Spring Into Action

If your garage door opener isn’t in operating properly, you could be setting yourself up for an expensive repair down the road.

Examine your spring for a break in the coiled metal. Another sign of a broken spring is if the steel cables that run along the wall near the door jambs are loose.

Is your garage door operating at full capacity, or is it poised to malfunction? It’s recommended that you regularly check the real muscle of your automatic garage door system: the spring.

Few homeowners realize that it’s the spring (or springs) that do 90 percent of the lifting when an automatic opener lifts a garage door. The garage door opener’s motor is only designed to handle 10 percent of the lifting.” Over time, the metal coil that makes up the spring becomes weak and loses some tension, causing the motor to work harder than it should. If the motor becomes overtaxed, the plastic gears inside may break and you’ll be facing an expensive repair.

How to Test a Garage Door Spring

To check to see if your spring is no longer doing its fair share, conduct the following test.

First, disengage the J-arm (the J-shaped lever) from the carriage by pulling on the release cord. Then manually raise the door 1 foot and let it go. The door should stay at the release height. Repeat this test at shoulder height and with the door almost fully raised. If the door slams to the floor when you let go, the spring is probably weak.

If the door slowly drifts to the floor, a slight adjustment of the motor’s lift force may solve the problem. Be careful, though: The garage door can be quite heavy, especially if the springs are weak. When raising one manually, lift with your knees to avoid hurting your back. Call a friend to help with the lifting if necessary.

If you suspect that the spring is weak, get a quote from a qualified technician to replace it. Don’t wait until it breaks, otherwise you’ll probably end up paying even more for the repair. In some cases, the spring can be tightened in order to increase tension. In others, it will need to be replaced.

A new spring is not an expensive part and only takes a pro 20 minutes or so to install. Fees, however, can range from under $200 to more than $400. In addition, homeowners should opt for at least a 5-year warranty and to choose a lifetime warranty if they’re not planning on moving anytime soon.

Safety tip: Do not attempt to adjust or replace springs yourself. This is one repair that can cause serious injury or worse if you bungle it.

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