Garage Door Problems: #3 Springs and Tracks

Garage doors are a lot more complicated than other doors in your house. While a regular door swings easily open and shut on two or three simple, mechanical hinges, the weight and overhead opening of a garage door requires one or more heavy-duty springs, a pair of tracks and rollers, and an electric motor for getting the same job done.

While a squirt of oil is all you may ever need to keep your front door swinging effortlessly, the garage door needs more intensive periodic maintenance to keep it safe and trouble-free. Here is an overview of garage door springs and tracks, the signs of potential problems, and what to do when they arise.

Types of Garage Door Springs

Garage door springs are usually one of two basic types, extension springs or torsion springs. Extension type springs are long coils of wire, and there is one located on either side of the door. As the door moves, the springs are stretched or retracted alongside of the tracks, balancing the weight of the door as it is operated.

A safety cable runs through the spring and attaches to the bottom of the door. This cable helps lift the door, and it prevents the spring from flying loose and injuring someone if the spring breaks or becomes detached from the door. Making sure that this cable is installed and in good repair is important for garage door safety.

Extension springs can become overstretched, worn, rusty, or they can come loose where they attach to the door. Any of these problems will result in a door that does not work properly. The door may wiggle from side to side as it is being moved, or it may become jammed in the tracks, if one spring is working and the other is not.

Extension springs are easier for do-it-yourself repair than torsion springs, but be sure you are completely prepared for the job before you start. Garage door springs of both types are under a huge amount of tension when they are wound, and both types are dangerous to work on.

A torsion spring is mounted above the door, and there is only one. As the door is opened, the torsion spring coils more tightly, providing the force needed for lifting the weight. Torsion springs also have a safety cable attached on each side of the door which lift the door from the bottom. As the door folds up into the overhead track, the cable is under less and less tension as it winds into a drum which it is attached at the top of the door.

There are a number of different torsion springs designs including, standard residential, standard commercial, Torquemaster, EZ-set, and others. All types have a metal shaft attached to the spring. In some designs, the shaft runs through the inside of the spring and in others the shaft is a hollow housing with the spring inside. There are also bearings on either side of the shaft which rotate as the door moves.

Problems with Garage Door Springs and Tracks

Whichever type of spring system you have on your garage door, problems with springs can result in a variety of symptoms including,

  • The door closes smoothly part way, the crashes closed at the end
  • The door becomes wedged between the tracks and will not open or close completely
  • Screeching or scraping sounds as the door is operated

Also, if the door closes and reopens on its own, this can be a sign that the spring tension is out of adjustment. When the tension is not correct, the safety mechanism can overreact and act as if the door has closed on something, causing it to reopen.

Garage door tracks are another area where problems can develop. It is not uncommon for debris to become stuck in a track, causing uneven travel as the door is operated. This is easy to check on your own by simply checking each track and cleaning it periodically with a damp cloth. If either track appears loose or bent, it is time for immediate repairs.

Garage door springs and tracks are the components that actually do the heavy lifting and carry the load when you open and close your garage door. It is crucial that these parts are properly installed, adjusted, and maintained for safe operation. If you suspect problems with springs or tracks, the safest solution is to have them inspected by your garage door professional.