Monitoring your garage door is a simple activity. In general, standard garage doors are rated to last for around 10,000 cycles, and one cycle is considered to be when a garage door opens and then closes back down. Depending on how often you open and close your garage door, and how well you maintain it, you can get anywhere from five to fifteen years out of it.
The Torsion Springs
The torsion springs run horizontally along the top of the garage door, and most garage doors have two separate ones installed (one on each side of the center track). These torsion springs are the crucial pieces because they provide the power to open and close a garage door. It is important to understand that they are constantly wound tight and kept under pressure, and this is the main reason why you should monitor them. Given enough time, even the highest quality torsion springs will eventually wear out, but monitoring them is thankfully easy.
Visibly Inspect Your Torsion Springs
Torsion springs should be visibly inspected before you manually test your garage door. Check for any signs of fraying or even loose cables. Remember that torsion springs are under high pressure—even when your garage door is closed—and visible signs of fraying mean the tension is finally wearing through the cables. If you do see signs of fraying, it is recommend you consult a trained professional to have your torsion springs replaced. If there are no signs of fraying, you may then test your torsion springs manually.
Test Your Torsion Spring
To test the quality of your torsion spring, open your garage door manually. If your garage door has an electric opener, unplug the power supply. Next, pull on the red handle of the emergency release, which is connected to the center track, to disconnect the garage door from the opener. Now you are ready to open your garage door manually.
Open yours to about waist high. If your torsion springs are in good condition, you should be able to open your garage door with one hand and little effort. If lifting your garage door requires effort, then your torsion springs are worn out and are becoming unbalanced. Also, if your torsion springs are in good condition, your garage door should remain stationary if you were to release your grip.
What’s That Squeaking Sound?
Your garage door may squeak audibly when you open it. This does not automatically mean that your torsion springs or other hinges are worn out and need replacement—but squeaks are audible signs of friction that can build up over time. The remedy is to spray the squeaking spots with a lubricant. But be forewarned: WD-40 is often recommended as a lubricant, but it is actually a poor choice for garage doors because WD-40 is a de-greaser. Parts like the torsion springs, track wheels, and pulleys actually need grease to function smoothly. A lithium-based lubricant is the best choice as it provides a healthy coating of grease that is not runny and easy to administer.
You need not wait, though, to hear squeaking noises before you lubricate your garage door. Every five months or so, take your lubricant and spray the hinges and any exposed ball bearings, which are usually on the track wheels and the pulleys of torsion springs. Sometimes these parts do not have ball bearings, or sometimes the ball bearings are covered. You need to concern yourself only with the exposed ball bearings.
What Not to Lubricate
Do NOT lubricate the metal tracks at the sides of your garage door—these parts must be kept clean so the wheels can run smoothly. If one lubricates the tracks with a grease-based lubricant, eventually dust and other debris will come to stick in the tracks to hinder the movement of the track wheels. Also, do not grease the chain of the center track. The chains usually come with a powder coating already on them and so do not require lubrication.
What to Tighten
You may tighten any screws or bolts, but remember that painted bolts mean that what is held in place is under high tension. These painted bolts are usually what keep the wheels of torsion springs in place, and are usually accompanied by warning tags to remind you.
Maintaining your garage door is not labor intensive. Lubricate all the hinges, exposed ball bearings, and the torsion springs to keep things functioning smoothly. The torsion springs require the most attention because they are under constant pressure, but you do not have to be a professional to gauge the status of your torsion springs. Visibly check them for any signs of fraying, and manually open your garage door several times a year to make sure they are holding strong under their load. These basic steps will help extend the life of your garage door and help to let you know when to call a professional.