MAINTENANCE : Stay on Track With Sliding Doors

From Associated Press

I t’s relatively simple to keep sliding doors--whether bypass or patio type--in good working condition.

Bypass doors are lightweight movable panels used mostly for showers and for closets. They are suspended from a top track with multiple channels so that they can slide past each other. They are popular for closets because they allow access to the full width of the storage space.

Patio doors, usually made of glass in wood, metal or vinyl frames, have one fixed and one or two sliding panels. The movable panels rest on rollers that travel in a bottom track with channels.

Most sliding doors can be lifted straight up out of the track, but some can be freed only when they are lined up with key openings, generally when the door is halfway open. Always have someone help you lift and move a patio door.


Beaten Tracks

With either type of sliding doors, keep the tracks clean and lubricated. Patio door tracks need more upkeep. Vacuum out loose debris and scrub out compacted dirt with a toothbrush. Use a silicone lubricant to keep the door moving freely. Don’t use grease or oil, which attract and hold dirt.

Problems with patio doors most frequently stem from the tracks. Inspect them for burrs, bends or other deformities and repair or replace them as needed.

For minor bends in a patio door track, cut a block of wood to fit tightly in the track. With the wood inserted in the track as backing, flatten the sides with light, quick hammer blows. A more serious deformity will require replacement.


Some tracks can be replaced with a kit available from a window and door hardware specialist. Other tracks will have to be replaced by a professional installer. Sliding door parts are often manufacturer-specific. If you can’t get parts from the manufacturer or if you don’t know who made your door, check with a hardware store. Take the old part with you and get as close a match as possible.

Bypass Doors

Most problems with bypass sliding doors are track-related. Here are some tips on trouble-shooting bypass doors.

* If a bypass door is balky, check the roller brackets at the top of the door. Roller brackets keep the door level and maintain uniform clearance between the bottom of the door and the floor.


* There are dozens of styles of hanging brackets--some with one wheel and others with two. (A double-wheel bracket will support a slightly heavier door than will a single-wheel.) All are designed so that you can adjust the height of the door without taking it down.

To adjust the door, simply loosen the screws holding the brackets to the door, slide them up or down in the slots, then retighten the screws.

* If the door sticks, or a roller jumps a track, check for loose screws, an object lodged in the track, a broken roller or a bent track.

* If the rollers don’t move freely, apply a little powdered graphite to the axles of the sticky rollers; don’t use oil on nylon rollers. Also lubricate catches and locks from time to time.


* To clean an overhead bypass door track, spray household cleaner on a terry cloth rag, wrap the rag around the tip of a screwdriver and rub the padded tip along the track.

* To work smoothly, bypass doors must be plumb (check them with a carpenter’s level) and properly positioned in the bottom guide. If the door binds in the guide, unscrew it and reposition it, making sure that the door remains plumb.