Throughout the years that you inhabit a residence, you might find yourself at some point wondering how to replace a garage door extension spring. The fact is, every two decades or less, it becomes necessary to install garage door extension springs all over again. Therefore, it can help to know how to install garage door extension springs yourself, DIY-style.
Types of Garage Door Springs
Before you can learn how to replace garage door extension springs, you need to know how to identify them.
A majority of residential garage doors are equipped with extension springs, which can be seen over the tracks that guide the door upward on each side. When the lifting function is activated, the coils extend. This action creates a force of counterbalance that allows the system to bear the weight of the door. An extension spring will expand even farther with increased force.
For utmost safety, extension springs should be combined with safety cables, which prevent danger in the event of random spring failure. When you replace a garage door extension spring, make sure you add a safety cable if one doesn’t already exist in the system setup. Read further down to learn how to replace extension springs on garage door opening systems.
Unlike extension springs — which, as the name implies, extend to create counterbalance — a torsion spring supports the weight of a garage door with the use of torque. Situated above the garage door, the coils of a torsion spring slowly turn on the shaft when the door is prompted to open or shut. Torsion springs are available is a range of sizes designed to support different weight capacities.
So which type of garage door springs are better — extension springs or torsion springs?
Due to the fact that extension springs are a simpler construct and therefore cheaper, they are the more commonly used spring type in residential garage door systems — especially on homes with single-car garages. Alas, extension springs are riskier when problems arise because their parts are exposed.
By contrast, torsion springs are stronger, easier to operate and longer-lasting — and are therefore worth the investment when it comes to spring replacement on a garage door.
Signs of a Bad Garage Door Extension Spring
When you consider all the different ways a door can go haywire, it becomes more important to learn about garage door extension spring repair. However, before you go about installing garage door extension springs, you need to be able to recognize the problem and identify its source.
With knowledge of the following warning signs, you will know when the time has come for garage door extension spring replacement.
- Garage Door Rises Six Inches and Stops
When a garage door only rises partially and then stops, chances are good the sensitivity mechanism has activated to prevent the door from performing beyond its capabilities. Today’s more advanced garage door systems are programmed this way to prevent accidents. In cases like these, the problem is usually down to a broken garage door spring.
Cases like these are not to be confused with the slow/fast mechanisms of certain garage doors. For example, a lot of garage door opening systems that run on DC motors will slowly rise a few inches then speed up for the rest of the lift. However, if a door like this is sluggish all the way up and down, a spring could in fact be broken.
To determine whether your garage door has been lifting slowly due to a broken spring, test the door manually with the emergency rope. If it feels as though you are bearing the full weight of the door, the spring is probably broken.
- A Loud Bang in the Garage
If you hear a loud bang coming from your garage, in all likelihood it is the sound of the torsion spring breaking. When a torsion spring breaks, the coil unwinds instantly. The noise is produced by the spinning of the spring along the shaft.
The sound can be alarming enough that some homeowners confuse it with a garage break-in. However, the damage is typically unnoticeable to the naked eye. If a torsion spring fails in the evening, the homeowner might not realize what caused the sound until the following morning, when he or she attempts to activate the garage door only to find it doesn’t work.
When extension springs fail, the source of the noise is typically less confusing because the broken springs will usually be dangling or strewn about the floor.
- Garage Door Lowers Too Fast When Shutting
If a door comes plunging to the ground with a thud when you prompt it to close, chances are good a spring has failed. The tracks and cable in a garage door system are not designed to support the weight of a one- or two-car door without the support of a spring.
- The Cable Seems to Be Broken
Whenever it seems that a garage door cable has snapped, in most cases the problem is actually a broken spring. Fact is, cables rarely break on garage doors. The confusion is often due to the way that a cable will become unmanageable when a spring breaks. In any case, when a garage door fails to open and shut as commanded, the first thing to check is the spring.
- Emergency Release Rope Doesn’t Work
If you are unable to lift the garage door with a simple pull of the emergency release rope, the spring has probably snapped. After all, the counterbalance of the spring is what lifts and lowers the door. When the spring snaps, the door itself becomes a heavy weight on the tracks and cable. If you can feel the full weight of the door when you try to lift it manually, a spring has definitely failed.
- Garage Door Jerks When It Moves
If your garage door lifts and lowers in an “irregular” jerky manner, you might be able to rectify the problem by lubricating the hinges, pulleys and rollers. If that doesn’t work, the problem is likely due to one broken extension spring. On garage doors that use this spring type, one spring will usually not have the strength to support the weight of the door singlehandedly. After all, extension springs work in pairs.
- Garage Door Is Crooked When It Opens and Closes
If the door seems to be lifting on only one side — i.e. the door lifts in a crooked manner — the extension spring on the slumped side has probably failed. Extension springs employ independent suspension. As such, each suspension spring works to pull its own side of the door. If one of the springs snaps, there is no suspension for that side of the door. When problems like this occur, the door might lift crookedly for the short length of time that the other spring remains intact.
- Garage Door Is Bent at the Top
On certain types of garage doors, the top section can get bent if the door lift is activated when a spring is broken. Though these situations are rare — modern garage door systems have sensitivity mechanisms to prevent this sort of problem — the replacement of an upper-door portion can be costly.
- Cable and Pulley Are Loose or Broken
Sometimes when a pair of extension springs break, several components come undone in the process. Namely, the pulleys and/or the cable come loose and hang irregularly. On garage doors that use this spring type, a pulley is placed at each side to raise and shut the door. The force of spring failure can set the pulleys out of line. Likewise, when the springs fail, the impact can cause the cables to fray or twist along the metal edges.
If your garage door uses only one torsion spring, lifting the door manually could be extremely difficult unless you are able to lift between 150 and 300 pounds, depending on the weight of the door. That said, you should only lift the door with a second set of hands. Better yet, call a garage door repair person to inspect and repair the door for you.
If the door uses two torsion springs, a manual lift of the door should not be too heavy, as the intact spring will still be able to bear the weight. However, it is still best to have a second set of hands if you attempt this move.
How to Replace a Garage Door Extension Spring
Replacing garage door extension springs is not a difficult task, provided you know all the key steps. Granted, garage door spring installation work requires time and attention, so it is best to save the task for the afternoon of a free day. If done carefully, you should be able to balance garage door extension springs in their place and get the door to work like new.
Step #1. Prepare the Door
With a second set of hands to help you along, manually lift the door off the ground and lock it into open position.
Attach C-clamps or vice grips underneath the door on both sides at the tracks to hold the door in locked suspension. Alternately, you can hold the door suspended with 2×4 or 2×6 lumber.
Step #2. Remove the Spring
Disengage the broken extension spring one end at a time. At the far end of the door rail, remove the spring end from its mounting pin. Detach the cable and thread it around the pulley to free the spring.
If both springs are old, you should replace them both at the same time. This way, the new springs will be uniformly strong and you won’t have to worry about having to repeat these steps in the weeks ahead with the other spring. That said, don’t remove the intact spring until after you’ve replaced the broken spring.
As you replace the extension springs, also check the pulleys for evidence of bearing wear. If the pulleys are worn, now would be the best time to replace them as well. After all, a bad pulley could have been a contributing factor to the failure of the spring that you are now replacing.
Step #3. Choose a Matching Replacement
Whether or not you replace both springs back-to-back on the same day, you must ensure that both springs are identical, with the same length, gauge and diameter. Otherwise, the door will function awkwardly and the next spring failure will occur much sooner than normal.
Step #4. Install New Extension Spring
As you install the replacement spring, use the intact extension spring as a guide to help ensure a correct installation. The path of the lift cable must mirror its counterpart on the opposite side.
With the garage door in the fully open position as you perform the installation, make sure the newly installed extension spring is stretched no more than an inch.
How to Adjust the Springs
Once you’ve completed the steps required for garage door extension springs replacement, make sure to check your work. The side garage extension spring on the left should mirror its counterpart on the right and vice versa. In essence, replacing garage side door extension springs is all about balance.
Step #1. Lower the Garage Door and Inspect the Movement
With all the new installations finished — be it one or both of the extension springs — remove the locking clamps and lower the door to the ground. Make sure the path is cleared away, with no logs, tools or human feet standing in the trajectory of the lowering door.
As you bring down the door, watch the movement to make sure it lowers as normal. Double-check the attachment points of the extension springs to make sure they’re securely in place.
Make sure that the new extension springs don’t touch the stationary pulleys above the opening of the garage door. If the springs do touch, they’ve been stretched too far.
Step #2. Perform Tune-Ups If Necessary
Once the door has shut, try to lift it manually. If it feels too heavy, reapply the C-clamps to lock the door in suspension and adjust the springs. Stretch the springs an inch or two, but not so far that they touch the pulleys upon reclosing.
Make sure that both extension springs have safety cables running through them. In the event that one of the springs snaps, the safety cable holds the spring in place so the coil doesn’t fling across the garage and damage something or injure someone.
DIY or Professional Garage Door Repair?
Now that you know how to adjust garage door extension springs, you might feel ready to do the work on your own. Then again, a call to the nearest service professional could have the job done quickly and easily.
In Central Tennessee, residents rely on Aaron’s for professional garage door repair services. With more than 20 years of service to homes in Nashville and the surrounding communities, Aaron’s makes old doors work like new. To schedule an appointment or request a quote, call Aaron’s at (615) 456-6654.