Torsion springs should be replaced by a skilled installer.
Q: I’m going to replace a broken spring for our garage door. The home-store salesman said I needed to replace both springs even though only one is broken. Is this true?
A: A majority of homes use overhead doors for the garage entry. In a few older homes I have found doors that were swinging, folding or sliding, but the overhead doors that use a track-and-roller system are the most commonly installed door today.
Overhead doors are heavy, whether they are made of decorative wood panels or insulated metal. The average 16-foot-wide-by-7-foot-high door weighs around 280 pounds.
The springs are an assist system that counterbalances the weight of the door with the energy stored in the springs to allow the user to open the door with very little effort.
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There are usually two springs for the average residential garage door and, depending on the size and weight of the door, there are two different types of springs to counter the weight of the door.
Torsion springs are found on a long metal bar above the door and as the door is closed the springs wind tightly, storing energy in the metal coil. As the door is opened, the springs unwind, releasing enough energy to aid in lifting the heavy door.
Lighter-weight and smaller doors use tension springs, which are on either side of the door’s overhead track.
When the door is closed, the tension springs are stretched. As the door opens, the springs relax, releasing energy to help lift the door.
When replacing tension springs, it is recommended that both springs be replaced and matched because the older, unbroken spring will have lost some of its tension from years of use. Replacing both springs helps to balance the door so that it opens smoothly with equal force being applied to each side of the door.
Once installed, tension springs can be adjusted. Measure the length of each cable and secure them to the door’s track while the door is open and the springs are relaxed.
It is important to install a second cable inside the spring in case the spring would come loose or break.
A word of caution for the DIYer: Torsion springs should be replaced by a skilled installer. Torsion springs have so much stored energy that they can cause serious injury or even death if mishandled.
I have seen where a torsion spring’s mounting system had broken, releasing both of the torsion springs, which put a large hole in the garage ceiling about 4 feet above the door. Luckily, no one was nearby when the system broke. You can find the average weight of your garage door by visiting: http://www.garagedoorpartsllc.com/weight-calculator.html.
With this information, if you decide to do the repairs yourself, take the old or broken spring to your home store or garage-door dealer for help in finding the right parts.
Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or email him at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.