Adjusting Sliding Doors

Dear NH,
I have a sliding shower door that is driving us crazy! One of the wheels keeps coming off the track. Is there something I can do to repair this. I have tried spraying it with WD-40 but it doesn't seem to help except to make everything gooey.
BP from Idaho Falls, ID

Lubrication is a start, though I would have chosen a silicone lubricant instead. WD-40 isn't really a lubricant... it is a protectant that has some lubricating properties. First and foremost, the mechanical functioning of the door should be evaluated.

There are a couple of problems to look for. The first is the condition of the wheels, also called "rollers". Are they still round and smooth, or are they starting to look like the soles of an old pair of sneakers? Do they rotate easily without any wobble? If you notice either of these problems, remove the old rollers (most are held on with a screw) and take them to the hardware store to get a proper size match. The doors will have to be removed do this (more below).

The second problem could be in the adjustment of the door. When closed, the door should fit vertically against the side molding. If there is more than one rubber doorstop, it should make contact with both of them. If it doesn't, there is a tendency for the door to lift out of the track when opened too "aggressively"!

The way to adjust the door depends on the design. Some doors have multiple holes for each roller... moving the roller to a "higher" hole will lower the door, etc. Others have the roller screws in a "slot" that allows finer adjustment. Before making any adjustments, look at the bottom track. Some doors run inside a U-shaped track... others (the so-called trackless doors) utilize a sliding mechanism. Be sure the sliding mechanism is disengaged before attempting to remove the doors for adjustment. Some have a lever... others use a simple screw-on clip. Be careful not to break anything... it may be impossible to get a replacement part!

Aggression! Leading me to the final possibility... that someone is being a little too violent with the doors. Sliding doors do not take well to banging and excessive force... they retaliate by jumping out of the track! Team up a maladjusted door with aggression and the only result can be home repair tragedy!

When you adjust each door, be sure to adjust it to the side it will be at when "closed". The correct closing position of the inner door is near the showerhead. The outer door should close further away from the showerhead. This will keep water from blowing through the gap between the doors. Having seen the staining and damage that can occur over the years, this is not a minor point!

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