Most people use their garage door more often than their front entranceway. In fact, expensive and impressive front doors open and close far less frequently than heavy, utilitarian garage doors. These endless cycles of lifting up and down eventually take their toll on your garage door’s moving parts.
Garage door components experience considerable stress and tension. Think about all the parts in a garage door system. There are fixed pieces like panels, bearing plates and tracks. Then there are moving parts such as hinges, rollers, locks, pulleys and cables. They all experience various degrees of stress. Eventually, they’ll show wear and tear as does any other household item.
But the real stress in your garage door package is on your springs. Your garage door springs are under constant tension, and they’re designed that way. They’re also designed for a limited lifespan, which is measured in cycles.
A garage door cycle is one complete up and down turn. Most overhead door systems are made to last about 10,000 cycles. That can be anywhere between seven and 12 years, depending on how much you use your door. The average lifecycle before something snaps is usually nine years, and that becomes even shorter in cold climates.
Want to know how to check your garage door springs for wear and tear? We’ll provide you with the basics on why they wear out, when they break, how to tell if your garage door springs are bad and what to do to prevent bad springs.
Cold Weather Effects on Your Garage Door Springs
Cold climate locations are hard on garage door springs. Winter conditions cause steel in your springs to contract, making them brittle. Extreme cold causes more tension on your already-stressed springs, meaning they’re far more likely to snap.
A quick variance between heat and cold makes things worse. This happens when you expose your cold garage to a warmed-up car with a hot engine and exhaust system. Thermal transfer happens as heat always runs to cold. Your garage door springs experience a sudden temperature change, altering tension. The same thing also occurs when you open your warm garage and let in freezing outside air.
There’s something else hazardous going on with your garage door springs in the winter. You might have a heated garage, and the combination of outside cold and inside heat creates humidity. This condenses on your cold, metal springs and turns into liquid water. We all know what happens when steel stays wet. It rusts, further weakening your spring strength.
There are early signs of broken garage door springs, but you’re unlikely to find out until something goes off the rails. But this doesn’t have to be the case if you learn to tell when your garage door springs are bad. Just as there are certain spring failure causes, there are specific ways to check garage door springs. Before you learn how to spot a bad garage door spring, it’s necessary to know about the different types.
Different Types of Garage Door Springs
Unless you’re a builder or a true handyperson, you’ve probably paid little attention to the different types of garage door springs. You also likely gave little consideration about how they work. That’s until the day your garage door refuses to budge. Or worse, you might try to close your door, only to see it come crashing to the floor.
Springs serve as a counterbalance to gravity’s force. Garage door springs work as counterweights when they’re preloaded with the right amount of tension. Most people think their automatic garage door opener does most of the lifting force. It doesn’t. If you disconnect your electric opener, you should be able to lightly lift your overhead door with finger pressure.
Your garage door springs are preset at a specific stress. Tension is greater when your door is closed than open. When your door lifts, it’s using stored energy to counteract gravity. A perfectly balanced door distributes this condensed energy evenly through your garage door’s travel.
There are three main types of springs you can identify by looking at the track rails or above your closed garage door:
- Extension springs. These are the most common springs found on older and more economical garage door installations. You’ll clearly see extension springs running parallel to your garage door tracks. They’re attached to a fixed anchor point at one end and a pulley/cable combination on the other. Extension springs are stretched as the door is lowered and store energy to assist lifting it back up. This is similar to elastic bands.
- Torsion springs. Most modern garage doors use torsion spring systems. They’re cleaner, more efficient and more reliable devices than extension springs. Torsion springs coil around a shaft and are wound as the door lowers. They remain energized while the door stays shut and release energy during its upward travel. You’ll immediately notice torsion springs from the horizontal bar attached to the wall above your closed door. When your garage door is open, you can’t see the torsion bar.
TorqueMaster springs. This is a specific design and a registered brand name. TorqueMaster springs are advanced variations of torsion design. Instead of exposed metal springs expanding along the horizontal shaft, these lifting devices have an enclosed, centralized spring. This gives a cleaner look with less exposure and maintenance.
All three garage door spring systems have their pros and cons, and they’ll all eventually wear out and break. Unfortunately, that can be at the worst possible time. But fortunately, you can do a lot to prevent it by knowing the common broken garage door spring signs.
Common Signs of Broken Garage Door Springs
There are a few different reasons you could be having garage door troubles. You might notice your overhead door acting strangely. Quite often, it’s a simple matter of your electronic safety eyes being blocked or out of alignment. Lack of maintenance also causes tracks to gum up, rollers to stick and hinges to seize. But sometimes you have a more serious problem like broken springs.
A word of caution — broken springs are not something you should try to fix as a DIY project. Replacing and re-energizing garage door springs requires specific tools and a great deal of knowledge.
Energized springs contain a huge amount of tension. Many people have been seriously injured or even killed by garage door springs suddenly releasing and striking them. Broken fingers, hands and wrists are common. Eye, face and head damage is also likely.
If you find any of the common signs of broken springs, make sure you contact a professional garage door service company to check your springs and replace them if necessary.
- Slow or Partial Opening
If your garage door suddenly starts slowly or partially opening, you probably have a broken spring. Removing one spring from service reduces your lifting power by 50% in a two-spring system, so if one spring is broken, there isn’t enough stored energy in the remaining spring’s tension to normally raise your door.
You might see this as a garage door opener problem. That’s unlikely, as garage door openers are designed with safety devices. They’re programmed to activate at one speed and get the door rolling upward. They rely on the closed door’s highly wound springs to do the early lifting. Once the door is half up, the opener’s power takes over. The reverse happens on the way down.
Slow and partial openings are the main sign of one broken spring. If both springs fail, the door won’t budge at all. It’s rare for both springs to break at the same time, but if one goes, the other will likely be shortly behind. It’s always best to replace both springs at the same time.
- Gap in the Garage Door Spring
If your garage door is light and your opener is strong, you might not notice any slow or partial opening. That’s because the other spring still has enough strength to operate, but it won’t for long. The additional strain on a lone spring is sure to shorten its life. It can break without warning, leaving you trapped in or out of your garage.
Spring gaps are restricted to torsion models. When a torsion spring snaps, it unwinds and separates at its breaking point. This shows as a gap about two inches wide somewhere along its side of the torsion shaft. The spring no longer keeps energy and depends on its neighbor to run the operation.
A broken torsion spring can’t be repaired. It can only be replaced by a trained and equipped professional.
- Fast Closing and Jerky Opening
Jerky openings and fast closures are sure signs of a broken spring. Garage doors rely on even spring tension to properly operate. Any tension loss in extension, torsion or TorqueMaster springs lessens the system’s efficiency. It’ll react by harshly raising and quickly closing.
This is because the system is unbalanced. Finely tuned spring systems evenly distribute energy in a progressive and controlled rate. Properly adjusted springs deliver more energy when the door is close to the floor. The energy dissipates as it reaches the top.
When one spring is out of action, energy from the remaining garage door spring is delivered in spurts or fits. Your door will close quickly because there’s not enough spring resistance to slow it. It’ll jerk while opening as energy is expended and reclaimed.
- Bent or Crooked Top Door Panels
Noticing that your garage door top panels are bent or crooked is another sure sign of a broken spring. Replacing door panels is much more expensive than replacing a spring. Bent, twisted and broken panels are usually long-term signs that a spring has been broken for some time.
Upper garage door panels are damaged because the missing spring causes your door to go out of alignment. Twisted forces transfer from the track and rollers into the panels themselves. Lighter doors made from thin-gauge steel or aluminum break more easily than heavy doors.
- The Loud Bang
Many homeowners hear their spring break long before they notice its effects. Your door springs store a tremendous amount of energy, especially in the lowered position. Conserved energy is held back by the spring and its anchor’s integrity. When one lets go, there’s a tremendous energy release. That causes a large bang as the spring unravels or goes flying across the garage.
If you hear a loud, unexpected bang from your garage, it’s probably a broken spring. Immediately investigate, but be cautious. Do not lift your garage door to enter, provided you have another entrance. Anticipate that if one spring failed, there is a lot more tension on the other. Now it’s in greater jeopardy of failing, too.
If you hear that bang and find a broken spring, don’t wait to replace it. Letting your garage door work on one spring greatly increases the chance of additional damage. You put more stress on your tracks, rollers, hinges and support flanges. You also put more strain on your automatic opener.
Preventing Garage Door Spring Failure
You can prevent garage door spring failure by understanding the main causes. Realizing why springs break gives you a heads-up advantage for taking proactive action. The best solution is anticipating when your springs are near the end of their lifespan so you can replace them before they fail. Here are the main failure causes:
- Fair wear and tear
- Extreme temperature
- Rust and corrosion
- Improper installation
- Incorrect spring sizing
- Improper preset tension
- Misaligned components
- Manufacturing quality
- Additional door weight
- Incidental door damage
- Lack of lubrication
- Poor maintenance
Preventing spring breakage is an important part of protecting your home investment. But make sure you protect yourself first. Don’t risk injuring yourself by taking on a spring replacement job. Call a professional garage door repair and service company to do it safely.
Call Stapley Action Garage Door to Replace Your Springs
Your garage door is a vital home component. It serves a practical purpose but also adds to your aesthetic curb appeal. It’s no wonder many builders and architects get fussy about garage door appearance. Like you, they understand how the right garage door adds value.
As a homeowner, you have better things to do than worry about your garage door. Once it’s properly installed, you expect it to cycle effortlessly through its lifespan. Part of home maintenance is periodically lubricating your garage door tracks, hinges and rollers. But don’t forget to have a look at your springs’ condition.
If you notice your garage door acting up when opening or closing, don’t wait until more damage is done. And if you hear that loud bang in the cold winter night, take action.
Stapley Action Garage Door has safely repaired thousands of garage door springs since 1986. We’re the leading garage door service company in the Greater Phoenix region. We supply and install a huge selection of attractive garage doors. And we’re promptly on the job when your springs break.
Call Stapley Action Garage Door today at 480 655-1255 or use our convenient online contact form.