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Garage Door Maintenance- How Checking the Balance on Your Door Can Save You Repair $$ Later

 
  One of the most important things you can do for your garage door opener is periodically (1-2 times per year) check the balance of your garage door. This will tell you if your door has become 'heavy' over the years, which can slowly destroy your opener. It will also tell you if there are any obvious friction points in the travel of the door. Otherwise, the garage door opener will just work overtime going up and down- and you would not know until the opener quits working!  
 

Author's Note: Garage door systems can be very dangerous to work on! The steps outlined in this article are not meant to fix any problems, but to diagnose potential problems. Please call a trained professional for any necessary repairs!

For the purpose of this exercise it is important to make sure that your garage floor is clear of debris (boxes, cars, lawn-mowers, etc.) around the door itself, allowing you to move freely across the length of the door. We are also assuming that you have an opener attached to your garage door that opens and closes it because if you don't the only thing that will suffer as a result of a 'heavy' door will be your sore back!

When I talk about the garage door being balanced, what I mean is: how well are your springs counterbalancing the weight of the garage door? If they are old and worn-out the door will be heavier than if the springs were working perfectly. The problem with an automatic opener is that it will often times still open and close the door, even though the springs are bad and the door is heavy. This can cause the opener to strain/overwork and some of the plastic parts will strip or break.

That is why it is important to check the balance once per year, so that when the springs do start to go bad- you can have a professional come out and replace them. This will increase the life of your garage door opener.

So, here we go…start with the garage door closed and not moving.

  1. Pull the red-handled emergency release cord which should be hanging down 1-2 feet from the closed garage door. This cord will DISCONNECT the garage door from the opener so that we can move it by hand. This is the red cord you would use if you had no power or the opener is malfunctioning and you needed to open the garage door.
  2. Raise and lower the door by hand a few times to see if there is any excess friction (you can usually tell). Listen for any squeaking or squawking, which could indicate that your hinges need to be lubricated (also once per year).N
  3. Next, with the door all the way down, raise it up to until the bottom is up to about knee-high. What we are looking for is the second roller from the top to be in the radius of the track. This is the curved part of the tracks as they transfer from vertical to horizontal. Most of the door's weight is wanting to come down with gravity, but if the springs are good they will keep the door's weight from sliding down to the ground.
  4. If the springs are balancing the door, it should hover about knee-high from the ground by itself. It may slide down just a little bit, but not too much. If the door is really heavy or threatens to slam down- you need new springs pronto! Otherwise if your opener is not sensitive enough to stop on its own (the opener's only way to tell you something is wrong) it will destroy itself trying to open and close your garage door.
  5. Finally, make sure you re-engage your garage door to the opener. If you are not sure how to do this, refer to your opener manual. You can also find a description with pictures (and video coming soon) at my website.


Typically, torsion springs can last anywhere from 5-15 years depending on their quality. Extension springs don't usually last as long (not to mention most do not have safety cables).

So if your garage door hardware is older than ten years, I would recommend having a trained professional come out and do an inspection!