, but I can't help you here. About the only thing you could do is find someone that recognizes it, and that's going to be very nearly impossible. If you have a home repair shop (Lowes, Home Depot, Hechinger, etc.) nearby, I suggest you take the old roller there and ask for help. Beyond that, all that I can suggest is to try and match pictures and measurements with what you can find on the web - Amazon has some and more are available from other sources.
Sorry, I can't be of more help.
Is a plastic bearing with steel brackets good enough for sliding doors?
A nylon bearing is not unusual in many applications. It should be fine if well constructed and designed for the purpose you're using it for.
© 2011 Dan Harmon