If there is one hard-working accessory in your house that never leaves any doubt as to whether it’s working or not, it’s your garage door lifting spring.
If the springs broke while you were in the house, you knew it right away. It made a loud, startling bang that sent you searching for the problem. Even if you weren’t there when it happened, you knew the minute you tried to raise the door that something was wrong. When the lifting spring is broken, it doesn’t take too long to figure out the problem as you can often see exactly where it has come apart. You’ll also recognize that a broken spring means you have to spring into action to get it replaced. Otherwise, raising the garage door is a near impossibility.
What Spring System Do You Have?
Garage door lifting springs systems come in two basic variations. You can tell by looking which system you have.
1. TORSION SPRING
If your lifting spring system is contained within a steel tube that’s above the door and it’s solidly attached to the wall, you have a torsion spring system. That tube allows the weight of the door to be transferred to the wall as it moves up and down thanks to an anchor at the center of the door.
You may hear this system referred to as a “low headroom” or “double horizontal track system” if there isn’t enough room over the door and the plate is placed at the end of the tracks.
2. EXTENSION SPRING SYSTEM
An extension spring system, on the other hand, positions the spring over the tracks on either side of the door. The springs are coiled so they can raise and lower the garage door.
An important feature of this type of door is the safety cables.
A professional installer will know to use safety cables to prevent an accident should the springs break free.
Ever wonder how a 125-pound woman can raise a 135-pound garage door with one hand? It’s because of the lifting spring system. The springs are a counterweight for the entire heft of the garage door. When it’s properly balanced and professionally calibrated, you should not have to use more than eight to 10 pounds of lift to raise the garage door. This is true even if you have an electric garage door opener. The electric door opener itself uses no more than the power of a single hand to raise the door. Still, it does require a properly functioning spring system.
While we’re discussing raising and lowering the garage door, be mindful that it can weigh as much as 200 pounds. Please watch your head.
What Might Cause a Lifting Spring to Break?
Here are five of the usual causes behind the failure of a lifting spring system.
1. Ordinary Use
In an average household, the garage door gets raised and lowered—which is called a cycle—about 1,500 times a year.
That’s the equivalent of raising around 150 pounds, twice. Each cycle places just a bit of wear and tear on the springs. The springs themselves are rated based upon their manner of construction on the number of cycles they can perform in a lifetime. Usually, springs are rated at about 10,000-cycles. Meaning that, depending on how often you use them, they’ll need to be replaced every five to seven years.
2. Corrosion or Other Defects
You want to hang onto your manufacturer’s warranty because issues do occur. For instance, improper galvanizing of the spring can result in corrosion. Also, a common defect is the breakage of the final ring of the lifting spring.
3. Mismatched Springs
While this is more common with DIY installers than professionals, it’s sometimes the case that the door and the spring are mismatched. Once you have determined the weight of the garage door, you’ll want a lifting system that is rated for that weight. There is a great variety of springs and you should select one that has no more than a 5% variance from the weight of your door. Don’t attach a 150-pound rated spring to a 160-pound door.
4. Exterior Factors
Few homeowners insulate their garages to the extent they insulate the interiors of their homes. Thus, garages are much more subject to extremes in temperatures and humidity than the house itself. These factors coupled with the reality that lifting systems by definition are on an exterior wall result in the door and in particular the spring assembly experiencing a hostile environment. Even though they are galvanized to resist corrosion, constant humidity can cause deterioration. Springs exposed to continued cold tempers of minus 13º Fahrenheit (minus 25º Celsius) are capable of breaking.
5. No Lubrication
Remembering that your springs will glide, metal on metal, for 1,500 cycles a year, you should definitely practice lubrication of metal parts regularly. We recommend doing so twice a year, when it first begins to freeze at night and then again when the nighttime freezing weather is over in the spring.
Getting the Longest Life Out of Your Lifting Spring System
Lifting springs are simple machines and they can be cared for in the simplest way.
Lubricate them with motor oil of a variety like that used in the crankcase of your car. Use an oil-saturated cloth to make sure you get the entire assembly lubricated. It’s important to wipe away the excess when you’re through. Proper lubrication will help prevent those clanking sounds lifting springs can make as they are raised and lowered.
Remember also not to use a degreaser, like WD-40. If you’re wondering about some ideal lubricants you’ll need, your professional garage door installer can furnish them.
More Than You Care to Tackle?
Garaga stands ready to assist you with whatever needs you may have. We are sure to have a dealer near you. When you talk to them, ask about our “Garage Door Tune-up” that will make sure your garage door offers no problems throughout the coming winter.
How Old Are Your Lifting Springs?
If you have questions about yours and need an answer, you can always contact us on our website or call at 603-524-4778. Talking about and servicing garage doors and garage door openers is our passion. If you need service of any kind, we’re glad to discuss your project and will even send you a quotation by email.