Photo: John Gruen
You shouldn't have to muscle a sliding patio door to get it to glide along its track. A slider should move easily enough for you to open it with one hand while balancing a round of drinks in the other. If you have a balky patio door or sliding screen that moves only when you jiggle it along the track, it's easy to get things rolling again with a quick tune-up.

Dirty rollers are the main reason sliding doors get stuck. "Mud, food, and hair get ground onto the track," says Joe Giagnorio, who repairs about 80 sliders a year as service manager for Ring's End Lumber in Darien, Connecticut. "All that dirt clogs the rollers underneath the door." The remedy, which he demonstrates on the following pages, takes about an hour and works for wood, vinyl, and aluminum doors. Replacement parts — for anything from a faulty latch to torn weatherstripping — are available from retailers that sell new doors of the same make.

If you follow these steps and the door still doesn't slide, it may be a sign of a poor installation or an underlying structural problem, like an undersized header above the door or a rotten sill beneath it. Hire a remodeling contractor to diagnose the problem and make the necessary fixes. But if you get the old door sliding like new, it's simple to keep it that way: "Vacuum the track well whenever you clean the room," Giagnorio says.

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