Advanced Garage Overhead Door Repairs

Replace springs and cables - safely

Learn how to repair overhead garage door springs and cables—without winding up in the emergency room. Follow along as a pro explains how it's done.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

TIME

One day

COMPLEXITY

Complex

COST

$100 - $500

Similar Projects

Before you do this yourself…

Lots of things can go wrong with a garage door, and most are easy to fix. But problems involving the springs are more serious. The springs provide lifting force for the heavy door and are under tremendous tension—get careless, and they can hurt you. But if you use the correct tools and follow our instructions, you can rebuild the entire torsion spring system in just a few hours, without any side trips to the ER. We won't cover extension spring systems in this story. But we'll show you how to replace the more common torsion springs, the kind that mount on a bar above the garage door.

Depending on where you live, doing this job yourself might save you $200 or more. Then again, it might save you less than $50. So before you spend several hours fixing your garage door, it's a good idea to gather a few professional estimates.

Start by getting a rough measurement of your springs (length and diameter). Then measure the width and height of your door. Make sure the quote includes the trip charge, parts and labor. Then ask for a price based on 7x19 lift cables and double-life springs. Those items will give you more years of service and should only add $65 to the price.

Figure A: Garage Door Lift System

To help lift a heavy garage door, the springs apply twisting force to the torsion tube. Drums at the ends of the tube act as reels, winding up the cables connected to the door. The most common problems with this system are broken springs or cables. Smaller doors often have just one spring.

Lift system

Step 1: Lock down the door

Play it Super Safe!

  • NEVER use screwdrivers, pin punches or pliers handles to wind or unwind a torsion spring. Trust us: This is the best way to wind up in the hospital. Don't even think about doing this job without a proper set of winding bars. You can buy a set of professional hardened-steel winding bars for about $25 from online suppliers. (Garagedoorpartsusa.com and stardoorparts.com are two online sources that sell winding bars, springs and other parts.) Professional winding bars work with 1/2-in. and 7/16-in. winding cones. If your winding cones have 1/2-in. openings, you can make your own winding bars by cutting a 36-in. length of 1/2-in.-diameter round bar stock in half (buy round bar stock from any hardware or home center). Just file a smooth bevel on each end so it slides into the winding cone holes easier.
  • Position your ladder to the side of the spring ends so you're never directly in front of the spring cones when they're winding or unwinding.
  • Keep the garage door opener disconnected from power at all times, and lock the door in the lowered position, especially when you're winding the springs.
  • Wear eye protection and leather gloves throughout the project.
  • Step off the ladder and move it off to the side before unclamping the door and testing the balance. Never test a door while you're standing on the ladder.

Proper safety equipment.

Step 2: Loosen the unbroken spring

Step 3: Unwind the unbroken spring

Step 4: Disconnect the springs from the center bracket

If Your Car is Trapped

If a spring or cable breaks while your cars are parked inside, the garage door won't open and you'll be stranded. Getting emergency evening or weekend service from a garage door professional can easily cost $400. However, if you can get your vehicles out of the garage, you can postpone the repair to get normal weekday repair rates.

If you want to do the repair yourself, get several phone estimates first, because rates vary widely among service companies. Most garage doors are heavy (200 to 300 lbs.), so call in three strong friends to help you lift the door and hold it open while you lock it in the full raised position with a locking pliers. Then move your vehicles and have your friends help you lower the door.

Step 5: Secure the torsion tube

Step 6: Remove the old spring

Buying replacement parts

Most home centers don't carry all the replacement parts you'll need, and most garage door service companies won't sell you springs. So you may have to order the parts online and wait for the shipment to arrive. Garagedoorpartsusa.com and stardoorparts.com are two online sources . First, inspect the condition of your cables and brackets. If you see any frayed strands on the cables or rust on the bottom brackets, replace them now before they fail. Bottom brackets cost about $15 per set. Premium-quality cables (listed as “7x19”) last much longer than economy cables and cost only about $4 more. So it's smart to buy the better cables for about $12 per set.

Standard torsion springs (about $40 each) have a service life of 7,000 to 10,000 open/close cycles. However, you can buy double-life (25,000 cycles) replacement springs for about $65 per spring. If you have a two-spring setup and one spring breaks, the second spring will break soon. So replace them both at the same time. To get the right springs for your door, you'll have to provide the supplier some details. Here's how:

Step 7: Install the left spring

Step 8: Install a new center bearing

Step 9: Replace the bottom brackets, rollers and lift cables

Step 10: Thread the cables

Step 11: Tighten the drums

Step 12: Wind the springs

Step 13: Stretch the springs

Step 14: Lubricate the spring

Finish With a Test

Remove the clamps and pliers from the torsion tube and track, and lift the door about 3 ft. by hand. If the door springs are properly adjusted, the door should stay in place when you let go. If the door falls when you let go, add a quarter turn to each spring. Repeat if necessary. If the door continues to open on its own, release spring tension in quarter-turn increments until the door stays in place when you let go. Then reconnect the opener.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Hammer
  • Clamps
  • Cordless drill
  • Socket/ratchet set
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Locking pliers
  • Rags
  • Safety glasses
  • Wrench set

You'll also need leather gloves and winding bars.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Double-life torsion springs
  • Lift cables
  • Bottom brackets

Popular How-To Videos