Automatic garage doors are one of the silent heroes of our everyday lives, making it easy and secure to move your car in and out of your house. Like many things, these garage doors can sometimes break, and calling in a professional can be expensive. Yet if you understand the mechanism you can open your garage door manually and even fix it yourself!
The most common explanation for a broken garage door is general wear and tear on the machine’s parts. You can open a garage door when it is broken, but it is not recommended to do so if the spring is broken. To fix the spring, you need winding bars, locking pliers, and leather gloves.
It can be intimidating to take on a technical project such as this, but with the right preparation, you absolutely can! Getting a good understanding of the elements of your garage door is important. With a bit of studying and the right tools in hand, follow along to learn how to identify problems with your garage and their easy fixes!
Types of Garage Door Springs
The first thing you should know about your garage is what type of setup it has. The majority of home garage systems are named by their two different spring types, extension, and torsion. By understanding which springs your garage door uses you can move forward with how to identify and fix the problem.
An extension spring garage door system can be identified by the spring being attached to the door’s pulley system. The springs are found on the two horizontal tracks on the sides of the door. This setup is typically found in low ceilings, where there is not enough space to place a torsion spring.
The most important part to check on is the safety cable, which keeps the door from shutting suddenly. It is very important to check that these safety cables always stay in place. No matter if the door is open, closed, or in motion, be sure to check these safety lines to prevent the risk of the spring breaking free.
Garage doors with torsion springs are for more heavy-duty systems. You can identify this type of system by seeing this spring system directly above the door, rather than on its sides. This single torsion spring is powerful and able to lift doors between 200 and 500 pounds.
Chances are this is not the garage door system set up in your house. It is used more for large industrial doors but uses the same principles as the exertion spring. As the door is pulled up, the spring coils tighten to hold it in the air. As the door goes down, this tension is released and the springs relax!
How Does a Garage Door Spring Break?
Like any other machine, garage doors can break due to a handful of different problems. The most common is wear on the garage spring over time as well as rust. However, here are a few more examples of what could be wrong with your door and some tips to fix or prevent them!
Normal Wear and Tear
The most common way for garage door springs to break is through wear and tear over time. If the garage door is used often, the springs will break a lot quicker. The tension and friction from the movement will wear down the spring till it eventually snaps, locking your car inside or outside!
Most springs are engineered to last about 10,000 cycles. A cycle is each time the system moves, so one cycle goes up and another goes down. This means that garage doors typically last 10 to 13 years if it is only operated twice a day.
Proper maintenance of your garage door can help the springs last as long as possible. But if they are forgotten about, the general use of the system will cause them to break eventually. Lucky for you, there are a few measures you can take to keep the springs nice and happy!
Lubricating your garage door springs with lithium grease every so often can prolong the life of your springs and make them a bit quieter. You can also check the balance of your garage door once a year. It is best to do this in the winter if you live somewhere cold, as this is the most common time for springs to break.
To check the balance, place the door in manual mode (pull the red handle from the central compartment) and lift the door to a halfway point. If the door stays evenly in place, then both springs are working well! If it is a bit lopsided, that spring may need some attention.
Rust can be detrimental to any type of metal machinery, and this is no different for garage door springs! The rust can gunk up and also corrode the metal springs, making them wear through and break faster than normal. If you live in a very humid or rainy environment, it is a good idea to have some silicone-based lubricant on hand.
Applying this solution to your springs about 4 times a year will help prevent a lot of rust and improve the longevity of your garage door system! Even if you are not in a humid climate if you notice red rust on the metal fixture in your garage a bit of this lubricant can go a long way.
Can You Open Your Garage Door With A Broken Spring?
Although it is not recommended, you can open your garage door with a broken spring. It is not recommended as it can be dangerous. The door can malfunction and suddenly drop as you push it open, which can cause serious bodily harm. However, if you are prepared it is possible!
With some proper maneuvering, you can get the door open if you need your car out immediately. There are just some safety precautions needed to ensure the door does not slam down on you or your car. But if you are in a pinch opening your garage door is still possible with a broken spring!
How to Open Your Garage Door With A Broken Spring
To open your garage door with a broken spring, you will want to have two other people with you to help hold it open as you pull your car out. This is to be sure the door stays even as it is up and does not fall on the car. Here are the precautions you need to take to open the broken door safely.
Step 1: Disengage the Garage Door Opener
To disengage the automatic garage door opener, you will need to unplug the overhead motor system. Using the automatic button could burn out the motor now that it does not have the support of the springs. This will make sure the door will not suddenly move up or down while you are handling it.
Step 2: Pull the Emergency Cord
Next, you need to pull the red emergency cord from the overhead motor. This puts the system into manual mode. That way you can operate the door and be sure that your body will be safe as you open the door.
Step 3: Lift the door
When you are ready to open the garage door, keep in mind that you want to protect your body. Keep your fingers out of the way of potential pinch points, and be sure your feet and back are not underneath the door. This way if the door does fall it will not cause harm!
Next, you will need to lift the door from the center and try to keep the door level as you push it up. Be careful to not push on the panels of the garage door to prevent bending them. The garage door will not stay open without support, so you should have two people on each side of the door holding it up as you get your car out. Finally, be sure to close the door after your car is out.
How To Replace A Broken Spring
If you are looking to replace the broken spring on your own, be sure to take every precaution. Be sure you have a good understanding of the garage door system and wear protective gear. We are here to support your DIY initiative, so here is a list of the tools you will need for taking on this task!
- Adjustable wrench
- Cordless drill
- Leather gloves
- Locking pliers
- Safety glasses
- Socket/ratchet set
- winding bars
Here is a reference photo to understand the different parts of the garage door system!
Step 1: Lock down the door
It is important to prevent the door from unexpectedly moving when you are working on it. You will need to clamp some locking pliers or a C-clamp to the track just above one of the rollers. This way the door will not shoot up and hit you when you wind the new springs later on. You also need to unplug the garage door opener before you start any repair.
Step 2: Loosen the unbroken spring & unwind it
Next, you will identify the good spring and shove one of your winding bars into the bottom hole of the winding cone. Keep this bar in place while you loosen the two set screws. Have a good grip while you do this, as the spring will release some powerful energy as you do.
Take a second winding bar and place it into the hole at the 9:00 position. Then take away the bottom bar and unwind the spring a quarter turn at a time.
Step 3: Disconnect springs from the center bracket
Next, you will need to remove the two nuts and bolts that keep the stationary spring cones and the center bracket together. After these are taken, slide the springs toward the end brackets.
Step 4: Secure the torsion tube
Next, you will want to take another set of locking pliers and clamp them onto the center bracket. This is to keep the torsion tube in place. Then you will loosen the setscrews on the left and right to lift the cable drums and disconnect the lift cables.
Step 5: Remove the broken spring
Now it is time to take out the broken spring. It is best to begin on the left side of the door, where you will slide the torsion tube to the right so you can remove the cable drum. Then it is easy to slide the old spring off the torsion tube.
Step 6: Install new left spring
Now you need to put the new spring into place. Slide the new part onto the torsion tube with the stationary cone facing the center bracket. This is when you begin to work backwards by reinstalling the cable drum with the garage door wire. Be sure to reinsert the torsion bar into the left-side bearing bracket.
Step 7: Thread the cables
Here is where you reposition the lifting cables. You need to run the lift cables/garage door wire, straight up between the rollers and the doorjamb. Then slide the lift cable stop through the slot on the drum shown here in the picture.
Step 8: Tighten the drums
To retighten the drums, secure your locking pliers onto the torsion tube to lock the tube into place. Rotate the drum to wind up the cable into the drum’s winding grooves. Be thorough by pulling the cable as tight as possible.
Next, you need to place and tighten the set screws. Keep the locking pliers in place and repeat the tightening procedure on the other side of the garage door. This is to ensure you keep equal tension on both sides. Otherwise, the door will open lopsided.
Step 9: Wind tension springs
Now you are going to wind up the new springs! Place one of the winding bars into the cone and wind toward the ceiling. Turn the spring a quarter turn at a time, leapfrogging the winding bars as you go.
The new spring should come with recommendations for the total number of turns you should make in this step. However, if you do not have this number you should make 30 quarter turns for a 7-ft.-tall door and 36 quarter turns for an 8-ft.-tall door.
Step 10: Stretch and lubricate springs
This is the final step! Once the spring is wound up, tap the winding bar to stretch out the spring about ¼ inch from the center. Then you will retighten the setscrews and rotate them until they make contact with the torsion tube.
To be precise, you need to tighten these screws a one-half to three-quarters turn. Do not tighten more than this to avoid puncturing the torsion tube. Then lubricate the springs and you are done!
Having a garage door spring break suddenly can be a big inconvenience. That is why it is recommended to take some preventative measures against some common causes of broken springs. Having good lubricants on hand to help out the garage door if it is getting stuck can keep you on top of your door’s status and protect it.
If you do not feel comfortable fixing a garage door spring yourself, consider hiring a professional or friend who is more familiar with mechanical systems. You do not want to risk getting hurt, but hopefully, this article gives you a good understanding of your garage and makes you a well-versed homeowner!
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.