Garage door safety
Follow all safety precautions when working on your garage door.
Read more on garage door opener repair.
Perhaps no other part of your home experiences as much wear and tear as your overhead garage door. The average garage door will go up and down more than a thousand times a year. When kept in good working order, it provides convenience and security. But a neglected door can not only become as noisy as a locomotive but also pose a significant safety risk to your family, especially your kids. In this article, we’ll show the steps involved in the annual inspection and maintenance of your automatic overhead door for reliable, quiet operation and safety. Many of these tips also apply to overhead garage doors that don’t have an automatic opener.
The simple garage door maintenance steps shown in the following photos require no special skills and take less than 10 minutes each to perform. Any materials you may need are available at home centers and garage door dealers.
The vast majority of garage doors have either torsion springs, which mount on the header above the door (opening photo), or extension springs, which float above the upper roller track. Except for the installation of containment cables shown in Photos 10 and 11, all the steps featured in the following photos apply to both types.
To be safe while working on the door, take the following precautions:
- Unplug the automatic door opener so it can’t be activated.
- If the door is open while you’re working, clamp a locking pliers onto the roller track below a roller to keep it from dropping.
- Never remove a lift cable while a door spring is under tension. If released, it’ll cut like a knife.
- Never attempt to adjust or release the tension on an overhead torsion spring. This is a job for garage door professionals only.
Inspect your door’s hardware
Photo 1: Tighten the nuts and bolts
Because your door moves, the hardware can loosen. Inspect and tighten all roller brackets and the bolts that hold the rails to the support brackets.
Photo 2: Inspect the rollers for wear and tear
Nylon rollers tend to crack or chip when they deteriorate, so defects should be easy to spot. On steel rollers, the bearings wear and the wheel begins to tilt like the one shown. Buy replacement rollers at a hardware store and install them by removing and reinstalling the roller bracket. Caution: Do not remove the bottom roller bracket. The cable attached to it is under extreme tension.
Photo 3: Inspect the lift cable for wear
Look for broken strands. Damage is most likely to occur where the cable attaches to the bottom roller bracket, where it’s most exposed to moisture. Clear away the gunk from this area with an old toothbrush so you can check the condition of the cable. Since this cable is under high tension, don’t try to replace it yourself. Call a garage door professional to replace it.
Maintain springs, chains and seals
Photo 4: Lubricate the chain or screw
Lubricate the chain or the screw on your opener annually with white lithium grease. Spray-on versions are available at most home centers. Lubrication will make the opener’s operation smoother, quieter and extend the life of both chain and opener.
Note: Some screw openers do not require lubrication. Check your Owner’s Manual.
Photo 5: Lubricate the springs
Coat the overhead torsion springs or the extension springs mounted above roller tracks with a lubricant/ cleaner like WD-40. Don’t wipe off the excess. All springs will eventually break because of metal fatigue and/or corrosion, but this annual maintenance will prevent corrosion.
NOTE: Replacing springs is a job for a professional. If one spring breaks, both should be replaced
Photo 6: Replace the weather seal
Replace the weather seal on the bottom of your door if it’s brittle and worn. On wood doors, remove the old seal with a flat pry bar. Install the new seal with the wide angle of the flange to the inside of the door. Use 1-in. galvanized roofing nails to attach one end of the seal, then pull it across the door and nail the other end. Next place a few nails in the center. This technique will help you keep the seal aligned as you go back and place nails every 3 to 4 in.
Replacing a U-Shaped Astragal on a Steel Door
The hollow rubber weather seal on the bottom of steel doors is called a U-shaped astragal and is subject to damage from wear and mice. U-shaped astragals are sized according to their width as they lie flat. Choose the width that best fits your situation. Use a larger seal if you need to fill a wider gap between the door and the garage floor. The best source for U-shaped astragals is a garage door dealer.
Steps to a safer door
Photo 7: Test your door
Test the balance of your door. A properly balanced door is less likely to crush someone or something and keeps your door opener from working too hard. First, disengage the opener from the door by pulling the opener release handle (see opening photo). Then lower the door about halfway. A properly balanced door will hold the halfway position without assistance. If the door rides back up, the springs are under too much tension. If it falls, the tension needs to be increased. Adjusting the spring tension is tricky and dangerous. Call a garage door professional to perform the service!
Photo 8: Test the auto reverse feature
Test the auto reverse feature of your automatic opener by placing a 2×4 directly under the point where the opener is attached to the door. The door should reverse direction within two seconds after coming to a stop. If your door opener doesn’t have an auto reverse feature, buy a new opener.
Photo 9: Install lift handles
Install a lift handle on both sides of the door. Make sure the handle will clear the top of the door frame; otherwise, you may need a lower-profile handle or your door may need adjustment. If there’s a handle, you’re less likely to pull down on the spaces between sections, a habit that results in hundreds of crushed fingers every year.
Photo 10: Bolt the cable to the bracket
Mount an extension spring containment cable on extension spring- type doors by bolting one end to the bracket at the front of the upper rail.
Photo 11: Feed the cable through the spring
Feed the cable through the extension spring and bolt the other end to the upper support bracket. Make one full loop of the cable around the bolt and secure it with a fender washer and a locknut.
Manufacturers have made great strides in improving the safety of garage doors and garage door openers. One of the biggest improvements is the addition of photoelectric eyes on door openers manufactured since 1993.
Photoelectric eyes are mounted above the floor and cause a closing door to reverse when movement is detected in the door opening. If you have an older style door opener, consider replacing it with a new one that has all the latest safety features. A new opener costs from $100 to $150 and can be installed by a homeowner in two to four hours.
A second safety improvement is adding a containment cable to extension spring- type doors (Photos 10 and 11). (Extension springs are mounted above the roller tracks.) When an extension spring breaks, the spring and cable become a heavy whip that can smash into cars or unsuspecting victims. A containment cable stops the recoil.
Containment cables cost only $4 each and are available at home centers. Follow the steps in Photos 10 and 11 to install one.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- Screw gun
- Tape measure
- Wrench set
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- 1-in. galvanized roofing nails
- 2 lift handles
- extension spring containment cables
- fender washers and locknuts
- lubricant/cleaner such as WD-40
- silicone spray or rubbing alcohol
- Spray-on white lithium grease
- Weather seal
- You could also possibly need replacement rollers